SUBSCRIBE NOW
$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.

Retired York police captain expected to avoid conviction on theft charges

Liz Evans Scolforo
717-505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

A retired York City police captain whose complaints to state investigators about the department led to internal discipline for two of his union representatives is expected to avoid conviction on his misdemeanor theft charges.

Russell Tschopp appeared before District Judge John H. Fishel on Monday morning, where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Fishel determined Tschopp should remain free on his own recognizance, and prosecutor George Zaiser of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office did not oppose recognizance bail.

Tschopp and his attorney, retired Common Pleas Judge John C. Uhler, also filled out paperwork for Tschopp to waive his formal court arraignment, which Fishel had scheduled for Jan. 22.

Zaiser confirmed Tschopp will apply in York County Court for admittance to the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition diversionary program, which allows first-time nonviolent offenders to avoid conviction by instead completing a set of court-ordered requirements that can include community service and restitution.

ARD approved: Zaiser said the attorney general's office has already authorized Tschopp to be granted ARD.

"It was a condition of (our) waiver," Uhler said of the agreement.

Retired judge John Uhler arrives at District Judge John Fishel's office for his client's preliminary Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. He is representing retired York City Police Captain Russ Tschopp who is charged with theft. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

The state attorney general's office is handling the case at the request of the York County District Attorney's Office, which recused itself. Zaiser said that means the decision to grant Tschopp entrance to ARD rests with his office.

"Russ has had a long, successful career as a police officer and captain," Uhler said outside the courtroom. "He was injured in the line of duty. ... He merits (ARD)."

Tschopp was shot in August 1999 after stopping a car of fleeing gas-station robbers. The bullet struck him in the chest, but bounced off his metal badge and instead hit him in the arm.

His shooter, James E. Carter, was later sentenced to 37 to 80 years in state prison for attempted homicide and robbery, and co-defendant Greg Gould was sentenced to 19 to 40 years for his part in the robbery.

Uhler confirmed that ARD is a "typical resolution" in this type of case.

Theft case: The state attorney general's office filed theft charges against Tschopp in October.

Between January 2012 and January 2014, Tschopp gave himself "education bonuses" that the York City Police Department provides for officers who have college degrees, according to charging documents.

During that two-year period Tschopp, as part of his administrative captain's duties, compiled the annual list of officers owed the bonuses, then turned over that list to city finance department officials, documents state.

The annual education bonus is paid in January, officials said. Officers with associate's degrees receive $200; those with bachelor's degrees receive $400; and officers with master's degrees receive $600, records state.

Tschopp in 2012 submitted a $200 education bonus for himself, and in 2013 and 2014 he submitted a $400 education bonus for each year, documents allege.

But he should not have collected those bonuses — which total $1,000 — because he never graduated from college, documents state.

Investigators with the attorney general's office began looking into the issue in April at the request of York County District Attorney Tom Kearney.

Internal investigation: York City Police's internal affairs inspector, Craig Losty, conducted an internal investigation, which happened before the state attorney general's office became involved, York City Mayor Kim Bracey has said.

Since Losty's investigation, more safeguards have been added to the city police's payout system to ensure this can't happen again, according to the mayor.

"(Tschopp's bonuses) got through several layers of bureaucracy," she has said. "We've since added another layer. This is ironclad now."

Tschopp, 48, of Walnut Bottom Road in West Manchester Township, is charged with two counts of theft by deception, both graded as first-degree misdemeanors.

He declined comment as he left Fishel's office on Monday morning.

Tschopp was hired by York City Police in September 1990 and retired April 1, according to city records. Prior to retiring, he had been on an extended involuntary leave of absence.

Complained to AG: In the spring of 2014, Tschopp told two of his White Rose Fraternal Order of Police union officials that he suspected other officers of wrongdoing, specifically "criminal conspiracy and theft by certain officers" on the city's narcotics unit, according to letters sent from city administrators to those union officials.

City officials maintained those two union officials, Officer Michael Davis and then-Detective Jeremy Mayer, poorly handled Tschopp's accusations of a purported criminal enterprise within the police department by accompanying that officer when he took his concerns to the state attorney general's office.

Davis and Mayer accompanied Tschopp to the attorney general's office in Harrisburg at his request, where he told state investigators about his allegations, officials have said.

City officials have said the AG's office and the York County District Attorney's Office declined to investigate Tschopp's concerns.

Disciplined: FOP President Davis and Mayer, who at the time was treasurer, were placed on administrative leave on April 8, facing charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for taking Tschopp's concerns to a state agency rather than sending the allegations up the chain of command, as they should have.

They were facing termination, but an agreement reached in May between York City Police and the FOP led to Davis and Mayer being reassigned to less choice assignments instead of being fired. Mayer was reimbursed for all his unpaid suspension time, and Davis was reimbursed for all but five days of his unpaid suspension, according to the agreement.

An internal investigation concluded Tschopp's accusations were unfounded, according to city officials.

Bracey said the charges against the retired captain are a separate issue from his complaints to state officials.

"The evidence speaks for itself," she said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.