York City police officers honored

Sean Philip Cotter

Last year was only Officer Sean Haggarty's third full year on the force, but on Friday the York City Police Department named him its top cop for 2015.

Haggarty was one of 32 city police officers the department honored in a ceremony Friday morning in York City Council chambers, with the department's brass commending officers on dealing with a range of situations involving drugs, guns and dangerous situations.

Officer Sean Haggarty, walks up to accept his Police Officer of the Year award at the YCPD Awards and Recognition ceremony at York City Hall Friday, April 8, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

"The things I get to see every day we get to recognize today," said Chief Wes Kahley.

He said Haggarty had done an all-around good job. He focused on the amount of drugs Haggarty had helped get off the street and the amount of time the young officer spent walking his beat and interacting with members of the community, developing relationships with the city residents.

"This trust reflects highly on the police department as a whole," he said.

Haggarty, who received a plaque, a medal and a Harley-Davidson jacket, got up in front of the packed council chambers to thank his supervisors for helping him along and his fellow officers for their hard work.

"The chief gets it — it's teamwork," Haggarty said after the ceremony.

Kahley also handed out awards to organizations and civilians who have helped the department. He recognized the private Schaad Detective Agency for helping out the department and WellSpan Health for contributing money, which most recently has paid for the department's body-camera program.

The chief also announced the promotions of two patrol officers to the rank of detective. Paul Dehart and Timothy Shermeyer were sworn in to their new position by York Mayor Kim Bracey.

Detective Jeff Spence's sister Kristi Taylor and niece Shawnee Lloyd, left, wipe away tears, during Spence's acceptance speech for the Mayor's Medal of Distinction award at the YCPD Awards and Recognition ceremony at York City Hall  Friday, April 8, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

"Your work isn't easy," she said at the start of the ceremony. "We have a great deal of pride in all of you."

Mayor's Medal: Bracey honored Detective First Class Jeff Spence with the Mayor's Medal of Distinction. Spence, who's been on the force since 1989, has handled more than 100 homicide cases, Bracey said. She said Spence, who grew up and graduated from high school in York City, has been a major asset to the department.

"He has a unique ability to connect with crime victims and witnesses on a personal level," she said.

Spence, speaking to the audience with the medal around his neck, was choked up to the point where he at times had difficulty getting words out. The 2008 officer of the year thanked his fellow officers, both current and retired, and his chief, Kahley, who at one time as lieutenant in charge of the detective bureau was Spence's direct supervisor.

Officer Sean Haggarty, hugs, City of York Mayor C. Kim Bracey, after accepting Officer of the Year award at the YCPD Awards and Recognition ceremony at York City Hall  Friday, April 8, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

"He saw something in me none of my supervisors ever saw," Spence said. "He nurtured it."

But the detective's biggest shout-out was to his little daughter, who sat in the crowd.

"She taught me to be empathetic," he said.

He said sometimes people — officers and the public alike — become jaded and might think the victims of a shooting or some other violence "probably had it coming" if they also have criminal records or seem to be mixed up in something sketchy. But Spence makes sure to avoid that thought.

"There's somebody's momma who loves that boy the way I love that girl," he said.

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.