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A Southwestern Regional Police officer accused of assaulting his wife is returning to work after undergoing extensive counseling and after a lengthy period of unpaid leave, according to his chief.

Officer Bryn Lindenmuth, 34, pleaded no contest Dec. 2 to a summary count of harassment, akin in seriousness to receiving a traffic ticket. Because the offense is less serious than a misdemeanor, employment rules don't allow Southwestern Regional to terminate him for the offense, Chief Greg Bean explained in a news release Tuesday morning.

"When an officer is arrested, please know that I understand it hurts every member of our department and our entire community; as it is obviously completely against what we believe in and what we stand for every day. When an officer is involved, it is very disheartening and disappointing to say the least," Bean wrote in the public release.

"We require very high standards for each employee as we have a community that deserves that and demands that each day. And they should. Unfortunately, officers are not immune from the problems that our entire society faces."

The news release states that because termination is not an option, "we now need to make sure that the employee is again capable of performing at a very high level in a position that is very demanding," Bean wrote. "He did perform at an exceptional level for over 10 years, and our hope and belief is that it will happen again."

Lindenmuth, aside from a lengthy unpaid suspension, has completed "intense counseling," Bean wrote, "much of it voluntary on his part."

The officer also has passed "rigid testing by an outside entity to ensure that he is again capable at succeeding in his position," the release states.

"Physical contact that's unwanted between two persons is always wrong," Bean wrote.

The background: Lindenmuth pleaded no contest Dec. 2 to harassment.

In exchange for the plea, a count of misdemeanor simple assault was dismissed, court records state. A charge of false imprisonment had been withdrawn at the time of his scheduled preliminary hearing.

Lindenmuth was ordered to pay a $100 fine, court records state.

Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy said it had been agreed that if Lindenmuth successfully completed alcohol counseling, the prosecution would allow him to plead to the summary offense and drop the misdemeanor assault charge.

"That was based, in large part, on the victim not wanting to proceed with the case at all," Murphy said. "But based on the evidence, we didn't think that would be an appropriate resolution."

He said the alleged victim wanted the charges dropped, and the prosecutor confirmed that's a common problem in prosecuting domestic-assault cases.

Murphy said the hope is that the counseling Lindenmuth received will have an impact that's greater than simply withdrawing charges.

The encounter: Court documents stated Lindenmuth physically assaulted Kalina Lindenmuth in their West Manchester Township home July 17.

She returned home from a cookout the night before, after which Bryn Lindenmuth took her keys and yelled at her, documents state.

He followed her inside while still yelling, then took her cellphone, ripped her tank top and bra, scratched her and tore apart her sandals, court documents alleged. He also ripped up photos of the two of them together, West Manchester Township Police have said.

Bryn Lindenmuth pushed over a recliner while his wife was sitting in it, pushed her and tried to throw her through a sliding-glass door, documents state.

"Bryn used substantial force, using his elbow and jammed it down hard on her shoulder in an attempt to knock her down," documents state.

Ran to neighbor: Kalina Lindenmuth tried to get back inside their home, but her husband "kept blocking her path and grabbed her arms and started to force her backward to possibly fall down the steps," documents state.

She was able to run to a neighbor's home, where she called 911, police said. They allege the domestic incident lasted from about 11 p.m. until 3 a.m.

Kalina Lindenmuth told officers she was scared of what her husband might do if she called police, documents state. An officer helped her obtain an emergency PFA that night, according to documents, but a few days later she withdrew her PFA request.

Attorney Penny Ayers, who represented Kalina Lindenmuth, has said her client was happy to put the matter to rest and was looking forward to working on taking care of her family.

About the officer: Bryn Lindenmuth was named 2015 York County Officer of the Year by the York County Police Heritage Museum.

He has been with Southwestern Regional Police for 11 years, and during that time he received 21 awards and commendations.

He also is a drug-recognition expert and a member of the York County Drug Task Force, serving as a liaison for his department, officials have said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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