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Former York County Sheriff's Deputy Shane Becker is running to unseat his former boss, incumbent Sheriff Richard Keuerleber, in the May 21 Republican primary, over what Becker described as a downward spiral in the department over the past four years.

"The majority of the guys in the sheriff’s department encouraged me to run," Becker said. "They needed change, they wanted change."

At a March 25 debate hosted by the Republican Club of York County, Becker — now a sheriff's deputy in Adams County — said he's concerned about high turnover rates among deputies and the loss of programs such as the criminal response unit and the inmate work crew.

Keuerleber said county commissioners sufficiently fund the sheriff's department, but he pointed out that his deputies are part of a Teamsters collective bargaining unit that determines wages. 

"Unfortunately, this is my 12th year as sheriff and my men and women don’t even make $19 an hour," he said.

Deputies retire and leave to find higher-paying jobs, Keuerleber said, leading to staff turnover.

More: Keuerleber seeks fourth term as York County sheriff

More: Less than 4 percent of York City Police officers live in the city

Becker took issue with the department's criminal response unit being taken off patrol duties and assigned instead to courtroom security.

Keuerleber said it's an unfortunate situation, but providing security in the Courts of Common Pleas is his office's priority. The number of Common Pleas judges has quadrupled since he joined the department, he added.

Keuerleber was hired as a deputy sheriff in 1988. He then served as assistant chief for 12 years before becoming sheriff.

Changes: He said the department is in the process of implementing a new file sharing system between the sheriff's office and the other municipal police departments in the county, and a pilot program is in the works with York Area Regional Police Department.

Tentatively, the system should be up and running in June or July, he said.

Keuerleber also said the sheriff's department will upgrade its storage space to hold firearms confiscated as a result of Act 79, a new state law that requires the subject of a final protection from abuse order to relinquish his or her firearms to a law enforcement officer or a licensed firearms dealer within 24 hours of the PFA taking effect.

"It’s going to put a big burden on the police departments and also ourselves," he said. "We’re going to be storing a lot more weapons."

Becker: Becker left the York County Sheriff's Department last summer to run for the office.

Before becoming a sheriff's deputy, Becker said he worked in private security overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo for companies such as Blackwater USA and DynCorp International, protecting members of the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State and others.

The U.S. Department of State referred questions about Becker's work history to the individual contractors. Those companies did not immediately respond to inquires seeking confirmation.

More: List of candidates for York County offices

Becker said he'd like to strengthen the department's relationships with local schools through officer and K-9 visits and to identify and mitigate any security weaknesses at school buildings.

Before working overseas, Becker was an officer in the former Jackson Township Police Department.

In an earlier interview, Becker compared Keuerleber's long tenure in the office, as sheriff, assistant chief and deputy, to a relay race.

"You can only run for so long and you’ve got to pass the baton off," he said. "I think it’s time to pass it off to someone else who has a different way of looking at things to propel the county in a forward motion."

Keuerleber: In an interview, Keuerleber said he welcomes Becker's challenge, but he doesn't intend to bow out just yet. 

At the Republican debate, he said it's an "awesome responsibility" to serve York County.

"I feel that I have the experience, the dedication and the proven leadership to work effectively and efficiently to be your sheriff," he said.

The York County Republican Party endorsed Keuerleber. There are no Democratic candidates for sheriff.

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