Sex crimes charges filed against former York City cop: Police

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A former York City police officer, who served as a juvenile engagement officer, was charged Friday with a variety of alleged sex crimes involving a teenage girl.

The case comes five months after a civil complaint touched off a criminal investigation.

Allegations of sexual abuse were made against Joseph A. Palmer Jr., 28, in March as the family of the 16-year-old sought a protection from intimidation order. The court filing accused Palmer of inappropriately touching the youth during an encounter at a bowling alley while he served as a juvenile engagement officer.

On Friday, Palmer was formally charged with felony counts of unlawful contact with a minor, sexual abuse contact with a minor, sexual images of a child on a computer and disseminating images of child sex acts. He's also charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and one misdemeanor count of indecent assault to a minor.

According to a 2019 newsletter, Joseph Palmer Jr. served in the Army National Guard, as a Lancaster County Corrections CERT officer and as a York County 911 dispatcher before joining the York City Police Department.

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According to filings in the teen's protection order case, Palmer allegedly asked the teen for provocative photos and, according to the complaint, continued trying to message the teen after she blocked him on Facebook. He would also allegedly text the girl's family members.

"In the parking lot, he told me he wanted me and he loved me and kissed me," the girl wrote, in the petition. "He wanted to know if I was sexually aroused. I said 'no' and he kept pushing me."

A judge granted the protection order, directing it to hold through a hearing July 25. After that hearing, the order was extended almost indefinitely until the judge modifies or terminates it, the prothonotary's office said.

York Mayor Michael Helfrich said the city learned of the allegations, Palmer was placed on leave and an internal investigation began.

"When I first learned of the allegations against Mr. palmer, I was horrified," he said. “No one is above the law."

Helfrich said the city has since worked with the York County District Attorney's office on the criminal investigation.

Palmer's attorney, Christopher Ferro, said he's reviewing the new charges.

"My client has always denied the allegations since they first surfaced moths ago," Ferro said. "The mere filing of these charges is not new evidence or proof, but rather an opportunity to finally address these allegations in court."

Palmer, who joined the department in 2017, resigned on April 12. 

He was arraigned Friday and released on an unsecured $50,000 bail, according to court records.

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A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 2 in District Judge Barry Bloss’ court.

A social media post announcing Joseph Palmer Jr.'s appointment as the York City Police Department's juvenile engagement officer.

York City featured Palmer in its monthly newsletter in 2019, including a biography Palmer wrote himself. According to the newsletter, Palmer served in the Army National Guard, as a Lancaster County Corrections CERT officer and as a York County 911 dispatcher before joining the department.

"I have always felt that I was placed onto this earth to help and protect individuals," Palmer wrote. "I love coming to work and leaving knowing that I have made a positive impact in somebodies’ life and sometimes arresting individuals assist them in recovery."

The department appointed Palmer as a juvenile engagement officer in March 2021, a role in which he worked with young people to address bullying, gang violence, self-harm and truancy issues.

Once again, Palmer was featured in the department's public outreach.

"We're doubling down and putting our money where our mouth is," the department said, in a social media post announcing Palmer's new assignment. "Give him a call, and let's see what we can do by working together." 

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.

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