York City Police devoting 2 cops full-time to drug task force

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A 4½-year schism between York City Police and the York County Drug Task Force punctuated by personality clashes, procedural disagreements and petty squabbles is over.

"I can't tell you how unbelievably happy we all are," chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday said at a news conference on Thursday, July 27, to announce the reconciliation.

"This is a great day for York County and a bad day for drug dealers."

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said two of his officers are now assigned to the task force full time.

Chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday (right) announces that York City Police and the York County Drug Task Force have reconciled after a more than four-year split. York City Police Chief Wes Kahley (middle) and York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber (left) look on.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

The younger officers were eager to join and were chosen from a group of city officers who applied, the chief said. The two officers do have general investigative experience, Kahley confirmed.

One started with the task force a couple of weeks ago, and the second will join in October, according to the chief.

"Reuniting is the proper thing to do for the community and to be more effective," he said, adding that all kinds of crimes throughout York County are drug-related.

Major investigations: York City's three longtime narcotics officers — Detective First Class Andy Shaffer and Detectives Scott Nadzom and Bart Seelig — will focus on major drug investigations and continue to work with their federal partners, Kahley said.

That would be agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol. Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as members of the U.S. Marshals Service and personnel from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg, he said.

"(That) is pretty much what they've been doing for the past several years," Kahley said. "They are going to continue doing what they do best."

Sunday said the trio are working on "big cases ... important cases."

The most difficult part of the reconciliation process was choosing the two city officers for the task force, according to the presumptive district attorney-elect.

"The quality of the applicants was unbelievable," Sunday said.

Patching it up: Kahley and Sunday said they've been talking for a couple of months about the logistics of reconciling.

"It was mutual, to be honest," Sunday said. "We reached out to each other, went to lunch, and that's all she wrote. ... We decided that it was time to move forward."

The goal, Sunday said, is to "increase the effectiveness" of all York County's police departments by increasing the amount of teamwork.

"There's no better way to do it than to have officers sitting side by side in the same building, talking every day, working together every day, being part of joint investigations," Sunday said.

New chapter: "I'm looking forward to a new chapter of law enforcement in York County, and I know Chief Kahley is as well," he said.

For his part, Kahley said he decided before the primary election for district attorney that "whoever the next district attorney was (going to be), I wanted very much to sit down and bring us back into the drug task force."

York County Detective Sgt. Craig Fenstermacher will remain coordinator of the drug task force, Sunday said — a position he's held for many years.

The task force: About eight law-enforcement agencies around York County participate in the drug task force on a full-time basis, according to Sunday. But many others pitch in, he said.

"Almost every municipal police department in York County at some point in time works with the drug task force," he said. "Some work on a part-time basis, some work as needed."

Chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday (at podium) announces that York City Police have rejoined the York County Drug Task Force at a press conference on Thursday, July 27, 2017. The other officials attending included (from left) first assistant district attorney Jen Russell, West Manchester Twp. Police Chief Art Smith, York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber and York City Police Chief Wes Kahley. To the right of Sunday are Northern Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel, Springettsbury Twp. Police Chief Dan Stump and state police Capt. Adam Kosheba. District Attorney Tom Kearney is standing between Kahley and Sunday.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel, Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump and West Manchester Township Police Chief Art Smith attended the news conference, as did York County Sheriff Rick Keuerleber and state police Capt. Adam Kosheba.

"I'm very pleased that the city is a full participant again," Bentzel said. "This will do nothing but enhance the ability of the drug task force and all its members in fighting the war on drugs."

More:York City Police, York County Drug Task Force part ways over policy issues

More:DA's race highlights drug task force schism

'Win-win-win': The sheriff said having the largest law-enforcement agency in York County back in the fold of the drug task force will make things run more smoothly.

"It's a win-win-win for York County," Keuerleber said.

Stump described the sense of teamwork on the drug task force as outstanding, and said he predicts the addition of the city officers "is just going to enhance that."

The background: It was the signing of a memorandum of understanding that became a sticking point between Kahley and District Attorney Tom Kearney in late 2012.

At the time, Kahley said he was willing to sign such an agreement, but not one that forced him to relinquish authority over city officers who are part of the drug task force.

Kahley has said the memo of understanding then also would have forced York City Police to relinquish authority over drug investigations and drug arrests within York City limits.

For his part, Kearney said at the time that the memo is part of a policy manual that was needed to make clear the lines of authority and allow the task force to work autonomously.

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