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West Manheim Township's recently retired police chief is facing drunken-driving charges for an incident in which police allege he nearly struck another driver in Penn Township.

Tim Hippensteel, 55, of Heidelberg Township, has not yet been arraigned on his charges of DUI and failing to stay in his own lane of travel, according to court records.

Hippensteel did not return a phone message seeking comment Friday, March 15. It was unclear if he has retained an attorney.

It  also was unclear whether he is still working as an armed security officer at West Manheim Elementary School.

He was one of several armed guards  who protect the school  for the private firm G-Force Investigations, owned and run by retired state Trooper Bob Gano, who worked at both the York and Gettysburg state police stations before retiring.

Neither Gano nor South Western School District Superintendent Jay Burkhart returned messages seeking comment Friday.

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Burkhart did respond, however, to a parent who asked about Hippensteel's status at the school. The parent supplied The York Dispatch with the superintendent's response:

"The school district will be working with Mr. Gano to address this issue. While I cannot comment on this issue at the moment, I can assure you we understand the seriousness of the charges and will respond in an appropriate and consistent fashion."

The mother of a West Manheim Elementary student posted on Facebook that Hippensteel was replaced with another security officer a week or two ago.

Hippensteel was chief of West Manheim Township Police from 2006 until retiring in June 2018. He initially was hired as a patrol officer by the township in June 1988, he previously told The York Dispatch.

A much-loved figure in his community, Hippensteel directed bus traffic in front of West Manheim Elementary nearly every day, parents said.

He personally investigated crimes and said his policing philosophy was that he should treat everyone the way he'd want his family members to be treated.

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The allegations: Charging documents filed Thursday, March 14, by Penn Township Police allege Hippensteel was driving east in the 900 block of York Street in the township about 12:45 a.m. Feb. 23.

A Penn Township officer following him watched Hippensteel cross the center line more than once and nearly hit an oncoming vehicle, charging documents allege.

Hippensteel was traveling at 22 mph at the time, documents state.

A test later determined his blood-alcohol level to be 0.259 percent, which is more than three times the state's legal limit. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.

Hippensteel has been mailed a summons to appear before District Judge Jeffrey Sneeringer on April 16 for a preliminary hearing, court records state. Defendants who receive summonses in the mail are generally arraigned on their charges at their preliminary hearings.

Precedent-setting DUI case: G-Force owner Gano was charged with DUI when he was still a working trooper. He was arrested in Hanover in 1998 and was off duty at the time.

The district attorney's office accepted him into  the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, a diversionary program that allows defendants to avoid criminal convictions by instead completing a set of court-ordered requirements.

A York County judge removed Gano from ARD, saying police must be held to a higher standard. Gano appealed, and the state Superior Court determined police cannot be held to a higher standard. He then went back into ARD.

The appeals court's decision in his favor set legal precedent and has come to be known in legal circles as the Gano decision.

Since then, at least three municipal police officers in York County have cited the Gano decision when arguing they should be admitted into the ARD program for offenses including DUI and theft. 

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

 

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