York County fire and police on alert for a call from Baltimore


York County's first responders are on alert after Monday's riots and arson spurred a cleanup effort in Baltimore on Tuesday, and they're prepared for the city to ask for help from its northern neighbor.

None of the county's police departments have been called to assist the city, said Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel, who is also president of the York County Police Chiefs Association.

Bentzel said he suspects that a request for help would come through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and trickle down through the York County Office of Emergency Management.

"They're going to need resources for longer periods of time," he said of Baltimore. "Could that request for assistance come? Certainly it could."

On alert: Local police wait to be asked before responding because the city would want a controlled response from outside law enforcement, Bentzel said.

"It's really not an option for us to just hop in the car and go," he said.

Extra resources need to be cycled in over the duration of the event, so a request for help could come in another day or two, Bentzel said.

"We're all watching," he said.

Pennsylvania State Police have been in contact with Maryland State Police and the City of Baltimore and, as of Tuesday, hadn't been requested to deploy to the area, Trooper Rob Hicks said in a news release.

Shrewsbury Volunteer Fire Chief Tony Myers said his department received a request Monday night from Baltimore, asking if it had a rescue truck ready. The department told the city Shrewsbury did have one ready to go, but Baltimore never ended up needing to call for it.

Myers said his department will stay ready in the coming days.

"If they call and ask for a rescue truck, we'll send it," he said.

Myers said two people in his department are also firefighters in Baltimore and have been working down there. He declined to give their names.

Eureka Volunteer Fire Co. in Stewartstown is also on alert but staying put for now, said Chief Ira Walker Jr.

"We've been monitoring and watching, but at this point in time we have no plans of mobilizing to go down there," he said.

And the American Red Cross serving Central Pennsylvania hasn't been asked for any kind of sheltering or other support, said spokeswoman Nikki Otto.

Riots vs. protests: Sandra Thompson, president of the York NAACP, said she has not heard of any violence in York in response to the situation in Baltimore.

The organization is working to address the differences between protesting and rioting — "Protests have a purpose; riots don't" — but that's no new endeavor, she said.

"We work on that every day, actually," Thompson said. "The reasons for the riots down in Maryland are the same reasons that other states or cities have rioted — and that's just the feeling of being unheard, helpless and hopeless."

The NAACP teaches people how to fight back responsibly and effectively, Thompson said, and destroying property and looting one's own community is not the answer.

"We have to do a better job in showing our youth how to fight effectively and win. The rioting does not win, but the protests will win," she said.

Thompson said she encourages disenfranchised people to turn their frustration into power through forums and strategic, organized protests that send a clear message to officials with authority.

"We need the same people who would riot to come out to the protests," she said. "That's where change comes in."

— Staff writer Sean Philip Cotter contributed to this report. Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com, and Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com.