York City chief knew of mayor's concerns about lip-sync video before filming, chief of staff says

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Police Chief Troy Bankert speaks during a police ceremony at York City Hall Monday, June 11, 2018. Bankert was named during the ceremony. Bill Kalina photo

As the city awaits a statement from York City Police Chief Troy Bankert, the mayor's chief of staff said Bankert knew of the mayor's concerns about the department's controversial lip-sync video featuring Maple Donuts before its filming.

During a Tuesday, Aug. 29, York NAACP meeting, Mayor Michael Helfrich recalled he said "hell no" to the video idea when it was first introduced and said that Bankert was "culturally incompetent" for not understanding how the video could harm the minority community.

The video, meant to raise money for the city police department, was filmed and published last week as a part of a national fundraising phenomenon that has taken social media by storm.

More:York City Police chief addresses Maple Donuts video controversy

The city police department's video featured Maple Donuts, a conservative business known for its pro-Trump ads and controversial billboards, including one that referenced NFL protests and stated "Maple Donuts takes a stand, not a knee."

Despite the mayor's vocal disapproval to his chief of staff, Philip Given, Helfrich said Given failed to relay the message not to make the video to Bankert, and the video went into production anyway.

In a Thursday, Aug. 30, interview, Given said the mayor was correct in stating that he didn't tell Bankert not to make the video, but he did express concerns with the chief before the video's filming.

"Though the chief and I discussed concerns the mayor's office had with the video, the message to not produce it was not relayed by me," he said.

NAACP members and residents at the Tuesday meeting called for the chief to be held accountable for his lack of awareness and detailed why associating the police with the business' views is harmful.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, Given said the city was hoping the chief would release a statement that day to address the video and its effect on the minority community.

However, in the Thursday followup interview, Given said the mayor's office "is still working with the chief to evaluate the statement."

He added that whether or not the statement comes from Bankert specifically, "there will definitely be some sort of a statement released by the police department."

Given said he didn't know when such a statement would be released.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during a York NAACP Chapter meeting at Crispus Attucks Community Center Tuesday, August 28, 2018, regarding a promotional video released by the city's police department. Bill Kalina photo

Background: The video was pulled by the York Revolution before being shown during the Saturday, Aug. 25, Revs game.

The Democratic mayor, who ran as a Republican last November, said at the NAACP meeting Tuesday he opposed the idea of including the "divisive" company in the video not for political reasons but in fear that it would associate the department with the company's beliefs.

Following the meeting with the York NAACP, the organization recommended diversity and cultural sensitivity training for the York City Police Department heads.

The NAACP also recommended the city:

  • Institute community conversations when encountering issues, plans, productions, and/or contracts with a potential impact on the community; 
  • Maintain control over any and all media products involving York City departments; and 
  • Assure accountability in the execution of policies, procedures and protocols in all future actions. 

Helfrich said the suggestions were "excellent" and that he plans to "localize" the already-existing diversity and cultural sensitivity training for police and make sure all department projects go through the mayor's office.