York County police chief, sergeant honored by U.S. attorney

York City's police chief and a Fairview Township sergeant were among 25 members of law enforcement in the region honored by U.S. Attorney David Freed.

Chief Troy Bankert, who has been York City's police chief for a little over a year, received an award Friday, March 22, for outstanding contributions to cooperative law enforcement.

“That was one of my personal goals," Bankert said about increasing law enforcement cooperation.

Also honored was Fairview Township Sgt. Mike Bennage. His cooperation with authorities led to the charging and conviction of former Fairview Township officer Tyson Baker.

Baker was convicted of stealing while on duty from those he believed were drug dealers. 

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

Cooperation: Bankert said that with the city's Group Violence Intervention initiative, cooperation among agencies is important. He said the department doesn't have the resources to do it alone.

"We need our partners," he said. 

The premise of the GVI, offered through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is that a small number of people in any city perpetrate the vast majority of violent crimes.

To reduce violent crime, law enforcement has to identify and target that small group of people, who are often involved in gangs or the drug trade or both. Those targeted then carry the message back to their associates.

GVI requires the York City Police Department to work closely with other agencies, and the chief thanked the U.S. Attorney's Office for the recognition.

“They’re a big part of our partnership," he said.

Freed said in a statement that Bankert is a true partner with law enforcement colleagues at both the state and federal level.

"I am continually impressed with Chief Bankert’s commitment to innovation and analysis with the goal of making York a safer city," his statement reads in part.

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Bennage: Bennage reluctantly agreed to keep an eye on Baker after the FBI and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office expressed concerns.

Bennage testified at trial that he shared those concerns but hoped the FBI was wrong and had agreed to work with them because it was the right thing to do.

In March 2018, Baker was sentenced to 3½ years in prison for stealing. 

Freed, in a statement, noted that Bennage showed "extreme courage and commitment to duty" by speaking out against Baker's criminal behavior.

"His example of the right way to do things stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of the disgraced former officer," Freed said.

Fairview Township Police Chief Jason Loper said that what Bennage had to do was difficult but was the right thing to do.

“I think it’s a very deserving award for Sgt. Bennage,” he said.

Hill: Also honored was the family of Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill.

Hill, a York County resident and member of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, was killed while serving a warrant in Harrisburg in January 2018.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.