Helfrich nominates Muldrow as York City Council rips his handling of police situation

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Mike Muldrow, York City School District's police chief, is an organizer for the York United Plate Patrol, located at William Penn High School Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. In its third year, the program is a collaboration of several York County police agencies and the York City School District. Volunteers prepare, pack and deliver Thanksgiving meals to York Countians who call in a request. Bill Kalina photo

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich on Monday nominated Michael Muldrow to be the city's new police commissioner, a move that came hours after City Council members criticized the mayor for not briefing them about the resignation of Muldrow's would-be predecessor.

Muldrow, who has served as the York City School District police chief for the past 12 years, would replace Osborne "Moe" Robinson III. Helfrich announced this past week that Robinson would be resigning.

The City Council must approve Muldrow's nomination.

“What York needs, the police department and the community, is more family, more respect for each other, and I know for a fact that my friend Michael is going to bring that to our police department,” Helfrich said Monday when announcing Muldrow's nomination. 

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Muldrow's experience with the youth, having the ability to work with them before they potentially make life-changing mistakes, will be particularly beneficial, Helfrich said.

Muldrow was a "final candidate" when the city was looking to replace former Police Chief Troy Bankert last year, Helfrich said.

Muldrow, of West Manchester Township, began his career in law enforcement as a correctional officer at York County Prison before joining the York City Police Department in 2000.

In 2006, Muldrow became a federal officer for the U.S. Department of Defense Police Department in New Cumberland. Before becoming head of the school district police force, he also worked at police departments throughout the county.

“This place literally made me a better man,” Muldrow said. “And that same sense of family, that same sense of fulfillment, that same sense of pride, I’m trying to make my focus.”

Another priority for Muldrow, he said, will be boosting officer morale.

Earlier Monday, Helfrich in a Facebook video pleaded with residents to be patient as he and Robinson "try and figure out what our departure from each other looks like."

Helfrich on Monday evening again declined to provide a reason for Robinson's pending departure, citing ongoing negotiations to work out language for a severance agreement.

Robinson served in the position for less than a year. 

Three City Council members, however, criticized Helfrich's handling of the Robinson situation, including Edquina Washington, the chair of the city's Police and Fire Committee.

 "I heard about Commissioner Robinson’s resignation from a phone call received from a constituent," wrote councilmember Edquina Washington in a statement released Monday. "The lack of communication exhibited by the Mayor and the administration about this situation is extremely disappointing.”  

Councilmembers Lou Rivera and Judy A. Ritter-Dickson also were included in the email statement, which criticized Helfrich for what they say is a lack of transparency.

Helfrich argued that the news of Robinson's departure wasn't supposed to be released in the first place, as someone in the community leaked details to the press.

"I have apologized to the three council members who I did not share any information with, but still, when you are dealing with negotiations for a severance agreement, and nondisclosure agreements, you need to try and say as little as possible," Helfrich said. "And that's part of my job."

Council President Henry Nixon declined to comment Monday.

York City Police Commissioner Osborne Robinson, left, and York City Mayor Michael Helfrich stand together as more than 1,000 participate in the York Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest in York City, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. It would be the second day of larger scale protests in the city following the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Mn., on May 25. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Last week, however, Nixon was vocal in his criticisms of Robinson, a Black man, claiming Robinson allegedly denied a number of various training requests for officers.

He also said Robinson brought in consultants who worked for Baltimore City Police at the same time Robinson worked there and that he was advised the consultants have questionable backgrounds.

"When he was appointed, I was very hopeful. I was very pleased we would have an African-American commissioner," Nixon said. "As time went on, I became more and more disenchanted with him, for his disdain for council … (and) his bad attitude."

Two days later, Rivera called for Nixon to resign from his post as council president, saying he spoke on the matter too soon. 

"His (Nixon's) comments, coming on the heels of racial tension, protests and rallies, disqualifies him from being a leader that represents the majority of this community," Rivera wrote in a statement.

Nixon, a white man, has said he didn't find his remarks to be divisive.

Although short-lived, Robinson's tenure overlapped with nationwide racial unrest that also left a mark in York City.

Robinson was active and vocal during local protests, speaking directly to protesters about his own experiences with discrimination as a Black man.

The former commissioner was said to be handpicked by Bankert and joined the force as its top cop in January. He previously served as Reading's deputy police chief.

Before that, he rose to the rank of colonel in the Baltimore City Police Department.

Helfrich last week tapped City Police Capt. Daniel Aikey to serve as acting chief of the York City Police Department in Robinson's absence. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD