Judge to rule in case of officer accused of reenacting George Floyd's murder

Brandon Addeo
York Dispatch
York City Police Chief Troy Bankert, left, and Officer Clayton Swartz as officials investigate a fatal shooting reported near the corner of South West and West Princess Streets in York City, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said the shooting resulted in the death of an adult male and an injured juvenile who was transported to York Hospital. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A York County judge will soon issue a ruling in the case of a city officer suspended for allegedly reenacting George Floyd's murder.

Attorneys representing suspended York City Officer Clayton Swartz and the city's government debated the case Tuesday morning in front of Common Pleas Judge Matthew D. Menges.

The city appealed findings from a police trial board that Swartz was not guilty of departmental violations after three people accused him of jokingly pressing his knee onto a man's neck at a May 2020 graduation party. 

More:Trial board clears York City police officer of wrongdoing

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That appeal went to the York County Court of Common Pleas, something that Swartz's attorney, Douglas France, argued reflected improper procedure. 

"This court has no jurisdiction," France said during the hearing.

The city's appeal of the police trial board's finding was previously given the go-ahead by Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Prendergast, who said there was precedent for such an appeal

More:Judge orders York City Police trial board to issue findings in Clayton Swartz case

More:Arbitrator says York City officer accused of reenacting Floyd death can return to work

Swartz's attorneys maintain that isn't true, and cited an arbitrator's ruling that Swartz should be reinstated and given lost wages because the police trial board's order is "final and binding" under the terms of the police union's collective bargaining agreement.

City attorney Joseph Rudolf said that the "final and binding" wording is a "red herring," and argued that the police trial board's procedure was established by York City Police policy, not simply part of the collective bargaining agreement.

The city also argued that the trial board violated open meetings law by conducting business at a meeting that was not advertised to the public. 

After hearing the attorneys' arguments, Menges told both sides that he wouldn't make his ruling during the hearing, but would issue a written decision in the coming days. 

"Given the complexities of this situation … it's not conducive for me to address a decision on the bench," the judge said. "Expect a written decision sooner rather than later … probably in the next two weeks or so."

Tuesday's hearing came just days after Swartz's attorneys filed a lawsuit in an effort to force the city to immediately reinstate Swartz with pay, in addition to paying him for attorney fees. 

City attorneys have not yet filed a formal response to the lawsuit. 

More:York officer accused of reenacting George Floyd murder sues city, demanding reinstatement