Oped: Drug task force dysfunction key issue in DA race

Ron Camacho, Chambersburg police chief

As the former operational captain for the York City Police Department, with 23 years of experience, I can no longer stand idly by and watch York County district attorney candidate David Sunday mislead the public and avoid taking responsibility for his role in the destruction of the York County Drug Task Force (YCDTF).

Ron Camacho

In January 2010, Tom Kearney started his tenure as the York County District Attorney.  

In 2010, York City Police Department Officers made up the largest portion of the YCDTF.  

For more than 25 years, there was a relationship of mutual respect and understanding between York City police and York County police departments. Sunday and Kearney destroyed this 25 -year relationship when they targeted the task force for political reasons and gain.

In May 2012, Kearney assigned Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Dave Sunday, a prosecutor who had three years’ experience, to work on a drug task force policy. ADAs don’t write policies for police departments, police chiefs do. Kahley offered to help Sunday and ultimately completed the policy which was to be implemented by the drug task force.

When the policy was distributed, the State Police refused to sign it. Despite this refusal, Sunday wanted all other departments to sign the policy.  Sunday failed to see how it was problematic for only some departments to sign.

By late 2012, Sunday gave Kahley an ultimatum: remove one of the city police detectives from the task force or the York City Police Department would be essentially kicked out of the drug task force. There was no factual basis of wrongdoing for this demand. Instead, Sunday’s decision-making ability was compromised due to politics. 

Sunday again asked Kahley to sign a policy that the State Police still refused to sign. Kahley again indicated how problematic this was and refused to sign or agree to Sunday's demand.

In January 2013, the York City Police Department was removed from the task force - a task force that the city helped create in the mid 1980s. YCDTF cars and equipment were returned by the city. Rather than reuse the equipment, Sunday let it sit and collect dust. City officers were forced to vacate the task force office. 

Sunday then began courting York County police chiefs, offering to pay salary and overtime of officers assigned to the task force. Salary and overtime amounts ranged from $85,000 to $115,000. This caused a great divide among law enforcement. This divide was not present prior to Sunday getting involved with the task force, but it exists today and will continue in the future if he is elected to the position of district attorney.

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In 2013, these newly-recruited task force officers started conducting drug investigations in York City, without communicating as much to the city police department. When city police department command staff brought up these officer safety issues to Sunday, he ignored them. If this lack of communication continues, it is only a matter of time before a citizen or officer is killed because of a lack of basic safety principles. This safety issue is solely Sunday’s responsibility.

From January 2013 to June 2013, Sunday continuously spoke ill of the York City department, and our drug detectives. He made allegations of officer misconduct to multiple York County police chiefs. Sunday stated he had proof and evidence of the misconduct. After confronting Sunday, Kahley requested an internal investigation. There were 45 interviews conducted, involving York City, State Police, and York County officers assigned to the task force. Sunday was also interviewed. He provided no evidence of misconduct. The entire investigation determined there was no misconduct by any of York City’s task force officers or detectives.

In closing, Sunday has been consistently talking about the opioid epidemic. However, under Sunday’s direction, how can the county drug task force fight this major and complex issue without the largest police department in York County, the York City Police Department?

 My response is that Sunday has not and cannot effectively fight the opioid epidemic with a splintered law enforcement community. Instead, Sunday allows politics and his own agenda stand in the way.

The community now has accurate information about what Dave Sunday has caused to occur within the law enforcement community and how his self-serving motives are negatively affecting the lives of every single resident. 

— Ron Camacho is police chief of the Chambersburg Borough Police Department and a retired York City police captain.