OP-ED: York City leaders united in wake of top cop's departure

York City Mayor and Council
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

At York City Council’s Oct. 20, 2020, legislative meeting, Mayor Michael Helfrich and members of City Council released the following statement in response to questions surrounding the resignation of Commissioner Osborne Robinson and police-community relations:

We, as city officials, envision a joyful, united, and engaged community where people have the power to express their ideas and concerns freely. Our mission is to promote social equity and improve quality of life by building vibrant communities where everyone can live, work and play together.  

Our priority is to keep our residents and visitors safe and well informed. There have been rumors and speculations surrounding the resignation of Police Commissioner Robinson. We stand before you united to ease the community’s concerns.

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At a time when our citizens are expressing raw and real emotions in response to the senseless deaths and mistreatment of African Americans across the country, we need healing now more than ever. This is one of the lowest points our country has faced in decades. We know that our residents are angry, hurting and saddened by these events. This is understandable.

We will not accept police brutality and we responded immediately with publishing our use of force policy and assembling a team to evaluate and implement #8CantWait, a nationwide campaign to bring immediate change to police departments.

America is facing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a racial pandemic that is devastating the lives and livelihood of communities of color. Racism poses a public health threat, and the psychological burden is immense.  We want you to know that we hear your cries, and we vow to work to heal this community through outreach and inclusion. Real and honest dialogue about race and police-community relations are already underway which will lead to positive changes and improvements in transparency and citizen involvement in reviewing the actions of local law enforcement.

We will work with our residents towards building a welcoming community, but we cannot do it without you. Let us focus on solutions to the issues our community is facing and resolve to make a difference. We are open to joining with our community and law enforcement in working together to eradicate the systemic inequalities and racial unrest in our community.

As elected officials we do not always have the answers. It may take some time but we want to work together so that our community can heal and grow together in unity. We wish to work with you hand-in-hand — not just for today, but for generations to come.”

— This statement was signed by York City Mayor Michael R. Helfrich, Council President Henry Hay Nixon, Council Vice President Sandie Walker, and council members Judy A. Ritter-Dickson, Edquina Washington and Lou Rivera.