EDITORIAL: Making opportunities in York

The York Dispatch
  • City residents, police and elected officials are making their own opportunities for dialogue.
  • It’s important to recognize suspicion and mistrust between the police and the policed.
  • Considering York’s history, such feelings are almost in the city’s DNA.

York City Police Wes Kahley heard the chants and saw the hundreds of people who had marched to his department’s headquarters in early July.

Although they had no particular issues with the chief’s officers, those in the crowd were protesting the recent shooting deaths of black men in Louisiana, Minnesota and elsewhere across the country.

The gathering also occurred just days after a gunman opened fire at a similar protest in Dallas, killing five police officers and wounding 11 other people.

Kahley never addressed the large gathering outside 50 W. King St., and at the time we suggested that was a missed opportunity, a chance for a show of unity that could have bolstered police/community relations in York City.

Children visit with Lt. Lou, a tracking bloodhound with the York County Sheriff's Office, as hundreds of people gather on West King Street in front of the York City Police station for the York United Block Party on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. 
(John A. Pavoncello photo)

At a recent meeting with The York Dispatch editorial board, he explained his decision.

York City Chief: Sitting down with the community

Simply put, the chief said, "I personally didn't feel it was the right time."

Perhaps Kahley was right, and maybe we were being too hopeful. Maybe nothing productive would have come from wading into that emotionally charged rally.

As it turns out, city officials, including Kahley, and York residents have been creating their own opportunities.

York City Councilwoman Sandie Walker organized the York United Block Party on Aug. 4 at the same location as the protest rally July 9 — right outside police headquarters.

The city blocked off a portion of West King Street, and hundreds of people — residents, elected officials and on- and off-duty police officers — came together to enjoy food, music and family-friendly activities.

York City's police chief says officers feel under attack

The party at police headquarters was a first for the city, Kahley said.

The chief said it was good for officers as well as citizens because it reminded everyone that York City is made up of good people.

And it wasn’t the only outreach since the July protest, Kahley said, adding he and others in the department have been inviting people to sit down and talk about issues.

"There are a lot more conversations with people we weren't talking to before," he said.

And that’s a very good thing.

While York City hasn’t seen the type of racial incidents shaking people’s faith in law enforcement elsewhere — and Kahley said his officers treat all residents fairly — it’s important to recognize suspicion and mistrust between the police and the policed.

YCPD block party is 'what we need to show our country'

Considering York’s history — the race riots of 1969 and the resulting homicide trials some 30 years later — such feelings are almost in the city’s DNA.

It’s important to have an ongoing dialogue about these issues, lest they erupt again, prompted, perhaps, by an incident far from York, Pennsylvania.

Plus, we need residents and police to trust each other and work together to curb the crime and violence even Kahley says is too high for a city of this size.

To that end, we urge everyone to take any opportunity they see. And if they don’t see an opportunity … make one.