EDITORIAL: Return of community police unit is good news

York Dispatch
  • A community police outpost was recently re-opened on Princess Street in York.
  • The west end center was the former site of Gus' Place, which was called a nuisance bar.
  • It's hoped the unit will reduce crime and improve relations with city residents.

It's no secret that the relationship between the York City police and the members of the community it serves has not always been cordial.

There's nothing unusual about that.

Sadly, it seems to be a part of our national urban fabric.

Just recently, when an African-American York High football player was shot and killed, the city police were faced with an “aggressive” crowd of more than 50 people, who started screaming at patrol officers at the crime scene. Fortunately, the situation didn't boil over into something truly tragic and no arrests were made.

It was, however, emblematic of the tensions that often exist between the city police and the city's minority residents.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley, left, Bill Faron, president of the Salem Square Community Association, and York City Mayor Kim Bracey announce the re-opening of a community policing station at the corner of West Princess and South West streets recently. John A. Pavoncello photo

Recently, however, the city took a significant step to try to mend that relationship by opening a community police center at the former Gus' Bar at 594-596 W. Princess St.

This is good news in a few important ways.

It takes a former nuisance bar — a place that was often a cauldron of criminal activity — and turns it into a place where the city police and city residents can interact on a more personal level.

Hopefully, some desperately-needed bonds of trust will be forged.

In addition, the police presence at the outpost should help to keep the criminal element off balance in the violence-plagued west end. The new unit won't be staffed 24-7, but the mere knowledge that the center is now up and running with three officers and a sergeant should deter some who may be contemplating wrongdoing.

Nothing new: The neighborhood police centers are nothing new in York. In fact, neighborhood outposts were in the area for a long period of time until police staffing issues this past January unfortunately diminished those divisions.

Now, the staffing problems have been resolved and there's a new post up and running on Princess Street, and a new unit is planned in the near future for the south end.

The centers are expected to reduce crime.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said the number of police calls in the area went down 44 percent the last time the west end had a community police center, including a 47 percent reduction in shootings. He also said violence spiked in the area when the outpost wasn't manned.

Neighborhood policing units back in York City's west end

There's no doubt that community-policing outposts work.

Bill Faron, the president of the Salem Square Community Association, may have put it best when he said: “This is really a community coming together.”

Step in right direction: There's also no doubt that the city police department needs more of this kind of outreach.

A little while back, we chastised Kahley for not addressing hundreds of folks who marched to his department's headquarters in early July. The folks had no specific issues with his officers, but they were protesting the recent shooting deaths of black men in Louisiana, Minnesota and elsewhere across the nation.

We called it a missed opportunity to build bridges between the city police and the city residents.

Well, now we need to credit Kahley and Mayor Kim Bracey for re-opening one of the community-policing centers.

It's definitely a step in the right direction.

Hopefully there will be more to come.