EDITORIALS

EDITORIAL: Task force issue should be new DA's top priority

The York Dispatch
  • No one involved in this fiasco can claim they have the best interest of the public in mind.
  • York City Police Chief Wes Kahley has acknowledged as much.
  • The next district attorney should make fixing this issue his or her top priority in 2018.

Four years.

York County District Attorney candidate Dave Sunday speaks during a debate with fellow Republican candidate Jonelle Eshbach, center, while moderator and York Rotary Club Chair Mike Summers looks on during the York Rotary Club meeting at Country Club of York in Spring Garden Township, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

That’s how long it has been since District Attorney Tom Kearney tossed York City Police officers off the York County Drug Task Force in a dispute that boiled down to chain of command.

During that time, the heroin epidemic exploded across the country and here at home, causing a record number of overdose deaths and an unfathomable amount of heartache.

Instead of working together to stop the flow of drugs coming into York County — coordinating efforts, combining resources against a common foe — the city police department and the drug task each did its own thing.

DA's race highlights drug task force schism

"Think about all the families that would be saved if they worked together," said Bonnie Geisinger, of Dallastown, whose daughter has struggled with opioid addiction and its effects for close to a decade.

No one involved in this fiasco can claim they have the best interest of the public in mind, a public they’re supposedly committed to serving.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley has acknowledged as much.

In an op-ed for The York Dispatch, he accepted responsibility for his role in the split, but also suggested chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday, who oversees the task force for Kearney, shared some of the blame.

Oped: City police chief: Leaders failed at 'pivotal time'

"The simplest answer to what occurred is that Dave Sunday and I failed as leaders during a pivotal time," Kahley wrote. "The public is not interested in petty differences between entities or personalities. The public expects and should receive the best service possible from those entrusted to serve them."

Very well said.

It’s just unfortunate it has taken years for someone to say it.

Why now?

Well, it’s an election year, and Kearney isn’t running. Next year, someone new will be sitting at the DA’s desk — either Sunday or challenger Jonelle Harter Eshbach — for the first time in eight years.

Eshbach, a county prosecutor for 12 years under former DA Stan Rebert, raised the task force issue during a debate with Sunday earlier this month — and rightly so.

She said the task force and city police department work best together, and she will bring those entities to together if she's elected.

York County District Attorney candidate Jonelle Eshbach gives her opening statement during a debate with fellow Republican candidate Dave Sunday during the York Rotary Club meeting at Country Club of York in Spring Garden Township, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Although Sunday has responded by highlighting an increase in felony drug arrests throughout the county since the restructuring of the task force, he also indicated a willingness work with the city police department to negotiate its return to the task force.

We hope that’s the case.

In his own op-ed on this page, Sunday stresses the addition of other local police departments to the task force at around the same time the city officers left. He wrote of an average 26 percent increase in felony drug arrest since the “expansion.”

OPED: DA candidate touts record, responds to criticism

That is impressive. However, as we noted, this time period also coincides with the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.

How many more drug arrests might the task force have notched if York City’s police department, the largest in the county, had been part of the team?

The people of York County shouldn't have to wonder.

The next district attorney should make fixing this issue his or her top priority in 2018.