For once, Dave Hogg isn’t writing a post about hotels. I’m letting you know that I’m honored to have been asked to be part of the York County Safety Collab. It’s making a real difference. What is this Safety Collab?
For six years, behind the scenes, Aaron Anderson of Logos Academy has orchestrated regular conversations and relationship-building between the Black Ministers Association of York County and the chiefs of many of the 17 police departments that comprise York County, PA law enforcement. Aaron’s work has enabled frank, truthful, two-way discussions that have borne exceptional (and until now nearly top-secret) fruit for our county and its residents.
Officers have been disciplined and even terminated. Rumors have been squelched before erupting into senseless loss. Body cameras have been acquired for every one of the 400+ officers in the county. When the George Floyd mess exploded across the nation, it was easy to predict that the York County skyline would again burn bright from anxiety and frustration. Why not? It’s happened too many times before. I can remember watching the fires and listening to the machine gun fire from my front yard overlooking York City during the race riots in the ‘60’s.
But when the George Floyd incident happened, those predictions never materialized. Why? Because a dozen or so men had had the courage to sit down with one another and speak truth, every month for years before. The kind of truth that can be hard and uncomfortable. Because of those honorable men and their frank conversations, tensions were diffused, and an uneasy trust was developing. Now a couple years later, that trust has become more solid, and the group is looking to accomplish more.
A framework had to develop for “more” to happen, and that framework is the York County Safety Collab. It is a 501(c)(3) collective impact organization, created by a partnership of the York County Association of Chiefs of Police and LogosWorks, acting as fiscal sponsor, to catalyze countywide safety efforts through a “Safer Together” initiative. This new organization has a board of directors, on which I’m honored to serve with:
- Chief George Swartz (Spring Garden)
- Chief Todd King (Springettsbury)
- Chief Tim Damon (York Regional)
- Aaron Anderson, CEO, Logos Academy
- Pastor Bill Kerney, Executive of the Black Ministers Association of York County
- Joyce Santiago, Advocate and Finance Director of the York County Housing Group
That all sounds fancy, but it’s still rooted in those monthly discussions over the past six years. So much good is happening! The difference is that now we’ll have resources. We can do effective social media to let folks know, to solicit input, and to build more trust. We’ll also target new tools and training for our 17 police departments, and we can raise the necessary money.
When crime happens in York County, it often spills into a different law enforcement jurisdiction before an arrest is made. But we don’t have uniform training among departments. Some cuff one way, some the other. Procedures are varied. It’s easy to see how this potentially creates a dangerous circumstance for the individual being apprehended and/or for the officers doing the apprehending. We seek to reduce the danger for both.
Did you know that not all of our departments are trained in mental health recognition or de-escalation? Did you know that it takes York County DNA tests 8-12 months for results, or that identifying the “firearm fingerprints” of spent brass collected from the streets of York County takes two years to return the York County DA’s office any lab results at all? How can we expect the best policing county-wide when the departments lack these basic resources?
What do I really love about the York County Safety Collab? I love that every idea we’ll put forward is first discussed and thoroughly vetted with community groups. We’re not rushing off after Rambo ideas; we want to implement concrete improvements that are mutually beneficial. We’re truly looking to improve the law enforcement experience and its effectiveness for every citizen of the County.
I also love that we are blessed with police chiefs who truly care about doing policing the right way, for the good of all they serve and protect. In so many communities this Collab would not be possible, because the chiefs and/or the district attorneys don’t have the right hearts. Ours do. Oh my goodness, that makes such a difference! Without the right hearts, the conversations started years ago that made – and still make – this effort possible would never have begun.
It’s amazing how, when you’re willing to have tough conversations, folks of extremely diverse backgrounds can coalesce around ideas and actions to make the lives of all of our 400,000+ county residents better. Heck, what we’re doing here in York County may become a “best practice” for positive change nationwide, but now I’m getting ahead of myself.
It’s worth repeating: I’m honored to serve.
David Hogg, Springwood Hospitality