A crowd gathered at Crispus Attucks in York City for a forum on policing in York County on Tuesday.
A crowd gathered at Crispus Attucks in York City for a forum on policing in York County on Tuesday. (GREG GROSS — ggross@yorkdispatch.com)

Sandra Thompson, head of the York NAACP, made it clear at the start: A forum featuring five York County police chiefs Tuesday wasn't about arguing over policing tactics but rather as a way to ask questions about how police officers do their jobs.

And some residents may not like every answer they get.

Thompson said those words to a crowd of more than 50 people during the forum at Crispus Attucks in York City.

Taking part in the forum were police chiefs Wes Kahley of York City, George Swartz of Spring Garden Township, Tom Hyers of Springettsbury Township, Tom Gross of York Area Regional Police and Mark Bentzel of Northern York Regional Police. Also seated on the panel were York County District Attorney Tom Kearney, Nelson Bruster of the Department of Justice and Martin Kearney of the state Human Relations Commission.

Additional forums could be held in the future.

Q&A: Here's a look at some of the questions posed to the panel and their answers:

•What are protocols for using less-than lethal force and deadly force?

Kahley said standards for use of force are set by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. York City Police officers are trained to de-escalate situations where deadly force is justified. When any force is used, even less-than lethal force, such as using a Taser, an officer must complete a form detailing the incident that is reviewed by command staff.

During his time with Northern York County Regional Police, Bentzel said there's been one instance of deadly force used. However, there have been numerous times when deadly force was justified but officers were able to de-escalate the situation.


•Are statistics of deadly force used by police reported to the FBI, which maintains a record of all crimes reported to police?

Swartz said there is no requirement to report statistics to the FBI but his department, and most, keep records of such incidents.

•What is the likelihood of police departments getting body cameras for officers to wear?

"I think in the next few years everyone is going to have them," Hyers said, adding the expense, which includes the cameras, software and data storage, could be an issue. But the department is looking into it.

Thompson said it could cost $900 to outfit just one officer with a camera.

•Can residents record video of officers?

"You're allowed to film the police. There's no wiretapping (issues) or that nonsense," Hyers said.

•Is there a state guideline on how long complaints against police officers are kept? Are complaints public record?

Gross said no and no. But that shouldn't stop someone from filing a complaint when necessary.

Thompson said complaints should be in writing and the person filing a complaint should keep a copy for themselves.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.