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Lancaster mayor accused of forcing out police chief over his wife’s social media post


Steve Marroni

The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.

Lancaster’s police chief, whose retirement was announced earlier this month, may have been asked to resign, or may have been forced into retirement, over a social media post from his wife.

Mayor Danene Sorace announced Oct. 2 that Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser was stepping down, effective Oct. 31.

While his announced retirement came weeks after protests, some of which turned violent, broke out following a police-involved shooting, that does not appear to have anything to do with his leaving the department.

John Fiorill of the Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge told WGAL the mayor asked the chief to resign following political comments Berkihiser’s wife made on social media.

Fraternal Order of Police officials could not immediately be reached by Pennlive Sunday for comment, but Fiorill told WGAL “we provided him with our solicitor for legal advice,” according to reports.

According to LancasterOnline, Kristy Berkihiser had responded to a Facebook comment made by a friend who volunteered at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally at the Harrisburg International Airport last month. The friend said Trump “spoke so much of law enforcement and his respect and thankfulness for them,” and Berkihiser’s wife responded that is “Why I’m voting for him again. Same reason as last time. You don’t see him meeting with Jacob Blake’s family or speaking to him by phone,” according to LancasterOnline.

Blake is the Black man shot in the back in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin, whose family Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had met with.

That was the extent of her comments, and Fiorill pointed out that it was Berkihiser’s wife who made the comment, and not the chief, who had nothing to do with it and knows not to get involved with politics, according to reports.

Sorace, however, told LancasterOnline that she cannot comment on the reasons the chief is leaving the department because of an agreement between the two.

Sorace posted a statement on Facebook Saturday. In that statement, she said:

“There is an agreement that legally binds Chief Berkihiser and me to not comment on the nature of the discussions we had, nor on the factors that led to his decision to retire. It is my obligation to abide by the letter of the law in not breaching that document. I also feel morally and ethically bound to the spirit of the agreement. It is my duty as mayor to honor this agreement and I will do so.”

She added the search will begin this week for a new police chief.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the police-involved shooting last month that killed 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz is nearing it’s conclusion.

Police body camera video showed Munoz running at the Lancaster police officer with a knife moments before the shooting. Munoz’ family said he suffered from mental-health issues and the police did not need to kill him.

The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said Friday it will announce its determination on the use of force in this case once their review is complete.


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