Local cops respond to recent police tragedies

By on July 13, 2016

Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye and Ephrata PD boss William Harvey responded on Tuesday after two days of horror on the national stage began with the tragic deaths of two black shooting victims stopped by police on July 5-6.

The next afternoon, a vitriolic narrative bubbled on social media describing police as “murders” and “racists.” On the evening of July 7, charges had escalated that police were “assassins” on a CNN news program.

Prior to that, President Barack Obama said that the two police shootings of black males, in Baton Rouge, La., and in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb, were “not isolated” incidents.

Finally at about 8:45 p.m. on July 7, a man ambushed 11 officers, killing of five policemen at an anti-police rally in Dallas Texas.

Harvey patiently responded when asked if he believed news and social media had demonized police with hyperbolic charges.

“Yes, there is a race to obtain all of the facts to see, and desire, the charging of a police officer,” he said. “There is a need from some to have a sacrificial lamb to right the wrongs of the past. Private interest groups/organizations want answers instantaneously which is unreal.”

Harvey and Nye noted the police are often easy targets of speculation due to typical gap time in presenting a police report anytime a policemen uses lethal force.

At the July 12 memorial in Dallas for the killed officers, President Obama offered a calmer tone, asking their police detractors to consider how it feels to be “unfairly maligned.”

“There is a systematic investigation, very similar to a criminal investigation which take immense hours to properly develop or disprove a case,” Harvey said.

Harvey referenced similar events in Baltimore that created comparable results.

“The rush to ‘justice’ is what is happening in Baltimore with cases falling apart and malicious prosecution for political reasons. It was told that if they did not charge the police officers Baltimore would burn. It is still smoldering and reignites. After every case that gets tossed, it rekindles.”

Both Nye and Harvey sympathized with the policeman and their families killed in Dallas, noting that no area is instantly shielded from the current political climate and negative backlash against police.

“Dallas is far away from Lititz but I walk out front and our officers walk out front here knowing that something like that can happen to us too,” Nye said. “People say: “Oh that’s the big city, that couldn’t happen here.’ Well I don’t say that anymore. Things can happen anywhere anymore.”

Nye also noted that Lititz has become a tourist hub and vacation spot these days and Lititz PD regularly interacts with people from “up and down the east coast and all over the country.”

As far as the locals in Lititz, Nye said “I think most people in our community know we’re a good department and we try to give them the best service we can offer them with what we have.”

That includes promoting a police force that is community oriented and visible walking around and talking to people at community events.

“When someone knows you personally…they feel more comfortable coming to talk with someone they know rather than approaching a random officer they have no idea who they are,” Nye said.

Chief Harvey says the local response to Ephrata Police has been positive since the last week’s multiple killings involving police across the country.

“At the station we have received cards, pastries and encouragements,” he said, which included plugs on social media sites, emails and “even got some hugs.

“I feel that overwhelmingly the vast majority of the public here in Northern Lancaster area appreciates its law enforcement officers and our efforts,” Harvey said.

Nye pointed out that the public should have confidence in the Lititz force whose training is continual.

“Officers today have much better training than I had 36 years ago,” Nye said. “I mean, we were pretty much told ‘hey just go out and do your job’.”

He noted that current officers can rely on more non-lethal options to use than years ago “with Tasers and OC (pepper) spray instead of going right to your fire arm.”

“As far as training goes we’re going to continue to offer training as much as we can,” he said. “All officers have to go to mandatory training every year as required by the state and we continue to do firearms training and non-lethal training every year that we’re certified.”

During a police reaction training two months, Lititz Police Sgt. Stephen Detz critiqued how veteran cops responded to threats by “virtual bad guys” brandishing weapons.

What he made very clear was officers often have a split second to decide what type of force to respond with when confronting someone armed or someone rushing at them — and obtain n officer’s revolver.

Detz watched as a participant elected to reach for his Taser instead of hand gun, believing he’d disable a “gunman” still pointing his gun down but refusing to drop his weapon.

“Do you think a Taser would be the correct response there?” Detz asked in the training room at Lititz Fire Co.

After viewing another officer fire his weapon — in time to prevent the same virtual gunman from raising his gun to shoot at the officer, Detz explained “When you’re shooting to save your life, that is how you shoot — that quickly,” Detz said.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455

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