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Statement from Mayor Sorace – October 15

October 15, 2020 | Mayor's Office

“As you know, Jarrad Berkihiser retired as Chief of Police for the City of Lancaster, effective at the end of this month. As part of that retirement, there is a legal agreement that previously prohibited me from speaking freely. This agreement was requested by Lancaster Newspapers under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law and was released to them yesterday. 

Now that the agreement has been released, I am able and legally authorized to comment on the existence of the Separation Agreement between the City and Chief Berkihiser. As a result of public comments made by others, none of whom were involved in my conversations with Chief Berkihiser, I feel compelled to make this statement. The City’s labor counsel has confirmed that it is both legal and acceptable for me to do so.

Commencing with the murder of George Floyd on May 25 and the demonstrations that erupted on our streets and on streets across this country , I had many, many discussions with Chief Berkihiser about racial equity, policing, and the ways in which Lancaster City could continue to lead the way as it related to progressive policing in the County and the Region.  

Those conversations were about the work needed to effectuate the commitments that we as a city first made on June 5, again on August 11 to City Council, and lastly on August 25 when Chief Berkihiser presented a report to City Council regarding the Police Use of Force during the weekend of May 30 and 31. All of these commitments and reports were made in public, recorded and remain publicly available.

These discussions over a period of more than four months led me to doubt that Chief Berkihiser truly shared my vision for the direction of the City’s Bureau of Police with the same passion and conviction that I have. As Mayor, it is my responsibility to ensure that the executive team I have formed is closely aligned with the goals I have set for our City. City residents, our constituents, should expect nothing less. Ultimately, my doubts about Chief Berkihiser’s alignment with my vision resulted in our negotiating a Separation Agreement based on Chief Berkihiser’s retirement.  That agreement honors his 26 years of service and provides him all of the rights and benefits afforded to every other police officer who retires from service in the Police Bureau.

Lancaster the challenge before us is significant but I am excited and optimistic. I’m excited about the opportunity for our community to come together in a search for a new Chief of Police. I’m optimistic that a new Chief will help move this work forward and continue the work of building a stronger and more equitable Lancaster Block by Block. I invite all of you; neighbor leaders and business leaders, civic leaders and faith leaders, parents and young people; to join us in this work as we progress.”