A York City police officer is on administrative leave for comments he may have posted on Facebook. The new controversy comes at a time when police nationwide are trying to improve their image with the community.
It all started after a fight broke out at a basketball game this week between York High School and Harrisburg High School players. The York Dispatch posted on its Facebook page about the fight along with a photo of two black basketball players. Underneath the story someone posted this comment: "Animals don't play well with others."
"Wow that's really inappropriate," said Wendy Weidman, of Dillsburg. Weidman and others in the community are interpreting the post as racist. "To me, yes it is, and it's sad. I was a police officer for 12 years and that is not appropriate. You need to watch what you do at all times. You are a police officer 24 hours," said Weidman.
Others disagree. "Freedom of speech, you know? You are powerless over that," said Rufus Williams.
"I don't believe they were racially biased, knowing the officer and knowing who he associates with. So I don't believe it was racist, it was definitely inappropriate," said York City Police Chief Wes Kahley.
The post came from the Facebook page of Terry Seitz, who has been a police officer with York for 15 years. Seitz is now on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation.
"We are currently investigating A: whether it was our officer, and B: what exactly was said and what it pertained to," said Chief Kahley. "We're at a time when tensions are high anyways between police and the community and all that does is inflame things. I mean we all have first amendment rights, but as police officers we can't just spew whatever information we want to spew. We're held to a professional standard and we expect our officers to abide by that professional standard, and he is going to be held accountable. We are taking it very serious. The Mayor is taking it very serious she is very upset about it, and we are going to deal with it, and it's going to be death with according to our rules and regulations."
One thing is for sure, the post goes against the police department's social media policy. "We are currently looking at those rules to see what was violated. One of the things that makes it difficult in situations like this is the First Amendment rights that people have, so it takes some time," said Chief Kahley. "We have some strict guidelines as to what an officer can and cannot say and this definitely falls under the category of conduct unbecoming of an officer. It definitely damages the reputation of the police department."
If Officer Seitz is found in violation of the policy he could be disciplined. "Discipline for this is done on a sliding scale and can range from a small suspension, to upwards of 30 days, to termination. If it would go to a 30-day suspension or termination then it would go to City Council for their adjudication. Anything below that would be handled by me," said Chief Kahley.
"We all make mistakes. We all say things we shouldn't from time to time and this was the case but again we are police officers and we are held to a different standard and that's why it's going to be dealt with," said Chief Kahley.