I am incredibly proud of the way that the Lancaster County community has responded in the days following the tragic officer-involved shooting last weekend. While there were certainly some hostile and inappropriate reactions to the events, the vast majority of Lancaster County residents responded with empathy, understanding, and kindness.
We are fortunate that both law enforcement and community members alike acted with calm professionalism in the days following the incident, as many other cities across the United States that have experienced similar tragedies spiraled into chaos and destruction in the aftermath. We truly have much to be proud of and thankful for here in Lancaster County.
As I reflect on the incident, the community’s reaction to it, the media’s coverage of it, and my responsibility as an elected representative of Lancaster County to respond to it, a few key points stand out as worth mentioning:
The Loss of Life is Always a Tragedy
First and foremost, I want to take time to mourn the loss of life that our community experienced this past weekend. No matter the circumstances, I urge all community residents to continue to have compassion for the family of the deceased as they grieve the devastating loss of a loved one.
Mental Health Resources are Vital for Healthy, Vibrant, & Safe Communities
The role that mental health and the availability of mental health resources played in this incident is not lost on me. The need for treatment and medication for serious mental health conditions as well as the importance of counseling in the aftermath of a traumatic incident were both highlighted by the tragedy last weekend. Community members, law enforcement officers, and the families of loved ones with mental illnesses would all benefit from high-quality mental health resources, as this is one of the fundamental elements of a safe and health community.
As such, access to life-saving mental health resources in our community will continue to be a priority of mine moving forward. I intend to work with my colleagues in the Senate to better understand the cost, availability, and quality of our mental health system across the Commonwealth so that we can work towards improving any pitfalls.
Residents have a Right to Protest Peacefully, But NOT to Commit Crimes like Vandalism or Violence
As Senator Scott Martin and I said the day after the incident, “It is extremely unfortunate that this incident sparked a rush to judgement that led to numerous acts of violence throughout our community last night. It is even more unfortunate that many of those arrested for perpetrating those acts came here from outside Lancaster County, as they do not represent the majority of community members wishing to protest peacefully.
“The Constitutional right to assemble and protest peacefully is a pillar of our society, and we offer our support to those who wish to make their voices heard. However, the acts of destruction that we saw…completely undermine the message that peaceful protestors wish to deliver. It is our hope that the perpetrators of these terrible acts are identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
It is wholly unfair that residents in Lancaster City had to worry about potential destruction to their homes or businesses, and it is despicable that some had that worry become a reality. Lancaster County residents and businesses alike have experienced immeasurable harm and suffering as a result of the pandemic, and to have additional and unnecessary damage inflicted upon their property and their community is unacceptable. My heart goes out to those working to repair and rebuild in the aftermath.
Again, I am so proud that Lancaster County officials were able to dispel the riots and violence quickly and professionally, as their actions likely prevented even further damage.
The Local Media Always Have a Moral Obligation to Report Honestly and Fairly, But Even More So in High-Stress Situations that have Community-Wide Impact
During a crisis of any kind, the community often relies on local media outlets to provide them with unbiased, accurate, and complete information about the situation as it develops. I was dismayed to see that some local news outlets instead used this tragedy as an opportunity to push a partisan and unsubstantiated narrative about unjust police brutality. In already tense situations like that on Sunday, the media has a heightened obligation to report the truth and the whole truth.
This example demonstrates just how critical the media’s role in a community is, and how residents must be able to trust these outlets to report the facts absent any underlying motives. Unfortunately, what we saw from some outlets last weekend was a distortion of the facts and a deflection from the truth. While many residents were able to see through these thinly-veiled attempts to control the narrative and sway the masses, I hope that these local news outlets will continue to work towards publishing news that meets the high ethical standards of honest journalism and that they can regain the public’s trust.
Law Enforcement Officers and Their Families Need & Deserve Support
I would again like to express my deepest appreciation to the Lancaster City Police Department and the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office for quickly releasing the body cam footage from the incident and for providing the highest level of transparency in the subsequent investigation. Furthermore, our law enforcement community is to be commended for the work they do, and the sacrifices they make, to keep our communities safe during these most difficult circumstances.
I have been and continue to be supportive of not only our police officers, but their families as well. I am committed to standing with them as they continue to provide our communities with safe, professional, and effective protection.
In an effort to show my continued support of and gratitude for our law enforcement community, I will be reaching out in the coming weeks to offer to meet with members of the many police departments all throughout the 36th Senatorial District. Additionally, I look forward to riding along with officers as I did in 2016-2017 to learn more about the work they do and any suggestions they may have for how I can support them in Harrisburg.
To the entire law enforcement community: God bless you all and thank you for your service.