Members of the public pressed the Lancaster, PA, city council and Mayor Danene Sorace for details Tuesday night on police chief Jarrad Berkihiser's sudden retirement announcement.
Sorace announced Berkihiser’s retirement on Friday, Oct. 2, during a three-and-a-half-minute news conference at which she did not answer questions and which Berkihiser did not attend. That announcement came as a surprise to many city residents, as Berkihiser, a 26-year-veteran of the force, is just 49 years old and was not expected to retire in the short term, LancasterOnline reports.
In the days after the announcement, a Fraternal Order of Police member said the chief was pushed out because his wife posted comments favorable to President Trump on Facebook. The chief's wife, Kristy Berkihiser, later posted several comments to Facebook repeating that story and saying her political views should not have been used to punish her husband.
Fox43 reports that Kristy Berkihiser's comment was about President Trump's support of law enforcement officers during a rally in Middletown. Afterward, she wrote on Facebook: "That's 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…"
Jacob Blake is a sexual assault suspect who was shot seven times by a Kenosha, WI, officer during a domestic dispute on Aug. 23. He was paralyzed by the shooting. The incident sparked days of protests and riots.
Lancaster was also the scene of riots and protests earlier this month after an officer shot and killed a man during a knife attack. The county district attorney has ruled the shooting justified.
A petition created by Katie Fisher – who is not a Lancaster city resident -- to reinstate Berkihiser had over 10,300 signatures as of Tuesday night. Fisher said she became interested in the issue after hearing about it through the Lancaster City Adopt a Cop Facebook Group.
The petition states that Berkihiser was “unjustly fired for political reasons" and that he “should be reinstated as he possesses the compassion, integrity, and deep commitment to Lancaster that is needed for such a time as this.”
The chief retired and was not terminated, Jess King, the mayor’s chief of staff, said in a phone interview prior to the council meeting.