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After 26 years with Lancaster Police, Chief Jarrad Berkihiser is retiring

The abrupt announcement took place Friday. The Mayor announced Chief Berkihiser will retire at the end of October, but the Chief was nowhere to be found.

A sudden announcement out of Lancaster Friday afternoon: After 26 years with Lancaster Bureau of Police, Chief Jarrad Berkihiser is retiring. 

Mayor Danene Sorace made the announcement Friday inside City Hall. Members of the press and members of the Mayor's administration attended; however, the Chief was not in the room. Mayor Sorace did not take questions, and it was a brief announcement considering the chief's lengthy career.

Chief Berkihiser lives in Millersville. He started as a patrol officer with Lancaster Police and rose to the rank of captain. Berkihiser worked with each division within the bureau and on the Lancaster County's Special Emergency Response Team or SERT. The Chief also worked with the violent crime unit where he investigated homicides. He has been an advocate for mental health resources for the department. The chief shared his struggles with PTSD because of the nature of some of those investigations. 

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Berkihiser was named Acting Chief in 2017. He became responsible for directing all police functions for the city.

"Chief Berkihiser and I have been working diligently to advance the police bureau and significant process has been made," Mayor Sorace said Friday afternoon. "I want to thank Chief Berkihiser for his dedication and commitment to this city."

Mayor Sorace listed all of the chief's recent contributions to the force, including: Bureau-Wide use of body cameras, improving the department's use of force policy, implementing de-escalation training for every officer, creating a community engagement sergeant, hiring the department's first social worker, and working with Second Chance program to find addicts help instead of jail time.

At the end of the press conference, another reporter asked if the chief's retirement is voluntary or not; the Mayor said 'thank you' and walked out of the room.

After the chief retires at the end of this month, Mayor Sorace says the duties of chief will be shared among the department's three police captains. Mayor Sorace recognized people will want to know who will be the next leader for the police bureau; she said she looks forward to talking with the community about it, but the focus right now should be on honoring the Chief's retirement.

Brett Hambright, a spokesperson for the Lancaster County District Attorney's office sent FOX43 a statement on the announcement. It reads:

"We wish the very best to Chief Berkihiser, who was a tremendous asset to the community he served and a valued law-enforcement partner. Most recently, Chief Berkihiser was a visible presence on the front lines in volatile and unprecedented circumstances in the city of Lancaster. His response during this time has been measured, responsible and appropriate. His care and concern for the city was apparent. Chief Berkihiser’s commitment to public service and upholding the law with integrity was admirable, and he will be greatly missed behind the badge."

Community members also took to Facebook to share their thoughts on the retirement announcement and to wish him well. You can read those comments here.

Lancaster Stands Up, a grassroots effort by community members, shared thoughts as well online. It wrote: 

"Chief Berkihiser's retirement announcement presents Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster and the City of Lancaster with an opportunity. We call on the Mayor to replace Berkihiser with a police chief who is committed to changing the way policing is done in Lancaster. We need reform, accountability, and really a complete overhaul of our broken criminal justice system. 

Just last month, FOX43 just sat down with the chief to talk about an officer-involved shooting in the city that is still under investigation by the District Attorney. We also spoke about what it's like to be a police officer these days. Chief Berkihiser did not mention retirement.

Amber Strazzo, a spokesperson for the city, says there will likely be more events commemorating the chief's retirement in the coming weeks.

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