Community leaders await changes after police promises protest response reform


LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Some prominent community leaders in Lancaster are waiting to see what happens next after the city’s police chief promised changes following the department’s response to when demonstrators were pepper-sprayed in late May.

The demonstrators were marching in Lancaster following the death of George Flloyd.

Rev. Jason Perkowski, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church & Oregon Community United Methodist Church, was one of those who were pepper sprayed.

“As soon as I was sprayed, I couldn’t see,” Perkowski said.

Perkowski has been critical of instances where police used the spray as a way to deal with the crowds.

“The use of pepper spray may have been by the book, but it wasn’t a necessary reasonable measure of leadership or any measure of public safety,” Perkowski said.

“By the book” is what Lancaster Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser told Lancaster City Council last week.

Berkihiser said five of the six times police used pepper spray in late May, his officers were justified and even did it “by the book” — although he contended that the book needs to be rewritten and promised changes.

“I want to see a growth in the trust between the community and the police department,” Perkowski said.

Isaac Etter is another pushing for change from the police department.

Etter who helps to run SafeHouse Lancaster, an organization developing young activists, said police should consider not using pepper spray.

“There isn’t a need for pepper spray in Lancaster,” he said. “I think the Lancaster protests have proven they are not places where they need that because in the following weeks where they weren’t out there and police weren’t pepper-spraying we didn’t have rioting -or -or any major issues happen.”

Perkowski said more communication can also ease relations with large crowds and tension.”If I was the chief of police I would be having weekly conversations with folks.”

You can read Berkihiser’s entire report to the city council here.

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