A rural police department in northern Montgomery County must institute new training policies, including for its top officers, after a months-long probe by the state Attorney General’s Office into allegedly racist and abusive behavior.
Members of the New Hanover Police Department must undergo antibias and anti-harassment training, and the department’s chief must “personally model the non-biased, culturally inclusive conduct expected of all members,” at the direction of the state agency.
The recommendations come after Attorney General Josh Shapiro began investigating the department in July at the request of the Pottstown branch of the NAACP and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.).
Their concerns stemmed from a complaint filed last year by a former New Hanover Township police officer who described a racist and toxic work environment in the department. Keith Youse filed the complaint after finding an egg roll in his personal belongings when he retired. He said he interpreted that as a slight against his wife, Sandy, who is Korean American.
Youse also said Police Chief Kevin McKeon and another senior officer in the department regularly used racial slurs, including the N-word.
State investigators made no conclusions about the allegations against the department but suggested that retraining was necessary. Shapiro, in a statement Tuesday, said township officials agreed to his office’s recommendations.
“We appreciate the NAACP Pottstown’s assistance on this matter, and its steadfast commitment to racial justice,” Shapiro said. “These changes are a starting point — I’m hopeful that New Hanover and their leadership can take these changes to heart and build a stronger, more equitable department.”
Efforts to reach officials in the township police department were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Youse, for his part, said he was thankful for the work done by Shapiro’s office and the NAACP.
”Hopefully nobody in the community will have to be affected by these kind of issues, nor will any officers in the department or those from other departments who have to collaborate with New Hanover,” he said.
A northern suburb of Pottstown, New Hanover is patrolled by a police force of 11 officers, all of them white. Of the town’s nearly 11,000 residents, 95% are white, according to U.S. Census data. The officers who patrol the township respond more frequently to traffic collisions and burglar alarms than violent crime.
Johnny Corson, president of the local NAACP chapter, has frequently attended township meetings since Youse’s complaint and says his organization will continue to work with the municipality.
“We value our relationship with police. We thank the Attorney General’s Office for their thorough and timely investigation,” he said. “We remain resolute in our stance against racism and injustice in our community and will continue to push for change and equity.”