Lancaster City Council on Tuesday approved the appointment of the city’s top law enforcement leader.
“That is the last hurdle. John Bey is the chief of police of the City of Lancaster,” said President Ismail Smith-Wade-El, following a unanimous vote. Council members Faith Craig and Pete Soto were absent. Mayor Danene Sorace said in June that she was promoting Bey, who had been serving in an interim capacity. A swearing-in ceremony was on Tuesday’s agenda, but Sorace said Bey’s family had a conflict. A ceremony and gathering is instead set for 4-6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, at The Ware Center with members of the public invited.
“I’ve never met a police chief who was so eager to meet any and every person in the city,” Smith-Wade-El said.
Bey’s annual base salary of $128,000 is the sixth-highest among city salaries, according to City Business Administrator Patrick Hopkins. The highest is $150,296 for the public works director. That ranking does not include medical opt-out payments such as the additional $11,242 per year Bey receives in lieu of being on the city’s medical insurance policy.
“He’s definitely jumped right into the work. And the difference between him and his predecessor is like night and day,” said council member Xavier Garcia-Molina. “And it’s something that’s very welcomed by us in the community.”
Sorace chose Bey as acting chief in November, and he began working in December.
He succeeds Jarrad Berkihiser, whose unexpected retirement Sorace announced Oct. 2, 2020. The mayor said she came to doubt that Berkihiser shared her vision for the direction of the police department following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May and, locally, the police shooting death of Ricardo Muñoz, a man with a history of mental illness who came at a police officer while armed with a knife Sept. 13, 2020.
Bey is a Pittsburgh native and a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Police and a chief master sergeant in the Air National Guard. He began his policing career at Troop J in Lancaster in 1989.
In the state police, Bey headed its recruitment and special services office and its Heritage Affairs Section, which builds relationships with historically underserved groups, including minority communities, and which helps local agencies handle hate and bias crimes.
After retiring from the state police, Bey served as police chief of Middletown for two years and four months. He left that job to become financial management superintendent for the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
Staff writer Dan Nephin contributed to this report.