Fired W. Manchester officer gets 9 to 18 months in prison

The York Dispatch (Pennsylvania)
BYLINE: ELIZABETH EVANS -- The York Dispatch

Manchester Township, PA

After sentencing fired West Manchester Township Police Detective Steven Edward Crider to nine to 18 months in prison for stealing and using drugs from his department's evidence room, a judge spoke directly to the defendant.

"I've got to believe an enormous burden was removed from your shoulders when you decided to deal with this," Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner said on Friday.

"Absolutely," Crider agreed.

Bortner said he knew the prison sentence, which will be followed by four years of probation, would be considered too lenient by some people, and too harsh by others. But he said he believes it accomplishes justice both for society and for Crider, who must report to York County Prison on Feb. 8.

The judge noted it was a "dark day" for Crider and his family, but wished Crider well.

Also at Friday morning's sentencing hearing, West Manchester Township Police Chief Arthur Smith Jr. spoke publicly about Crider for the first time. He asked the judge to impose the maximum possible sentence.

"This situation has totally torn the heart out of the police department," Smith said, adding that he fears the damage is irreparable.

"A long time ago, Officer Crider took an oath of office," the chief said. "He took it upon himself to violate that oath of office."

Smith said he holds his officers to a very high standard of conduct and that officers abide by high standards, not only because the citizens deserve it, but also "so we do have the trust and respect of the public."

Because of Crider's actions, "scores" of criminal charges have been compromised, society has been let down and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on drug investigations "with no positive results in the end," the chief said.

"I can't turn that around," Smith said.

State police Sgt. Robert Kelly told the judge that Crider's cooperation with the investigation against him was only partial.

For instance, Crider failed to tell investigators that he shared drugs he stole with another person, and also allegedly conspired with that person "to frustrate the efforts of the state police investigation," Kelly said.

"The things that may not necessarily (have) come to light, he did not disclose," Kelly said.

Outside the courtroom, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones, who prosecuted the case, said the person Crider shared drugs with was a friend, not a family member or police officer.

Kelly said the sharing was not extensive, and that the person is not facing charges.

Crider spoke during the sentencing hearing as well, telling the judge he's a different person now and that he regrets causing pain to his family and former co-workers. His wife, eldest daughter and sister-in-law all spoke up in court for him, too.

Crider's testimony revealed he'd smoked marijuana on a daily basis for 14 years, and began stealing drugs from the evidence room about seven years ago.

Jones argued the "sophisticated nature" of Crider's crimes, coupled with the very serious breach of public trust, warranted a harsh sentence.

But defense attorney Suzanne Smith argued Crider was a good cop, and that mitigating circumstances made a lesser sentence appropriate, including his cooperation.

"It's simply just a drug addiction that got way out of hand," she said.

Bortner said he doesn't question Crider's sincerity and noted the "enormous personal costs that have already been inflicted" on Crider and his family.

"On the other hand ... you did betray the oath you took as a police officer," Bortner said.

Addiction can control a person's life, the judge said, but Crider had opportunities over those 14 years "to decide enough was enough" and seek treatment, rather than continuing to use marijuana, cocaine, heroin and even ecstasy.

And while Crider did "come clean," he did so because his crimes were on the verge of being discovered, Bortner noted.

"It's a tragedy. It's a sad day ... for those in the township and the colleagues whose trust he betrayed," the judge said.

Crider declined comment through his attorney.

West Manchester Township Manager Kelly Kelch said Crider -- who was with the department for 32 years -- lost his pension. He was fired April 13.

Crider, 55, of Lilac Lane in the township, pleaded guilty Nov. 17 to six counts each of forgery, tampering with public records, theft, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and drug possession.

He stole drugs -- primarily cocaine -- from his department's evidence room between November 2001 and April 2009 and snorted and smoked them, state police said.

Crider stole drug evidence in more than 100 criminal cases, sometimes replacing the drugs with chalk, police said.

He also tampered with official evidence records and crime-lab records to cover up his thefts, police said.

-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at , 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.

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