September 12, 2019
Back in 1991, Keith Youse was ready to drop out of college and become a ski bum.
But serving as a juror in a Montgomery County murder trial altered his life’s trajectory.
Thanks to that case – Kevin McKeon, then a detective on the Norristown police force, was the prosecution’s star witness – he decided to pursue a career in law enforcement, with criminal justice and sociology studies at West Chester University and then a place at the Delaware County Police Academy in 1996.
He served on the Upper Perkiomen force until 2004, when he joined the New Hanover Township Police Department.
There, in that quiet corner of Montgomery County, he built a life and family with his wife, Sandy, who he married two years before that career move. His pledge to protect and serve the community was evident both at work and as a volunteer at schools, churches and various public events over the years.
Youse loved his job in the 10-officer department in the growing, semi-rural municipality of more than 10,000 predominantly white residents, located about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
But now the joy he felt all those years as a public servant has turned to bitterness, frustration and anger as his family fights back against racism swirling in the open at his former department and alleged harassment over the township's handling of a workers compensation case resulting from painful injuries sustained on the job.
Ironically, the same man who inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement – New Hanover Police Chief Kevin McKeon – has left the 48-year-old Youse exhausted by his treatment since the accident.
“I’m broken down, beaten down, with stress and anxiety,” Youse said over lunch last week at the Limerick Diner. “The whole department turned its back on me. I’m still broken.”
In 2016, Youse was driving to mandatory job training when a young driver rear-ended his car. The resulting neck, shoulder and back injuries left him unable to work for several weeks.
He hasn’t had a pain-free day since the accident, but still he worked off-and-on as best he could for a couple of years. He loved the job enough to deal with the lingering pain – plus several surgeries, nearly a dozen MRIs and countless hours of physical therapy – while performing the duties he was sworn to uphold as a New Hanover officer.
But the mental pain and anguish may be worse.
The breaking point came on July 19, the day Youse went to the New Hanover police station to pick up belongings several months after his earlier-than-anticipated, injury-related retirement became official.
Even though his back injury prevented him from lifting heavy objects, his stuff was put in three boxes and piled up outside the station on North Charlotte Street in Gilbertsville. One of them was way too heavy for one person to carry, he said.
There, sitting atop the stack of boxes, was an egg roll.
This was no petty littering, Youse instantly realized, but a racist statement, like those he’d heard over the years from people on the job about his Asian-American wife and children. He’d hidden those comments from Sandy over the years, but enough was finally enough.
Now, Youse and four others – two fellow retired officers, a family friend who works in local law enforcement, and another friend with ties to the township’s volunteer fire department – are crossing the thin blue line and breaking their silence.
Over the course of a dozen interviews in the past two weeks – both in person and over the telephone – they’ve painted a picture of a New Hanover Township Police Department where racial slurs are thrown around freely and often, and intimidation rules.
They say it’s a police force where officers fear speaking out against McKeon and Sgt. William Moyer – he's also the township fire chief – who are hell-bent on protecting their unchallenged positions of power in the department and the community.
"It was a hard decision to come forward, but we felt we had to publicly tell the story in order for it to stop." – Sandy Youse
Not even family members are safe from petty vindictiveness, Youse and the other sources said, while claiming that New Hanover’s Board of Supervisors and township manager turn a blind eye to what’s going on, perhaps out of self-preservation or even silent complicity.
“This whole thing has been so tough on all of us. It was a hard decision to come forward, but we felt we had to publicly tell the story in order for it to stop and for change to occur,” said Sandy Youse, during one of two recent interviews conducted just outside of the department's jurisdiction. "We are an interracial family, and this is how we are treated? This was yet another stab or jab to us as a family. It was disrespectful not only to us, but to all minorities who live in this community."
On August 1, she stated her family’s case at a supervisors meeting.
“When I was speaking, the chief didn’t even turn around and look at me,” she recalled. “On the police department’s website and Facebook page, any and all pictures of Keith volunteering or being recognized have been removed.
"It’s just like they just erased him and all that he did for the township. ... I certainly don't feel safe anymore.”
Some of the accusations – including a complaint filed because an officer’s wife “didn’t say hello” to McKeon at the bank branch where she works – sound like petty “Mean Girls” vindictiveness.
There's even a “burn book” filled with “stupid things” officers have said over the years, sources say. All three of the former New Hanover police officers interviewed for this story – Keith Youse, Dennis Psota and a peer who left the department several years ago and asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about his experiences – vouched for its existence.
A litany of racist comments would be found inside should it ever be publicly exposed, they said, but they don’t expect that to happen because its possessor now fears retribution from above.
They claimed Moyer regularly utters the n-word both at the station and out in public – while in uniform.
One particularly troubling vignette involves comments made by Moyer after a drug warrant was served in a low-income section of the township. In separate interviews, each officer claimed the sergeant said, aloud at District Court in Gilbertsville, that "when that flash bang went off, those porch monkeys ran like cockroaches.”
"When he said it, he was in the waiting room (at the courthouse)," Youse recalled. "Everybody just kind of walked away from him."
McKeon, they said, regularly referred to African-Americans as “junes,” short for the racial slur “June bug.”
One retired officer said the chief used the “n word” to describe the backs of the clutch pins that hold officers’ collar brass in place.
“He would call them that and say it’s ‘because they always hang around but never work, which is what they’re called in Norristown,” the officer claimed.
"The chief is just as bad as Moyer" in his use of racist statements, Psota said.
In the past week, PhillyVoice sought comment on the allegations from McKeon, Moyer, police Cpl. Dekkar Dyas, township manager Jamie L. Gwynn, Board of Supervisors chairman Charles Garner and the outside counsel retained by the township to investigate the racism claims.
Only Gwynn responded initially, merely offering a statement similar to the official response sent to residents who complained about how the Youse family was being treated.
“New Hanover Township takes seriously any allegation of discrimination or harassment,” read his email to PhillyVoice. “The Township is currently performing an internal investigation into the allegations and will not comment any further until the investigation has been completed.”
When he was subsequently informed via email that the allegations went well beyond that particular incident – to detail a troubling culture at the top of the township’s police and fire departments – Gwynn did not immediately respond. Several days later, Moyer forwarded our email to Gwynn, who then offered an additional response.
"The Township has no tolerance for racist statements or any behavior that would demean or harass Township employees or the public," he wrote Tuesday afternoon. He then asked PhillyVoice to share such information with him and that "should I not hear from you, I shall assume that you have no factual support for these allegations."
PhillyVoice immediately responded with several of the accusations leveled by former officers in this story, which prompted Gwynn to then offer another response on behalf of the township:
"To my knowledge, the information you provided was never the subject of a complaint made to the Township. In the event the Township is presented with any allegations of wrongdoing as referenced in the article, then the Township will take appropriate action pursuant to Township policy and practice."
Keith Youse's claims will surprise few people in law enforcement who are familiar with Chief Kevin McKeon's career, according to a ranking officer in another Montgomery County jurisdiction.
As a long-time Norristown cop hired to replace former New Hanover Chief Michael Dykie in 2011, McKeon was called “Lt. Looney” behind his back by peers because, in the words of one former officer, “we all know that he’s a problem child.”
“Over 22 years (as a police officer), I’ve never seen anything like him," Youse said. "This is not the guy to piss off. My only problem was that I crossed the chief’s line when I asked for help” after the March 2016 crash. (The chief himself responded to the accident at Swamp Pike and Middle Creek Road.)
"Chief McKeon just doesn’t like being told what to do or challenged at all." – Keith Youse
Due to his injuries, Youse requested “medical accommodations” to wear a special vest and suspenders to help alleviate his back and shoulder pain.
But that request didn't go over well with the chief.
“That’s when Chief McKeon turned on me," recalled Youse, who returned to work a couple of weeks later. "He didn’t like being told what to do by a doctor who said one of your guys is injured. He just doesn’t like being told what to do or challenged at all. The chief said I could have the suspenders but not the vest because ‘the vest looks like s***.’ The sergeant said that (my physician of Asian descent) was a ‘witch doctor.'"
To wear those suspenders, which provided back support, he had to cut slits in the back of his uniform shirt so they could be worn in a fashion that wasn’t visible to the public, per McKeon’s orders. His wife would help him get in and out of uniform before and after each shift.
Keith Youse said the township put him through the medical wringer, making him see different doctors as his still-unresolved worker’s compensation claim progressed. During a follow-up exam in the fall of 2016, one of those hand-picked doctors ordered an MRI of a part of his body that was not injured, he said.
The symptoms of his injury would intensify in the spring and summer of 2017, when he experienced numbness in his hands and collapsed one day trying to get out of bed.
“Sandy helped me up, but the back and shoulder pain was still there,” he said. “I went back to work that weekend, but it felt worse. An MRI found multiple tears, rotator-cuff injuries and labrum tears in my left shoulder. I would ultimately be declared unfit for duty because of that shoulder.”
Forced to go on leave numerous times, Youse said he was faced with a decision to continue physical therapy or get surgery for an injury the department claimed was not job-related, even though "the doctors were saying it was a result of the accident."
He’d win that battle but, physically, he needed to "hit the reset button.” In April 2018, more surgery was necessary “because the first surgery didn’t do the trick.”
“Nobody from the police department called or emailed. ... I almost died, and nobody cared.” – Keith Youse
The township demanded that he start physical therapy the day after that surgery as the workers compensation battle continued.
On September 11, 2018, he was again hospitalized. He underwent a “bilateral rhizotomy” surgical procedure to sever nerve roots in his spinal cord in an attempt to ease his chronic back pain and spasms. Though he aspirated on the table, he was sent home the same day, and told to monitor his condition.
“He gets home and around 5 p.m. said he had to lay down," Sandy recalled. "By 7, he was ready to eat, but I told him he didn’t look so good. He had a fever. We called the surgeon, who didn’t know why he wasn't sent to the hospital afterwards.”
Immediately, they called for an ambulance, which meant the police department would dispatch an officer to their home as well. Doctors found spots in one of his lungs, the result of aspiration pneumonia.
“Nobody from the police department called or emailed after that, even though they knew because the sergeant’s son, a good guy, was on the ambulance crew,” said Keith, who’d spend two more days in the hospital. “I almost died, and nobody cared.”
Those medical setbacks would ostensibly mark the end of his law enforcement career.
From November 2018 through January 2019, he’d work the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift, but he couldn’t perform the job like he wanted.
“Since I couldn’t lift anything, and wasn’t allowed to wear the $80 vest I needed, I started counting paper clips,” he said. “I think I was brought back as punishment.”
By that point, he said, it seemed like fellow officers had been told not to interact with him at all. Instead of inviting him out to eat with them, if they said anything at all, they’d tell him they were heading out – without offering the chance to come along.
“Nobody would talk to me. So they wouldn’t have to face the chief’s or sergeant’s wrath, everyone jumped in line,” he contended. “(The department) got an attorney and (officers) were told any correspondence with Keith has to be reported. I was devastated.”
That assessment was accompanied by a letter stating that Youse was physically unable to perform his duties as a police officer.
The official end wouldn’t be formalized until February 13, when the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for an honorable discharge, effective immediately, with the note that "the Board of Supervisors thanks you for your years of service and wishes you the best in your future endeavors."
“It was really hard on him to know this was the end,” Sandy shared.
His police career was over, but unfortunately it was not the end of the harassment he felt trying to secure his pension and back pay.
In March, the Youses asked about getting a pension check. “We’re still working on it” was the response from the township.
The same response was repeated in April, a month which ended with the township claiming “the pension-fund manager doesn’t like the doctor’s letter, so you have to go see an approved doctor. We’re working on who you have to go see.”
In May, he was given two options: a hand-and-wrist specialist who told Keith Youse that the injuries were outside his area of expertise, or a doctor who was no longer practicing.
“We could have settled the workers comp case in spring and I could’ve started my life over,” he said. “Finally, in July, they said I can go see (the doctor who handled my case earlier). He agreed with the doctor who said I couldn’t do my job as a police officer. He told me ‘I knew you’d come back, that my case was so clear-cut.’”
He is still fighting to get the sick, vacation and personal time pay he is owed – that will likely go to arbitration – and has no idea when he’ll get his pension – seven months after leaving the force. He also can't fathom why people within the department still question his injuries, or vindictively spread rumors questioning the claims, considering he has provided stacks of medical records to back them up.
All of that led up to July 19, when Keith Youse visited the police station to retrieve his belongings and pick up his “retired police officer ID.”
Dennis Psota – another township officer picking up his retired ID that same day – would point out the egg roll atop the heavy boxes.
At first, Psota didn’t think much of it, figuring someone just threw trash on the boxes as a meaningless, but immature, slight.
“That was a stab at my wife, at my family,” is what he recalls Keith Youse instantly saying.
Now, Youse would have to tell Sandy about the racist comments he’d endured over the years. The jokes about his children “coming out sideways.” How his sergeant called the Asian-American pediatrician who tended to their children “the gook doctor.”
“Listen mother****er, watch your mouth” was how Keith would respond to those comments, but it never seemed to slow them.
Keith Youse decided against going inside to confront the person who put the egg roll atop the boxes. While the incident happened right in front of a surveillance camera – he's requested the footage – he suspects they'll claim the camera malfunctioned.
“I just wanted to get out of there,” he said. “Give me my stuff and let me get my life back.”
Sandy Youse had other ideas.
When she heard about the egg roll, and the racist comments her husband had endured, she cried.
“I was so angry. How could they do that to Keith? I thought about our kids. I started to fear for our safety,” she said. “I stewed on it for about a week and then filed a formal complaint with the board of supervisors, chief and township manager.”
Then, at the August 1 supervisors meeting, Keith and Sandy Youse took their case public.
“When I asked if they’d gotten any other letters or complaints, (the township solicitor) responded ‘this is a comment session, not an ask-questions session,’” Sandy said.
If they had answered her question, the supervisors could have cited several letters or emails sent in the wake of the July incident. They include damning criticisms of how the Youse family was being treated by the township.
“When Keith first mentioned to me all of the roadblocks he had been facing as he headed toward retirement, I was dumbfounded,” read an email sent to the township from a federal law enforcement officer. “At first I wondered why the police department would treat someone so cruelly, especially one of their own brothers in blue.
“Racial bigotry never crossed my mind until this incident," the email continued. "What boggles my mind now is the fact that the township also appears complicit. … Should I dare speculate that it is because the township council also holds the same bigoted ideology as some in the police department?”
Even after hours of interviews, Keith Youse was clearly pained to talk about fellow police officers in such context.
For the Youses, it’s not about getting “one dime more than what we’re legally entitled to under the law,” said Keith, who secured a private investigator license and is looking into possible security jobs in the commonwealth’s burgeoning cannabis industry or restaurant franchise opportunities.
“We want the court of public opinion to know what’s going on with these a**holes, and see whether the township will allow it to continue,” he said.
What makes matters even worse is that Youse knows he’s not alone.
A former New Hanover officer who fled to another department after several years of dealing with what he contended was similar targeting from Moyer, said he believed that police leadership gets away with racist behavior because both the community and department lack diversity.
(Per the department's website, "the township has undergone significant growth over the past 10 years and has experienced a 48 percent increase in population." Census data from 2010 lists the township's population was 95.3 percent white, but residents claim, anecdotally, that more minority residents have moved here in recent years.)
The officer said he's never worked with McKeon, explaining that when he saw McKeon or Moyer would be the next chief, he got out. It wouldn't be a comfortable place to work anymore, he thought.
“I can only account to what I’ve heard (directly): On calls, or even in the station, Bill would say, ‘it’s time to take the n-words out of the woodpile,” said the officer, though Moyer actually used the slur. “Another time, I remember it clearly, he was talking to a kid on Fagleysville Road in Gilbertsville, in uniform, and said ‘I can get you work at (a local garage). It’s real work. Not n-word world work.’”
He also vouched for the existence of the book filled with racist and otherwise offensive lines uttered by officers.
“If (Corporal) Dyas denies it, he’s lying,” the officer said. “They could have destroyed it, but I don’t think they’d do that. They feel like they’re untouchable. We’re trying to do what’s right. This isn’t about having a vendetta.”
Psota served on the force for 23 years before retiring in February. He claims he, too, was targeted by “the good old boys club” for breaking ranks and supporting Keith Youse when he was injured.
Now running for magistrate judge in the area, he said the culture within the department is “horrible” but that “it doesn’t matter what crazy things happen there, because they’ll just cover it up.” He also noted that someone leaked information about his intra-departmental battles to his election opponent, who's used it in campaign ads.
Psota' said his “career started crumbling like a house of cards” after filing a complaint about Moyer leaving the township – in uniform, in a department vehicle, on the clock, Psota alleged – for a civil lawsuit in 2017 that didn’t involve the sergeant's New Hanover duties.
“He’s a criminal with a badge, same with the chief,” Psota contended. “They’re pretty much untouchable. Everything they could do to screw with me, they’d do. It’s so high school it’s not even funny.” (It was Psota's wife that McKeon complained about for failing to say hello at a bank in town.)
Psota was also written up for “conduct unbecoming an officer” related to a traffic stop involving a horse trailer on a hot, sunny day. His offense? Allowing the driver with a suspended license to drive a short distance to the police station to get water for the horse.
He was later put on administrative leave for returning to work several days after getting contaminated with fentanyl while saving an overdose victim’s life. This, because he said he still felt “a little foggy” when he returned to work.
Psota subsequently brought an FOP witness to a meeting with the chief, who would wildly scream at him.
“The next day, I wrote a very nice email to (township supervisor) Gwynn to let him know that I didn’t appreciate how (McKeon) treated me,” he said. “Gwynn responded that ‘he acted professionally in my opinion. The case is closed.’”
"It has been tough on our little guy since now he doesn’t see his daddy as a police officer (or) a hero." – Sandy Youse
By February, Psota suspected they were planning to fire him. He resigned.
“I always liked being a cop,” he said. “At the end, it was as if I was volunteering to help my community and getting paid to deal with their antics. ... Supporting Keith has always just been about doing the right thing.”
A law enforcement officer with ties to the Youse family, but not to the New Hanover department, is enraged by what his friends have gone through and disappointed by the fellow “brothers in blue” who turned their backs on them.
“You know, police officers are always first at a shooting. In life-or-death situations, they run toward danger, but when it comes to their jobs, they just want to make sure they protect them,” he said. “I would hear Keith talking all the time about how he loves his job and now, all of a sudden, all the things he loves are gone."
The officer said he knew all about the rumors of the Ku Klux Klan being active in the area when he moved there, but figured those things were in the past. Now, after hearing similar complaints from friends of color, he’s not so sure that mindset ever went away.
“What does it say about a law enforcement culture when people just stand by silently when horrible things happen?” he asked. “Officers usually back each other up. It’s a camaraderie. That’s why it’s so hard that they’ve given him such a hard time over retiring. The chief is a douchebag, and if you have that culture at the top, it’s condoning or advancing that sort of behavior. People should feel scared about that.”
As things stand today, the township – after stalling in its responses to Sandy Youse in the weeks after the August 1 meeting – has hired outside counsel – John P. Gonzales of the Marshall Dennehey law firm in Center City Philadelphia – to investigate the claims. (He did not respond to a request for comment from PhillyVoice.)
The announcement on August 26 came as something of a relief to those who assumed an internal investigation, conducted within such a small department, would amount to a whitewash.
The Youses are relieved, too, that the investigation will not be conducted by the department itself, but they aren’t about to back down now.
To Sandy Youse, it’s more personal. She sees how the situation – which they have yet to fully share with their children – has impacted her husband and family.
“Keith loved his job and often volunteered in the school, on and off duty, reading and mentoring the kids,” she said. “It has been tough on our little guy since now he doesn’t see his daddy as a police officer (or) a hero."
“He even commented to Keith that he was afraid kids wouldn’t like him because his daddy wasn’t a police officer anymore. Needless to say, that broke both our hearts.”
For his part, Keith Youse wants the same thing as other officers targeted by McKeon and Moyer – to take them down.
“We want the public and community to realize what’s actually going on, to dispel rumors about me and my family coming out of Bill Moyer’s mouth, and to give the community the police-department leadership that they, and the officers still working there, deserve,” he said earlier this week. “And, I want the badge and gun off their bodies so they’re not in a position to do this to anyone else.”
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