Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.
Thank you for providing this insight into Professor Ochs’ work.
I’m nowhere near an expert in any of this, but from a common sense viewpoint there are three points that jump to the front for me and in no particular order.
First, mental health services have suffered a severe decline over the last nearly 40 years. Instead of cuts, counties and the state should be boosting their financial commitment to this area.
Second, and this was mentioned, I believe, by one of the speakers at the most recent City Council meeting, is the need for de-escalation training. Circumstances can change quickly in a civilian and police officer interaction. Officers trained to ratchet down a situation benefits everyone. Training is the local government’s responsibility.
And, third, crisis intervention training should also be part of an officer’s training. Along with de-escalating a situation, it makes sense to have an officer prepared to assess and make a determination as to the best course of action when handling a person going through a difficult time.
This training should also be a local responsibility. Perhaps higher level government funding support could assist communities with limited resources on training issues.
If we want our police to keep the peace, then it makes sense to have them arrive at each call with a peaceful resolution as their initial focus.
Democratic policing is paradoxical in that force is used to maintain peace. Therefore
it is highly problematic if the lives at hand are not equally valued.
Many studies over the years have demonstrated that the protection provided by the police is not applied equally across all communities.
Ample research suggests that police use of force is more likely when police encounter persons with mental health issues or individuals who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
The police use of force can be immoral if it is inequitable.
We are introducing you to Lehigh Prof Holona Ochs whose team has just completed 124 interviews on the subject of policing in the Lehigh Valley and whose report we look forward to in the fall. Consideration of this research is part of the Community Engagement Initiative passed by City Council at its July 7 meeting.
The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama to study policing, was a response to increased public anger and media scrutiny concerning the use of force by law enforcement, especially in interactions with African American individuals and communities.
As the Task Force noted, however, the use of force by the police is not in itself misconduct. In fact, the use of force, even lethal force, may be both legally and ethically justified in the protection of the public.
Understanding the distinction between moral responsibility and culpability in a particular incidence of lethal force is determined by the policy on the use of force and the validity of the rationale for using force. For example, an officer may be morally responsible for the use of force but not to blame based on the physical threat a suspect posed. The officer’s use of force in the performance of law enforcement duties may also be found to be legally justified if enacted in accordance with policy.
However, the validity of the rationale and the estimation of threat are subject to a considerable degree of interpretation. Democratic policing is paradoxical in that force is used to maintain peace. Therefore it is highly problematic if the lives at hand are not equally valued.
Many studies over the years have demonstrated that the protection provided by the police is not applied equally across all communities. A 2015 report by Amnesty International demonstrates the increasing rate of the use of force by police officers in the United States and highlights a pattern of racial disparities in deadly force exercised by the police.
Given moral and legal concerns about the use of force by law enforcement, police departments follow a use of force continuum—policies that guide officers in the use of force. Officer training conditions officers to estimate and respond with a level of force deemed appropriate in a given circumstance based on an escalating series of actions. These strategies range from the mere presence of an officer exerting authority by verbal command to deadly force.
Organized movements aimed at restraining the police use of force argue that physical force is too often used and more likely to be wielded against nonwhites. They identify several policies that have the potential to constrain the use of force and reduce harm, and they outline what are referenced as “meaningful protections against police violence.” They contend that police departments that are more restrictive of the use of force have fewer incidents of police violence and that this also results in fewer incidents of violence toward the police.
When considering the appropriateness of force and the validity of threat assessments, mental health and race are principal factors. If some segments of the population are disproportionately subjected to police surveillance and the use of force, the moral support for using force to protect citizens is weakened. Ample research suggests that police use of force is more likely when police encounter persons with mental health issues or individuals who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups
A 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center argues that, partly as a result of cuts to the mental health treatment hospital system dating back to the 1980s, 1 out of every 10 law enforcement responses address a person in mental health crisis, and one-fourth of the fatal encounters with police end the life of a person with mental illness (Fuller at al., 2015). Research suggests that police officers are now the most likely to deal with mental health emergencies and are the main sources of referral to treatment. In fact, evidence suggests that people with mental health issues face a risk six times greater than the general public of deadly force at the hands of police.
Furthermore, “get tough” policies and “hot spots” policing contribute to officer misconduct and focus police efforts on communities of color, particularly low income communities.
Many observers believe, however, that the political incorporation of black people in local politics reduces the frequency and severity of use-of-force incidents, reduces policing costs, mitigates legal risks, and enhances the legitimacy of law enforcement.
The differential crime hypothesis claims that blacks are subject to the law more often because they are more criminal. This speculation regarding the likelihood of criminal behavior mistakes the history of oppression in the United States with the character of its subjects.
The community violence thesis is another way of understanding how police– public interactions shape the relative risk of lethal force. Poverty isolation and racial segregation are structural inequalities with complex implications for people living in such communities. Some argue that police violence is a response to higher rates of violence in some communities. Certainly, those communities deserve police protection as much as any other in a democratic society. At the same time, communities that are densely populated, that lack economic and educational opportunities, and where incidents of domestic violence are often more commonly reported to the police represent threats to the community, as well as presenting some of the most difficult challenges for police work.
Historically, movements aimed at addressing the immorality of the disproportionate execution of deadly force (such as Black Lives Matter) have been met with considerable resistance from law enforcement agencies as well as from sectors of the public whose primary sympathies lie with the police.
We grant the state the authority to exercise the legitimate use of violence to protect citizens and to maintain social order. As such, the legitimate use of force by the state is morally justified. Police officers and other law enforcement officials thereby morally use force in the name of the state when they are protecting citizens. However, the police use of force can be immoral if it is inequitable. The evidence suggests that may be the case in the United States, inspiring calls for reforms of policing.
Body cameras alone will not address biased patterns in deadly force.
The implication is that bias—perhaps often implicit bias—exists in policing and that training must be implemented to reduce such bias and restore equity. The implementation of the training has been associated with a decline in police use of force.
Likewise, crisis intervention training (CIT) is one measure to address the criminalization of people with mental health issues and to direct these people to resources for help rather than sending them to jail.
Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh. She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.
Back near the beginning of the pandemic, when restaurants began shutting down for dine-in, and grocery stores started banning reusable bags, several of my friends were asking me what I was doing in those situations. I was incredibly flattered when one of my best friends said she had a “what would Ali do?” moment. The truth is that I have been struggling with these things myself because when public health becomes a factor, it’s harder to make what would otherwise be relatively simple choices.
My previous Plastic-Free July and Zero-Waste Lent challenges were each a comparative piece of cake because I could buy in bulk with my own containers or take reusable mugs to coffee shops. Those things are, understandably, not options at the moment. I would love to say that I’ve gotten creative, but mostly I’ve just been cutting back back: opting out of meals from certain restaurants and foregoing certain ingredients when grocery shopping.
Gadfly would specifically ask you to pay attention to min. 50:15 and following, the story of the student who is silenced during Black History month and the response it gets from the others. Dr. Roy has recently committed the BASD to “reform secondary American history courses to honestly and accurately include the realities of racism, the progress we have made and the long, difficult road that lies ahead.”
What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently
being used in your schools? (min. 40:33)
We need to decolonize the school curriculum.
It shapes how we see ourselves and the positions that we can fill in this world.
I never felt I was going to be no lawyer, no doctor. I didn’t see no people of color doing that.
All I saw was people of color in the streets and rappin’. I had no people of color to look up to.
They’re making white people, right? It seems like they did all these great things, they’re so smart . . . all they did was oppress our people, enslave our people, terrorize our people, brutalize our people, keep our people down and that’s what they continue to do.
I want to learn about people who look like me.
About the greatness of my own skin, about the greatness of my own blood.
I want to know about great leaders, I want to know about Marcus Garvey . . . I don’t want to just hear about Martin Luther King.
I don’t want to hear about slavery for one month . . . The thing that continues to affect us now . . . That’s what I want to learn year-round . . . Black History month . . . like some sort of celebration.
That’s our lives, and we’re still suffering because of it.
Martin Luther King did not come in and save the day, like they teach us, and end racism.
Racism is still here, we’re still segregated, and we’re still slaves to our own mentality.
I didn’t think I could be anything . . . Sports is an option . . . I guess I’ll be a thug . . . That’s how we think. We’re still a slave to our own mindset 400 years later.
I want to learn about the Black Panther Party, I want to learn how we was in Africa, great Kings and Queens — give me somebody to look up to, give me somebody who I want to be like. Believes in me, show me people who have done it.
Everyone should have a right to know their history.
The school system is very much colonized. It is not candid talking about Black history . . . how Africa was this beautiful place, they don’t talk about that.
When I heard about Black people, it was regarding slavery . . . I never heard about the mid-passage and how horrible it was.
I never knew about Bayard Rustin, or Angela Davis, or anybody like that.
We have to take it upon ourselves to know about our history and our culture.
Our white counterparts have the luxury and liberty of knowing their history.
America doesn’t want to confront themselves in history.
The history that we’re learning is extremely white-washed.
We idolize all these white figures . . . Thomas Jefferson . . . but not Sally Hemings . . .
History is written by the victors . . . but the victors are the oppressors.
Our white counterparts are being taught . . . that racism is over.
Our education system fails to teach that all this is still going on.
. . . need to lessen the ignorance that plagues our generation . . .
We’re taught to be the bottom, we’re not taught to rise above and be the top.
Everybody’s history deserves to be spread.
I feel they wave the Black History flag a little too much.
I learned about the Boston Tea Party [during Black History month].
They brainwash us still to this day.
[When given a chance], nobody knew their history, nobody knew what to do.
I was told that it [a Maya Angelou poem] was too strong to read and that it would start issues in the school [teacher wanted her to read his choice], we’re always being told to shut up.
Black History month . . . Martin Luther King . . . Harriet Tubman . . . they’re taking the black parts out of history.
A lot of people don’t know what happened before slavery.
To see somebody in a position of power, holding you back, questioning your truth . . .
Uncomfortable to them, we are always uncomfortable.
The whole year about the Holocaust?
It baffles me to see how corrupt our curriculum is.
We are programmed to shut up.
When you stand up, they want to tell you how to stand up.
I don’t give a damn how I do it! I don’t need to be nice. You are killing my people.
When I go out there [see a cop], I’m scared for my life.
Black people aren’t dying, we’re being murdered.
Martin Luther King was a great guy, but I want to learn about Nat Turner, who stood up . . .
When I hear Malcolm X talk, I feel electrified.
We’re programmed to shut up, but we’re not going to shut up.
We are making some big changes to our Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet. We’re going to use the space now used for detailed listings to feature more writing and art — and we are also open to hybrid forms such as graphic stories or essays. [Read the Guidelines!]
One reason for this is that while the sciences can provide facts — we need to make some key decisions — they don’t really help us understand the ethical & moral dimensions at all — and many people ignore scientific writing or studies. We also know that good writing and art can catch people’s attention and make a real difference in raising awareness.
We welcome submissions from all ages and backgrounds, and we’re looking for:
Writing — short stories, poems, descriptive features, and essays
Visual art — drawings, photographs, and other forms that reproduce well
Hybrid forms — including graphic stories or essays, editorial cartoons, and more
It has to be related to sustainability, of course — but nearly everything is! The Alliance’s view of sustainability has always been very broad, extending far beyond traditional environmental concerns. [See our Vision, Mission, & Goals.]
Please consider submitting something yourself — and please spread the word about this new opportunity to help raise public awareness. (I am sure you also know others who also have the talent and skill to express themselves in one of these ways.)
Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, July 21, at 7PM.
The last meeting was open per social distancing but seems not so this time. Public comment now by phone again.
DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.
PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS
REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council July 21, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (email@example.com) no later than 12:00 PM on July 21, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.
NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.
Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.
Holona Ochs has been mentioned prominently in our recent discussions about the police department as part of the national conversation on systemic racism precipitated by the murder of George Floyd.
Councilwoman Negron distributed information about her research prior to the July 7 Council meeting that took up the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution on the Community Engagement Initiative, Anna Smith and Al Wurth mentioned her favorably in public comments relative to the resolution, and Councilman Reynolds reported at the July 7 Council meeting that, in fact, he spent an hour and a half in discussion with her.
The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution was amended to recommend consideration of her research: “The Administration should work with and incorporate recommendations by research experts including Lehigh University’s Core Grant team who recently conducted a large research project on policing in the Lehigh Valley.”
Looks like we’re going to hear more from Prof Ochs.
Time to meet her.
Prof Holona Ochs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University and heads the department’s graduate program.
Prof Ochs describes her research on democratic policing in the United States:
I am also working on a constellation of projects on democratic policing in the US. The first study is a time series analysis of the police use of lethal force. This project explores the impact of mental healthcare investments across states on deadly encounters with the police and the potential for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to make policing safer for the police and the public. The second study examines the aggregate patterns of bias in the execution of lethal force across various demographic groups and geographical regions. This project includes case studies to further identify factors that may reduce the potential for bias the police use of force. The third research project on policing is an interdisciplinary study of the perspectives on policing that the police and various communities have in order to identify potential disjunctures. We expect that differences in the understandings of the challenges and complexities of policing and in expectations of the police may serve as opportunities to improve police-public relations.
The specific work that brings Prof Ochs to the forefront of our attention at this time is a study of local policing: “Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions.” This study was just coming to a conclusion when the pandemic suspended activity at Lehigh in March, and now we look forward to a final report on the 124 interviews conducted, with a bit o’luck, in the fall.
A team of Lehigh University researchers are digging into public perceptions of law enforcement in the Lehigh Valley and looking into ways to reduce biases on all sides.
The research is still in its early stages with the team gathering data through surveys and focus groups with a wide swath of Lehigh Valley residents, including police officers, community groups, Lehigh students and folks who have served time in jail.
The idea for the project — Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions — sprung out of informal conversations about bias amongst Lehigh faculty in the psychology, criminal justice and political science departments.
“The real motivation here is to learn about those institutional factors that we can affect that will make policing safer for the police and the public,” explained Holona Ochs, Lehigh associate professor and graduate director in the political science department, who has been studying policing since 2009.
While the use of force by police in the Lehigh Valley is pretty rare, researchers think the region’s unique geography and demographics may result in real life applications across the country.
The team wants to know how participants view their community’s relationship with police and what they think an officer’s job actually is. And they want to hear from officers about the challenges of modern policing.
“We’re trying to understand where are people’s perspectives aligned and where are they misaligned,” said Dominic Packer, associate professor of psychology and associate dean of research and graduate programs in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences. “They are really exploratory focus groups.”
Adjunct Lehigh professor and recently retired Bethlehem police Sgt. Wade Haubert thinks inherent bias is a fascinating research topic with real world applications.
“Start off acknowledging what we all know: every single person in this country has grown up in some environment where they ultimately have bias,” Haubert said. “It doesn’t mean that it is bad, that you are a bigot. Let’s just all acknowledge, we have some stereotypes. Let’s identify through a study why those things might occur and we can look at what we can do to potentially recognize that and factor that in as a conscious factor in how we make decisions.”
Informal conversations about police tactics and procedures in the wake of high-profile police shootings started forming the questions that are now the basis of the research, Haubert said. His own concerns about the direction of policing attracted him to the project.
“I was very frustrated with the way the profession of policing has changed over the last 20 years,” Haubert said. “…When I first got hired, community policing was a big thing and the Bethlehem Police Department was one of the poster children for good community policing.”
This was lost nationally in the wake of 9/11.
“We lost our ability to put the citizens first and have the ability to communicate with them and understand that most people support us,” Haubert said.
“Different communities have different expectations of the police and relate to the police in different ways and it affects the complexity of policing and whether people think the police are doing a good job,” Ochs said.
But as the region changes demographically those differences could potentially be problematic if a “past practice of acceptable policing behavior is applied to a diverse community,” Haubert said.
If a brown skinned family moves into a largely white and homogeneous borough, the police might be called as they are moving in, Haubert said. Or if you’re driving a certain type of car while gawking at mansions in Upper Saucon Township you may get stopped.
Researchers hope these focus groups can spur wider conversations among communities with the police, so residents can gain a better understanding of ins and outs of policing and how to communicate with police.
“The bigger goal is to bring different communities together with the police and talk about the challenges and complexities of policing and how different communities can better relate and interact using the police as intermediaries,” Ochs said.
“If we can build this research further we’d like to create Center of the Study of Democratic Policing — that center would be an online forum and a public space where we would organize conversations about maintaining peaceful relations without the use of force,” Ochs said.
If police departments are interested in specialized training or resources, the center could offer that as well, she said.
We’ll devote two or three more posts to getting to know Prof Ochs’ work.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
I’m guessing that your home was built well before the comprehensive building codes that are applied today on new construction.
Why are these current codes in effect? Because we learned through trial and error (fires where there was no firewall, for example) that we had to do better to protect the health and safety of those who live in shared structures.
Like buildings, life circumstances create the demand for updated societal structure, action, if you will.
We know the time for action where public safety is concerned is upon us. Delays only create more issues and potentially more danger.
What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and
the policing in schools? (min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)
The money that’s being used to place police in our schools should be used to get more counselors, more people there to help the kids.
We’re there to learn . . . there’s a certain disconnect between teacher and student in the school that people don’t understand, and that fact that you have police there, I already don’t feel comfortable.
I think there needs to be more counselors to help these kids.
These kids grow up in harsh environments, these kids have trauma, and you look at them, and you just blame them for acting out.
You don’t need police, you need help, the kids need help, the police aren’t doing anything, they’re just standing around getting paid for nothing.
We need help, we need counselors to talk to.
Those funds should be used for the community . . . not for the police to do nothing.
I really think schools should consider . . . hiring POC counselors . . . probably don’t feel comfortable talking to a counselor not of their race, feeling that they can’t relate.
Our counselors aren’t even trained properly to address these situations. Literally all they do is help schedule our classes and help get a study hall and basically saying, O, my job’s done.
That’s not what we need. We come to them trying to confide in them, trying to have them help us when they don’t know how to, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Because it’s not to them in their job description.
Your life at home affects your life at school . . . and that’s not fair to students that they don’t have anybody to come to.
All that money could go into helping students becoming better.
Allen is notorious for fighting and there aren’t that many to justify that amount of money for SRO’s to be in that school.
We need to give our counselors that proper training so that they are able to adjust the situations that their students bring to them.
“Resource” officers? They don’t give us resources. They’re not there to help us.
They’re literally to just track us from the school to the prison . . . You are written up . . . arrested on paper . . . labeled for the rest of your life.
They’re not nice, they’re looking down on us . . . They can’t relate to us, they don’t know the type of anger we have, the type of things we go through at home.
They say that they help, but they don’t help.
What if a child does resist, because they’re scared, they’re going to retaliate like that, put a knee on a kid’s neck . . . somebody who has no knowledge about how to control their actions because they are not taught to.
There are literally examples of officers in school to protect the students doing absolutely nothing.
If you’re constantly in my face . . . harassing us . . .
I don’t feel safe with you here.
You’re not distributing the money evenly or fairly.
Give me facts, give me data that they have helped improve the safety.
I feel safer at home than I do at school.
What would they teach us? How when you are stopped by the police you can try not to be killed?
Allentown City Council is divided over whether a police officer acted correctly when he restrained a man outside of St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head.
Polled Friday before the Lehigh County district attorney announced that the takedown was “reasonable” and that the two officers involved would not be charged, three council members said they believe the police acted appropriately, while two others said they acted too harshly. In addition, Joshua Siegel, who did not return a call or email, has proposed police reforms, and on Wednesday apologized to Edward Borrero Jr., the man the police restrained.
Council President Daryl Hendricks and Councilman Ed Zucal, both former Allentown police officers, said they believe officers acted correctly when they restrained Borrero, 37, of Allentown, who was stumbling down Chew Street around 6:30 p.m. Saturday. They said the officers did not put Borrero in any danger.
“When a subject is on his stomach, that is exactly where an officer needs to be positioned, right next to his head near his shoulder. Your knee is supposed to be at the center of his shoulder blades,” said Zucal, who believes that is what a silent, nine-minute surveillance video of the incident showed.
“The leg will be near his head but not on his head. That’s the big difference between this and George Floyd,” Zucal said, recalling the May 25 death in Minneapolis that kicked off nationwide protests when Floyd was pinned beneath the knee of a police officer for nearly nine minutes.
“At no time, according to the expert, and from what I could see, could this man not breathe,” Affa said. “From what I see and what the experts see, it’s so much different than George Floyd. That officer wanted to kill him. He didn’t want to restrain him. What we saw at Sacred Heart and George Floyd is apples to oranges.”
Councilwomen Ce-Ce Gerlach and Cynthia Mota both had concerns about the way police responded to Borrero.
“He was in front of the hospital, so he was looking for help. I don’t think handcuffing him was the right thing to do. I don’t think putting his neck in the middle of the sidewalk was the right thing to do,” Mota said. “How are we able to handle a person in crisis other than putting him in handcuffs?”
Gerlach said she was “deeply concerned” after seeing video of the incident and speaking with Borrero, who joined protesters outside Allentown City Hall during a City Council meeting Wednesday night. “We need to hear audio that corresponds with the visual to see what, if any, de-escalation tactics were used or if there was was anything escalating the situation,” Gerlach said. “I’m disturbed by the fact we were told the officers and the gentleman fell to the ground and then it appears something else happened and he was tripped,” she said.
Earlier this week, Gerlach and Siegel proposed a police oversight resolution on a number of reforms, including requiring officers to intervene to stop any excessive use of force, making body camera footage available to the public and removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use-of-force policy.
Council members polled on Friday said they are open to reviewing the proposal. Zucal, however, said he doesn’t think any council members should try to “micromanage” the police department. “If we could get an outside group that’s objective, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. However, I won’t let a certain group try to minimize and micromanage the police department.”
Gerlach said she doesn’t necessarily agree with everything protesters want, but supports transferring some money from the police department to address community issues like homelessness and drug addiction.
“I think people have a misconception that this means abolishing the police department. … I don’t want to get rid of police officers entirely because there is a role for them, but a person who is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t need a guy with a gun,” Gerlach said.
After observing these actions both officers concluded that Borrero was in distress and in need of medical attention and a danger to himself and possibly others, Martin said. They also concluded that he was likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene to provide aid to somebody who is in distress, Martin said.
Mr. Borrero began pointing aggressively toward a St. Luke’s security officer who was walking toward him with a vomit bag, Martin said. The officers concluded that his actions were aggressive and they determined that they needed to detain him for his own safety as well as for the safety of themselves and others, including medical personnel. They intended to place him into detention so that he could be taken into the hospital, Martin said.
One of the officers, based upon his training, approached Borrero from behind and slightly to his left, in an effort to handcuff him, Martin said. The officer was able to place a handcuff onto Borrero’s left wrist while both of his hands were clenched against his head. The other officer tried to take control of Borrero’s right hand and arm and to bring the left handcuffed wrist to his back in order to place both wrists into handcuffs, Martin said.
Borrero resisted the attempt, began lurching forward and tried to pull away from the officers, Martin said. In order to gain control, one officer took Borrero to the ground. While on the ground, Borrero continued to resist and during this time was yelling and spitting, Martin said.
An officer then moved his knee to Borrero’s head in order to place him into emergency immobilization so as to safely, efficiently and effectively keep him from moving his body to avoid being handcuffed and placed into custody, Martin said. The officer moved his knee to Borrero’s head, not his neck, Martin said. After that, the officer immediately removed his knee from Borrero’s head, but, very briefly, had to put it back on his head again, while Borrero was spitting at the officers, Martin said.
At the officers’ request hospital personnel provided and placed a breathable spit shield on Borrero. Both officers then attempted to calm him and assure him that they were attempting to help him, Martin said. He was speaking incoherently but appeared less agitated, according to the news release.
He was placed into the “recovery position,” and one officer conducted a search of Borrero, during which an uncapped hypodermic needle was found in his right cargo short’s pocket, Martin said. Although Borrero continued to yell, he was no longer resisting or spitting, and based upon his compliance, he was then helped to his feet, and walked by the two officers into the Emergency Room, according to the release.
Martin said any determinations on whether the officers should be disciplined, suspended, or fired from their positions are internal personnel matters of the Allentown Police Department. However, he said that based on the evidence he sees no basis for such actions.
Allentown Police Department Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr., in a statement Friday, said he reviewed Martin’s decision. He said the police department’s internal review by the Office of Professional Standards, as well as the department’s use of force review process has determined, along with Martin’s findings, that there is no basis for any discipline of the officers involved.
In the statement, Granitz said that at no time during the incident did either officer place their knee on Borrero’s neck, and that there was never a point when a chokehold was applied. A review of video evidence and the interviews with witnesses corroborates this, Granitz said.
“The men and women of the Allentown Police Department remain committed to protecting the public and we take that responsibility seriously,” Granitz said in the statement.
“I pledge to continue to work closely with community stakeholders and members of our department to ensure the safety and quality of life of the residents of the City of Allentown.”
Allentown Mayor Ray O’ Connell also released a statement following District Attorney Martin’s findings. “I thank District Attorney Martin and APD’s Office of Professional Standards and Use of Force Review team for their respective inquiries into the incident outside St. Luke’s Sacred Heart. Public safety is my top priority,” O’ Connell said. “That reaches its highest level when there is trust between the police department and the residents. As mayor of the city, I am committed to strengthening the relationship between the department and the community. I take my oath of office seriously. I remain committed to the protection of the public and to improving the lives of all our citizens.”
An Allentown police officer who restrained a man on the ground last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head did nothing wrong, said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin on Friday, finding that the force used was not excessive. Martin said in a news release that he found the takedown by two Allentown officers “reasonable.” “I have concluded that there is absolutely no evidence to support filing criminal charges against either of the Allentown police officers involved in this incident,” Martin said.
Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley responded immediately in a Facebook video, with Justan Parker, one of the founders, saying, “This is not OK. This is not right. We’re going to continue speaking about this.” Parker said the investigation should have been conducted by an outside agency and promised to mobilize the community in response. About an hour later, the Lehigh Valley Coalition of Equity, a patchwork of representatives from Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley and other organizations, held a press conference at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown. “We do not accept it,” Parker said at the press conference with fellow protesters holding signs behind him.
Parker said the coalition demands an external investigation headed by the state attorney general’s office, the release of the names of the officers involved in the July 11 incident, and the officers’ suspensions pending the external investigation’s outcome. “We’re also demanding the officers’ body cam footage be released, as video footage from St. Luke’s Hospital has not been sufficient,” Parker said. “This goes along with our other demands of defunding the police and reallocating those funds back into the community. “The use-of-force police [recently] made public has already been violated with regard to the neck restraint and officers not intervening,” he said. “We will continue to push and fight for this until our demands are met.”
Bystander Glendon Hall of Allentown gave his take after watching the press conference. “It’s a very precarious situation,” Hall said. “The police are under extreme stress. The measure of force used was excessive, obviously, and folks have every right to protest, but police work long hours and are under even more pressure now than they were just 10 years ago. We have to find a way to come together and heal.”
The Congressional Black Caucus on Friday also called for “a full independent investigation” into the Allentown arrest, and for the officers involved to be “punished to the fullest extent of the law for the use of the banned chokehold.”
“I am satisfied that given Mr. Borrero’s obvious intoxication and his actions, he was clearly a danger to himself and potentially to others,” Martin said. “He was clearly agitated and noncompliant, and in order to gain control of him so that he was no longer a danger, and could be medically treated, it was necessary for the officers to restrain him. That restraint was reasonable.” Martin said the Allentown officer only briefly put his knee on Borrero’s head, and noted that it was not placed on his neck. “The officer’s knee remained in that position for about eight seconds and was removed as soon as he was handcuffed,” he said.
On Friday, after Martin announced his decision, POWER Lehigh Valley posted on its Facebook page, “Every. Word. of Jim Martin’s statement is an outrage.”
Martin said he would not be complying with demands to release the officer’s name, saying it would be “improper” to identify a person who was under investigation but not criminally charged. The criminal complaint says Borrero was vomiting, yelling “in an aggressive grunting style” and lobbing obscenities at emergency room staff, five of whom were interviewed by Martin’s office. In his report, Martin noted that Borrero stumbled into the street, where at least one car swerved to avoid hitting him, and that police intervened to get him into the hospital. “Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene pursuant to the community care-taking doctrine to provide aid to an individual who is in distress,” Martin said.
Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.
This blog faces the same problem as the city — it’s almost all white voices. Can you reach out to Olga Negrón, Esther Lee, Victoria Montero, Melanie Lino, teachers, and others to encourage participation by minority voices, especially young people?
Peter calls attention to a problem. Mindful of his mortality, his day job, and temperamentally averse to merchandise, self-promote, and sell himself, Gadfly has always hoped that the blog would find its audience by word of mouth. So if you see value in the blog and if you see the real problem to which Peter calls attention, would you right now, right this minute send to everybody on your contact list: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/ — to follow, click the button at the top of the right-hand sidebar.
Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd killing
Michele Downing is a Social Worker and RN, a grandmother of two, interested in social and environmental justice, a resident of the Lehigh Valley for fifteen years, the last six years a resident of West Bethlehem.
Gadfly is sharing his “journey” as he is opening himself up to viewpoints and perspectives relevant to “the nation’s searing reckoning with racial inequality” spurred by the murder of George Floyd.
Viewpoints and perspectives that should inform the important discussions we hope to have in Bethlehem.
Michele passed this link on as “Gadfly worthy,” and I am so thankful.
Gadfly has spent the early morning listening to students-of-color voices. And tremendously moved.
Ce-Ce Gerlach, member of Allentown City Council and prominent voice on racial issues, organized “Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and Parkland School District speak their truths!”
These are not Bethlehem voices, but there is no doubt shared consciousness.
You gotta listen.
It’s easy enough to listen to a short segment at a time.
Begin minute 1:48 with Gerlach intro.
The students were posed several questions to prompt discussion.
What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and the policing in schools (min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)? Remember that BASD boss Joseph Roy as recently stated, “We will undertake a review of the purpose, rationale and outcomes of our School Resource Officer program.”
Does your education matter to you, and do you feel it matters to the people in charge of educating you, such as teachers, and school district adminsitrators, and etc.? (min. 25:25)
What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently being used in your schools? (min. 40:33)
Do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is just a trend, and what are you as youth leaders going to do to insure that this work continues? (min. 1:05:05)
Gerlach conclusion: 1:27:27
One hopes that the two youths on the NAACP Community Advisory Board are similarly articulate.
Emerson, “Self-Reliance”: “Do not think that the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! In the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.”
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Council meeting Tuesday. Gadfly’s betting that Public Safety Committee chair Colon has found the work-around and we’ll hear about it then. But you just might want to make your wishes known politely: firstname.lastname@example.org
The police made a presentation to the NAACP Community Advisory Board. Have them film that and make it available. In fact, maybe that presentation was filmed or recorded. Follow the format of the “Ask the Mayor” coronavirus “press conferences.” Let people submit questions, then answer them.
Possibly hold a series of meetings in town hall, each with the same agenda and limited to X number of participants. A policeman could cut attendance off at a safe number to maintain social distancing; Council Members could attend virtually or in person (the technology set-up already exists at this venue); and, the technology already exists to livestream it.
It’s not rocket science.
It would be good for a lot of people to be together to hear what other people think and feed off each other’s ideas, but the main idea is for people to talk, express their ideas, so basically you could just use a voting model. People could line up — socially distanced — like they do at polling places and simply go one-by-one to the mic and say their piece. Don’t delay.
All the concerns about access, digital divide, and equity are valid — but they apply equally to the regular Council meeting. If the setup isn’t good enough for the PS meeting, how can it be good enough for the full Council?
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
What’s the best way to have this meeting? Councilman Colon, Chair of the Public Safety Committee
Councilman Colon, chair of the Public Safety Committee, spoke from inside a box at the July 7 City Council meeting.
George Floyd died May 25. Chief DiLuzio made his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” statement to Council June 3. The first local demonstration was held June 4. Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith sent their “Use of Force Directives and Community Engagement Initiative” to Chief DiLuzio June 9. The Mayor responded to the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo June 16. Council discussed and passed the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution July 7. We are now on the edge of the July 21 Council meeting. Two months from the murder. Time passes.
Chair Colon wanted a Public Safety Committee meeting by this time. But COVID-19 boxed him in.
From what we can deduce from his comments July 7, Chair Colon “favors doing things in person” and would like “to see a large crowd.” But Town Hall, the Liberty Auditorium, and even the Liberty Stadium are not workable within the state pandemic guidelines or logistical efficiency.
And so he asked, “What’s the best way to have this meeting and capture the comments by as many members of the community as possible?”
A few posts back, Gadfly asked if you followers would have some alternate ideas for the kind of large-scale in-person meeting that Chair Colon wants, a meeting that we badly need before momentum shifts away from the issue of police reform and systemic racism and before budget season gets too far along.
Crickets. So Gadfly guesses you want him to break the ice. And make a fool of himself.
Let’s see if we can stir some thought that gives Chair Colon what he wants or nearly so.
So let’s think a bit wild, a bit out of the box.
Instead of one meeting, several.
Let’s try for a meeting in each of the 8 police districts. Would have the feel of neighborhood meetings, perhaps making exchange of views easier, drawing out a balance of views (we aren’t really hearing from those believing in a status-quo yet), and encouraging views from across the entire city. Different districts no doubt have different views of the police.
Let’s try for a venue in each district that could hold 30 or so safely socially distanced — school? church?
Let the moderators of the individual 8 meetings be the 7 Council members plus the Mayor — the districts they moderate chosen by lot. This integrally involves all the key people and dramatically demonstrates their commitment to working together and to listening to community voices.
Let the 8 meetings happen simultaneously. You know, like it’s one big meeting. Create a PR buzz about it beforehand. Have a slogan. Do a media push. You know, “Tuesday night July 28 Bethlehem Speaks Out on Police Reform!”
Film the meetings and post immediately on the City or the Council YouTube channel.
It will be the job of each of the 8 moderators to prepare a bullet-point summary of their individual meetings (a 10-bullet maximum) that will circulate to the public and be delivered (within a 10-minute maximum) at the August 4 meeting at which there can be public discussion.
The Public Safety Committee (Colon, Negron, Crampsie Smith) then boils out an appropriate smaller number of issues and action items for full Council to deliberate.
Does that start to break the ice, bust the box, stir some other options?
The streets in Downtown Bethlehem tell quite the story. You can learn much about the Moravians and the early days of Bethlehem just by reading the names. So lace up your sneakers, grab this guide and go explore.
Find info on:
Mauch Chunk Road
And 6 more parts to go — Gadfly loves this guy Jason
About the Public Safety Committee meeting, he means.
The Community Engagement Initiative has been handed off to the City. Apparently it’s up to the City to initiate the Initiative.
But what about that Public Safety meeting?
Gadfly feels even more urgency about that meeting after watching and listening to the protestors pounding on walls of the building in which Allentown City Council was at that moment meeting last night.
Council spent almost 20 minutes last meeting July 7 explaining its paralysis.
Councilman Colon, Chair of the Public Safety Committee (there are technical issues with part of his comments): “It it weren’t for COVID-19 and the restrictions it’s put on Council . . . we’d have had this meeting already. . . . We’re expecting a large crowd, and I’d like to see a large crowd, but I want to see everybody who wants to attend able to attend. . . . [state guidelines, 250 meeting max] Is it really a public meeting, who gets to control who comes into the meeting? . . . the possibility of a virtual public safety meeting, which I am in support of, but . . . digital divide. . . . I am someone who favors doing things in person. . . . I think the situation is unique, I’m open to feedback from members of Council. . . . I want this accessible to as many members of the community as possible. . . . I don’t want this to be something that we’re getting in to September. . . . What’s the best way to have this meeting and capture the comments by as many members of the community as possible?”
President Waldron: “There’s a lot that goes into a public meeting. . . . For something as important as these conversations, I’m hesitant to rely on that infrastructure if we go to another venue and won’t be able to guarantee the level of accessibility of folks who are online to listen in or make comment remotely. . . . Our restrictions really that we are hung up on is that 250 number. . . . There’s a lot lost in having a remote meeting versus an in-person meeting. . . . Whichever way we came to, people were going to be excluded. . . . We are temporarily putting the Public Safety Committee meeting on hold until we can find a work around. . . . It wasn’t safe or prudent to move forward with scheduling a meeting till we had more guidance from the state and the school district and a better vision of COVID-19. . . . By no means are we trying to avoid this meeting.”
But Gadfly hears the drumbeat of protestor hands pounding on the wall — don’t you? Cup your ears and listen.
And Gadfly worries about the optics. The Public Safety Committee that Councilman Colon chairs did not take up or even comment on the 6th and Hayes traffic stop at their March 3 meeting. And to tell the truth Gadfly — being admittedly bitchily gadflyish here — has wondered about Chairman Colon’s sense of urgency. He has consistently over the past several meetings said this is a time to listen, to keep the dialog going. But Gadfly remembers feeling oddly struck by his comments at the June 3 Council meeting to the effect that “I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we’re not going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country. I think we can continue beyond today as we have. Change is incremental . . . change takes time.” Gadfly remembers thinking then, no, that’s not right, we should be thinking that we are the ones to change the world, that we should be seeking to exercise active leadership. That’s what he was looking for his leaders to say. Now is the time for action. Councilman Colon sounded a bit too patient for Gadfly’s likin’.
Gadfly remembers now Councilman Reynolds saying, “It’s about creating real change . . . The structure is designed to create public pressure such as we’ve seen tonight to create change within the city and within our police department . . . I’m trying to create something here that will allow for permanent access for these conversation and actions that need change . . . What I am trying to do here is create a permanent structure that will change the face of that conversation going forward . . . This is an opportunity, an opportunity for all of us to create real change.” Gadfly remembers thinking that the Reynolds leaning forward with urgent tone was more to his liking.
So the optics are bad. President Waldron has said and explained why that Council is not trying to duck a Public Safety meeting. But the optics are bad.
Of course, the next Council meeting is within sight, and maybe the work-around has been found.
Maybe all is good.
But Gadfly will take a shot at a work-around in the next post.
It took three hours for Allentown City Council to get through comments from the public that mostly called for defunding the police department while protesters gathered outside City Hall to also demand reforms, including that all the officers involved in a video that showed an Allentown officer kneeling on a man be fired.
Also at the meeting Wednesday night, councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach and councilman Joshua Siegel proposed a police oversight resolution that calls for a number of reforms, including requiring officer intervention to stop any excessive use of force, making body camera footage available to the public and removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use of force policy. The resolution has been referred to the July 29 meeting. It’s not the first police reform proposal that Siegel has proposed.
Wednesday’s meeting came just days after the video, which went viral and sparked a few local protests. The majority of the comments read during three hours were from people who said they were “infuriated,” “saddened,” and “outraged” about the video. Many suggested police funding be reallocated elsewhere, such as to mental health services, education and affordable housing.
“I demand that you immediately begin removing funds from the Allentown Police Department,” Muhlenberg College student Sydney Baron said in a comment.
“In the video widely circulating around social media, it is painfully obvious that the APD’s use of force in this scenario was excessive and dangerous,” Anna Tjeltveit wrote.
As council members took turns reading the comments, a group of at least 100 outside City Hall chanted “defund the police,” “if we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace,” and “no power like the power of the people” during the meeting that lasted more than four hours. At times early on in the meeting, the protesters could be heard banging on the doors on the city’s live stream.
The protesters held signs that said, “make an apology” and “defund now.” A large black banner that read “Black lives matter” in gold was also set up.
Because meetings are held virtually since the coronavirus pandemic, public comments are emailed in and then read at the meeting. When the meeting first started, council debated whether it was going to read all the comments at the beginning or end of the meeting. Councilwoman Cynthia Mota said all the comments should be read in the beginning, following the normal rules of a council meeting.
“Just listen to the people out there,” Mota said, as protesters watching the livestream outside applauded. “I’m willing to stay as long as I need to stay to hear what people have to say.”
A few comments were in support of the police department and encouraged the city to invest in more money for officers.
“The Allentown Police Department is essential to the safety and security of the citizens of Allentown,” Donald L. Cease wrote. “What we should do is increase funding to help make the department better by increasing the number of officers on the streets, increase training, expand mental health counseling and social workers that work in the field.”
Among the list of demands by POWER Lehigh Valley and six other Lehigh Valley activist groups are:
Release all body camera and surveillance footage from the incident Saturday
Fire all officers involved in the video, release their names and make their career history public and under review
Have Mayor Ray O’Connell, police Chief Glen Granitz Jr. and City Council President Daryl Hendricks make a statement of wrongdoing of the police department and commit to holding the department accountable
Defund the police department by $25 million and reallocate those funds into the community
Reallocate the $50,000 being considered for equipment to community-based violence prevention.
Borrero was intoxicated and screaming obscenities and posed a danger to himself and others, according to an affidavit.
Comments on Wednesday night suggested officers could have done something instead of cuffing him. Danica Schofer, a Muhlenberg College student who grew up in the city, said Allentown officers often came to her house growing up because her grandmother had a violent form of dementia.“She yelled and spit and hit and was called “non compliant” many times,” Schoefer wrote. “But she never had a knee on her neck. She was a white woman.”
When the meeting ended, the protesters again started to bang on the doors of City Hall and chant “Black lives matter” and “defund the police.” Gerlach and Siegel joined the protesters, who applauded for them, after the meeting.
Speaking to the crowd, Siegel said Borrero needed help rather than to be cuffed last Saturday. A protester then told Siegel that Borrero was in attendance, according to Facebook Live videos posted by the group Lehigh Valley Stands Up.
Siegel turned to address Borrero and apologized for what happened to him.
Standing in front of Borrero, everyone in attendance then took a knee in solidarity with him.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Those who have served in Bethlehem’s Police Department in the past used “pressure point” handling for controlling suspects and believe it was highly effective. This method sounds like it may be the way to handle physical confrontations without the physically dominating tactics that seem in vogue today. Perhaps this kind of training is worth considering so that the reflex action is not being overwhelmingly physical or kneeling on someone’s head or throat, just simpler measures of taking control with pressure on say a thumb, a forearm, a shoulder, which makes more sense. I’ve been the beneficiary of this kind of method in a demonstration, and it doesn’t take much pressure on the right spot for someone to become compliant.