Covering some of the details of police policy and practice

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Public Safety Committee meeting video here

President Waldron — the Council administrator — covered some nuts and bolts kinds of topics with (primarily) Deputy Meixell:

  • the genesis and process of policy change
  • the frequency of accreditor oversight (annually)
  • ability to make immediate changes in policy at local level (yes)Waldron
  • last major revision (approx 6 years ago)
  • correlation between use of force and injury
  • complaint system tracks claims of injury after arrest
  • gun used in all instances of deadly force (yes)
  • tasers
  • tracking of mental health calls (needs improvement)
  • officer compliance to reporting use of force (90+%)
  • body camera policy (all official police action)

“Step 1 is agreeing that there is a wholistic problem”

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Public Safety Committee meeting video here

Councilman Reynolds initiates another very interesting conversation.

He returns to the question of the use of force compared to overall population.

Capt. Kott repeats the idea put forward by the Chief earlier that there is no simple answer to why there is a higher use of force with POC than with whites and that it’s frustrating because everybody wants the answer.

Importantly, She goes on to cite the need for a “wholistic” look at the issue. There is so much more at play here, she says. Yes, issues in law enforcement, but on a “grander level” we need to take a wholistic approach.

Bingo! Reynolds 3

Councilman Reynolds picks up that ball vigorously, linking the Capt.’s comments to the purpose of the Community Engagement Initiative.

A lot of this conversation is not about police, says JWR, and he points out that what the Capt. said (as well as what the Chief said about the impact of lack of economic opportunity — Gadfly unfortunately left that out of his previous post about the Chief) comes close to the “definition of systemic racism.” It’s bigger than the police department. What are the things  — economic structures, healthcare structures, zoning codes, education, transportation, etc. — that are causing the situations that end up in a call to the police?

“That’s the conversation a lot of people want to have.”

“That’s something that we are going to talk about with our Community Engagement Initiative.”

“It’s the failure of society to do something about those systems that at the end of the day ends up with a call to the police department.”

“Step 1 is agreeing that there is a wholistic problem, a structural problem that end up causing the disparities.

The Chief agreed with JWR and  expanded valuably on his earlier comments (again, that Gadfly didn’t capture before). Worth listening to.

The Chief says that some people don’t have the opportunity path that he and JWR had, and that goes back to housing, poverty, education, healthcare — this is systemic racism, and it is embedded in the criminal justice system. And that the police are on the same page as JWR. The Chief understands the anger of people denied their share of the American Dream.

The one thing Gadfly didn’t understand in regard to systemic racism was when the Chief said, “it may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system.”

We need to be careful about self-absolution.

Why so few complaints to the police from POC?

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I really don’t go on the Gadfly.
Chief DiLuzio

Public Safety Committee meeting video here

Councilwoman Van Wirt starts another interesting conversation here, spurred by a notation by Prof Ochs on her reading of the police statistics and an observation that Councilwoman Negron made at the last Council meeting.Van Wirt 1

Here’s PVWs question: why are there so few complaints to the police from POC?

It’s a fair question.

From Prof Ochs in a Gadfly post August 10:

People of color make up 60-80% of incidents (compared to 44% of the city) and whites between 30-40% (compared to 60% of the city)

but

70% of complaints to BPD are made by white people, which is again an over-representation. I recognize that it is less stark than the makeup of the police force, but it does speak to who feels that they have access to police as a safe service to call . . . and when viewed in combination with who is a police officer [Ochs says the dept. is 81% white], this makes sense.

Gadfly remembers a point made by Councilwoman Negron at last Council meeting, that the low number of Latinx complaints to the police department does not mean that all is good but that they are scared, fear reprisal, do not trust the police.

So why the low number of complaints from POC?

It’s a fair question.

This graph from Prof Ochs “graphically” illustrates the disparity in arrests between POCs and whites.

Commonsense would tell you to expect more complaints from POCs.

Ochs 3

Why the low number of complaints from POC?

It’s a fair question, but it’s a tough question.

Tough because of what it might imply.

And the Chief fights it like it was a snake wrapped around his neck. Listen.

The better part of valor might have been for him to admit that there was something odd here that needed explanation.

Police answers about training not yet adequate

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Public Safety Committee meeting video here

Gadfly might just pause here to remind you why he’s taking so much time with each Councilperson’s portion of discussion besides the obvious reason of enlightenment on the police issue.

One of the main purposes of Gadfly is to help you know your elected officials as well as possible so that when you come to vote again you make the most informed choice possible.

And it is not only election to Council but upcoming is a mayoral election, and it’s a good bet that 1-2-3 Councilpersons might run for mayor.

You can learn a lot about people by the quality of their questions.

So we need to be paying attention.

———-

Like Councilwoman Crampsie Smith. Councilwoman Negron is interested in training.

So interested in fact that she asks the same question of the police three times.

How often is the training?

Neither Capt Kott nor the Chief answer that question. Asked three times.

Surprisingly, it does not seem capable of an answer. Listen.

Several different kinds of training are mentioned: cultural competence, diversity, LGBT.

Very interesting.

Several different ways of providing training are mentioned: roll call, online. scenarios.Negron

Very interesting.

But the question “how often” is not answered.

We need a list of the various kinds of training the department does. We need that list to show how often the training in each category is provided. We need to know in what way that training in each category is performed. We need to see the training record of each member of the force to ascertain that the training was completed. Etc.

———

Councilwoman Negron also got into the subject of accreditation.

Gadfly repeats that what he would like to see is the last two accreditation reports. We need to see what areas, if any, the department needed to shape up before accreditation was renewed. And it’s not hard to imagine that accreditation would be given with recommendations of things to work on before the next one. It would just be enlightening to see these reports.

Councilwomen Crampsie Smith and Negron might find, for example, that the bar for training to be accredited is lower than they feel necessary. Maybe you don’t need as much training to keep your status as we might think. Who knows?

Police need to pay attention to arrangements with mental health people that do work

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Gadfly:

It sounds as if some people in the PD need to stop being defensive and pay more attention to what people say. The PD also needs to actually pay attention to arrangements with mental-health people that DO work, such as those in Eugene & Olympia, Oregon, and in Austin, Texas.

Perhaps Captain Kott will be able to help with this, although academic studies don’t always have much connection to life on the ground. They need to understand what can trigger “resistance” by someone they want to talk to. The programs the Captain mentioned [implicit bias, cultural diversity, procedural justice, and trauma-informed interviewing] have great potential, but have a mixed record, often resulting in little significant change. (This could result from a command structure that doesn’t necessarily fully embrace or understand them.)

Peter Crownfield

Why disparity in use of force? What role do the mental health people play?

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Public Safety Committee meeting video here

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith began discussion after the presentation by the police that you can find in the previous post in this series.

She asked two very good questions: why is force used so much more against POC, and what about working with mental health people?

Why the disparity in the use of force?

Chief DiLuzio reminded us that resistance by the subject is what triggers use of force, that the department is diverse, that officers are part of the community, that, sure, there are some racist cops, but racism is in every Grace Crampsie Smith 2profession, that force depends on the volume of calls and the neighborhood, and that the answer to Councilwoman Crampsie Smith’s question therefore is not a pleasant one — that there is no one direct answer, that there is not one reason why. “More police interaction in an area leads to more use of force,” he said.

Capt Kott jumped in to say that you can’t wear blinders and act as if implicit bias doesn’t exist. Sounding very much like the new PhD in Criminal Justice that she is, Capt Kott said that training can’t end with an ethics course in the academy, and she launched into the need for training in implicit bias, cultural diversity, procedural justice, and Trauma-informed interviewing. Wow! Such terms! She said that they were holding the department to a higher standard than other departments in these areas.

What about the role of mental health people?

GCS picked up on the stat that force is used in a high number of cases to protect the subject from himself/herself, who is very often in trouble because of drugs, alcohol, and the like, and she wanted to know about working with mental health people — how often are you working with county crisis intervention, for instance? The Chief’s view was negative, they are not much involved, don’t do night work, etc. How can Council help you, GCS asked, have them out there 24/7, the Chief answered. Deputy Meixell filled in more about the reality when a person needs to be controlled and about follow-up care police are involved in. GCS ends with a hope that Council can provide more resources.

These were interesting conversations, and Gadfly would note a couple things:

  • department diversity: The Chief mentioned this, I think, to deflect the idea that we are a “white” department. Gadfly sees improvement over time, of course, but, though he doesn’t know what the magic mix numbers are, he thinks it is doubtful that these statistics negate characterizing the department as “white.”
  • police 7
  • Councilman Reynolds and others spoke at last meeting of the need for the police department “looking like” the racial make-up of the City. Gadfly doesn’t feel the numbers show we are close to that.
  • Officers as part of the community: Ummm, there was a bit of static about this from commenters. Once upon a time officers were required to live in Bethlehem, not so now. The idea has been floated here and also during the meeting of bringing that requirement back. Once again, Gadfly says it would be interesting to know how many of the 154 officers do live in Bethlehem,
  • Gadfly’s glad he didn’t get asked why force is used more on POC than whites and has some sympathy for the Chief, but his answer certainly created some static among commenters.
  • Capt Kott is some training guru, but several Council members tried to get an answer to how much training everybody got. There was no clear answer. And the idea that some training is done in a 10-15 minute stretch at Roll Call, as we learned later, frankly, seemed laughable. We need to know more about how training is done.
  • Gadfly would like to think more about and hear more discussion about this one: “resistance by the subject is what triggers use of force.” The Chief used this as a kind of “end of argument” statement. Force is not the “fault” of the officer. Blame the subject? I dunno, feels a little too pat for Gadfly. Anybody on the same page?
  • The “defunders” want more mental health involvement. They suggest often funding it from the police budget. GCS wants more mental health involvement but has said she won’t “defund.” She’s talked of getting grants, but it’s not a good idea to plan on being able to depend on grants. At some point, if you want to do something, it will have to come out of the budget.

“Just like the bread we share . . . consciousness is rising too”

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Gadfly proposes that we think of this song as a kind of anthem for the Lehigh Valley
and that we start every morning with it.

“Lehigh Valley be Free” is the work of the Lehigh Valley Song Project that premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s “Songs of Hope & Resistance” event on July 24.

———-

DONATE NOW to support the musicians, artists, and producers who made the
Lehigh Valley Song Project possible!

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

Video record of the Public Safety Committee meeting now available

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It was planned that there would be two ways to attend the Public Safety Committee meeting last night, via YouTube or webinar.

But right around the beginning of Capt Kott’s part of the presentation YouTube went to hell. And the webinar then became the only way to attend.

So there are two videos of the meeting now up at this location:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Watch the regular YouTube first, then switch to the webinar.

Gadfly will continue to break the event into pieces for better focus, but you can now play or re-play the entire night’s events for yourself.

The police presentation at the Public Safety meeting

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I consider the Bethlehem Police Department and all its officers the best
municipal police department in the state.

Chief DiLuzio

Police Documents

Chief Diluzio: The Chief said we shouldn’t paint all police with the same broad brush, he pointed out the department uniqueness in regard to dual accreditations, affirmed the use of force guidelines in accord with the best practices available today, especially in the requirement to report and document all uses of force, he emphasized annual training in all aspects of the policy and cited the statistic that out of c. 13,000 arrest, force was used only c. 600 times, he stressed that use of force is determined by the resistance offered by the subject, he likes new legislation coming from the state and indicated changes in policy are made every year, the department’s 154 members are “members of the community just like you,” they participate in dozens of community functions: “I consider the Bethlehem Police Department and all its officers the best municipal police department in the state.”

Deputy Chief Meixell: the use of force policy is reviewed annually, he proved an outline of the policy, they recently made changes in regard to chokeholds and duty to intervene to clarify their current practice, he read some key sections of the policy.

Professional Standards Captain (Dr.! Phd in Criminal Justice) Kott: the captain took about a half-hour to walk through the many pages of statistics in the documents linked above. Follow with her by opening document #3 linked above.

There you have the presentation by the police. Next we’ll go into discussion of the presentation by each of the Council members.

Kudos to the City for proposals to regulate student housing

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Anna Smith is a Southside resident, full-time parent, and community activist with a background in community development and education.

Gadfly:

After two years of best practices research, conversations with residents, community organizations, and property owners, and careful data analysis, the City has proposed Text Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that would regulate all off-campus student housing within the City. This is the first policy implemented to directly regulate off-campus housing for all students enrolled at a local college or university. Until now, student housing has fallen under the category of “regulated rentals,” which house 3-5 unrelated individuals and are inspected and registered with the City on a yearly basis. The proposed amendments define a “student home” as a separate category and create geographic restrictions for the establishment of any new “student homes” in south Bethlehem. The Planning Commission will consider the proposal at their meeting on August 13th at 5 pm.

Some background on the student housing issue (skip to below for details on the zoning changes)

In 2018, in my former role at CADCB, I completed my semi-annual analysis of residential property sales in south Bethlehem, and came across a shocking data point—the median price of a single-family home had increased by 18% from one year to the next. As I dug deeper, I found that new owner-occupiers were few and far between in the neighborhoods close to Lehigh’s campus, and brand-new companies with New York or New Jersey mailing addresses and names like “Lehigh Housing LLC” were buying homes at higher-than-average prices for the neighborhood. In addition, the number of properties adjacent to Lehigh University experiencing a sale or transfer over the previous year had increased by 34%.

Over the next six months, CADCB staff and the Southside Vision Housing committee began conversations with residents in the neighborhoods adjacent to Lehigh University, and we quickly identified a startling frenzy of speculative investment activity. The perfect combination of low-interest rates, a recovering economy, Lehigh’s announcement of a major increase in student population (without a simultaneous explanation of how they would be housed), and the perception of easy money to be made in student housing was resulting in a new group of investors—many with no ties to the community at all—buying up properties in Southside neighborhoods. At the prices they were paying, renting to a family would not be an option. And why would they, when they could make up to $5,000 per month on a home rented to students, while the same home would max out around $1,800 for a family?

Residents described a slick, Kansas City-based investor who was knocking on doors in the Hillside/First Terrace area, promising homeowners (falsely) that every one of their neighbors had already committed to sell their properties, and if they didn’t sell now, their house would lose its value due to a massive student development that would be built next door. When they couldn’t make it work, a recent Lehigh grad purchased a number of the homes and brought a preposterous plan for townhouses balancing on the side of the mountain before the Planning Commission, who let the proposal advance. Residents scrambled to collect enough money to pay a lawyer to defend their neighborhood at the Zoning Hearing Board, and, after learning of the legal challenge, the developer pulled his proposal at the last minute. However, after paying an average of $250k per property, residents worried that it would only be a matter of time before he brings a new proposal forward.

Meanwhile, properties for sale throughout south Bethlehem—often miles from the center of campus—now suggest that they would be “perfect” for student housing, and are listed at prices far from what most local families could afford. Neighborhoods like the one where I grew up, at Ninth and Carlton, have reached the student housing tipping point; we always had a few student homes, but the numbers are increasing. One more bad student house, with overgrown grass and weeds, students partying on the third story roof and setting off fireworks, and broken bottles smashed all over the sidewalk, will send the homeowners packing. I’ve heard it from the nine homeowners who have signed letters and petitions in that block, asking the City to preserve the quality of life for committed residents who love their neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a low-income family in south Bethlehem has taken one of the largest student housing providers to court; the home they have rented for years for $1,500 a month was purchased by a student housing provider that is attempting to increase their rent to $620 per person—an average price for a student home.

From my perspective, the question we were faced with, and that we asked of the City, was: how do we preserve mixed-income neighborhoods with a diversity of housing types (including student homes), while retaining affordability for families?

And the City listened and took on the challenge. In August 2018, the Southside Vision Housing Committee and the City hired Karen Black, a University of Pennsylvania professor, lawyer, and expert on housing policy and planning, to analyze the options available to preserve mixed-income neighborhoods in south Bethlehem. Karen spent several months researching best practices from other communities, and discussing possibilities with residents, student housing owners, and City planners, among others. City staff continued the process throughout the next year, developing a proposal for zoning changes that was presented to community stakeholders last summer and fall. The Southside Vision Housing Committee met with City Council members last August to discuss these issues, and the four members in attendance indicate their interest in a proposal from the administration that would address resident concerns.

After months of meetings with stakeholders and careful revisions, we finally have a proposal that addresses the concerns of the neighborhood. This is the product of resident advocacy and organizing, careful data collection, analysis of best practices, and consultation with professionals in the field. So what are the highlights, for those who don’t enjoy reading zoning ordinances?

  1. The policy defines “student home” as “a dwelling unit occupied by 3 or more students aged 18 years or older, but not more than 5, who are not “related” to each other and each of whom is enrolled to take two or more academic classes at a college or university authorized to grant post secondary degrees by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. A housing unit occupied by I or 2 college students shall be treated the same as any other housing unit of the same housing type, and shall not be considered a Student Home.”
  2. All properties currently housing 3-5 students (regardless of the location) that are appropriately registered and inspected as regulated rentals at the time of the passage of the ordinance will be allowed to remain student homes, as long as they maintain their yearly licensing and inspection. If they let it drop for any amount of time, they will be required to abide by the rules of the new ordinance.
  3. Any property that is not currently a student home that wishes to house 3-5 students must now be located ONLY in the areas established by the attached map. These neighborhoods were selected because they are close to Lehigh’s campus and already have a significant portion of the area dedicated to student housing. These homes will also be required to provide 3 off-street parking spaces.
  4. Any property that is not currently a student home that wishes to house students in the business district will be restricted to a maximum of 3 students per home.
  5. Any property that is not currently a student home that wishes to house students outside of the designated areas and business district will be restricted to a maximum of 2 students per home (and will not be regulated as a student home, but as a typical rental property).
  6. Additional limits have been placed on the height and impervious surface coverage of any new construction in RG/RT zones, which would prevent the construction of out-of-scale structures designed to house students in residential neighborhoods.

Thanks to the hard work of Darlene Heller, Tracy Samuelson, and Alicia Karner on this one, and to Mayor Donchez for hearing the concerns of Southside residents and taking action. Neighborhoods are the foundation of our City, and the diverse, mixed-income neighborhoods of south Bethlehem (students included)–where neighbors yell to one another from their front porches and kids play on the sidewalk, where people always say “hi” when I walk by and ask me about the baby, where neighbors offer you food from the barbecue without even knowing your name—that’s the south Bethlehem I know and love, and that is worth protecting.

Anna

Mayor Donchez: “I look forward to a constructive discussion”

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The Public Safety Committee met for 6 hours last night to discuss the Police Department Use of Force policy and the Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly counted over 25 public comments.

Interestingly, there were a smattering of complaints about publicity for the meeting. Several people mentioned learning about it almost by chance, and there were misconceptions about the purpose of the meeting.

Which suggests we have not mastered how to communicate with the public about important matters.

Among the voices were many supporters of the police as well as members of the CORE research team (Prof Ochs and company).

Representatives of Black Lives Matter, Lehigh Valley Stands Up,*** and members of the Latinx community (one exception?) were not noticeably present among the voices.

Unfortunately, the YouTube transmission went down (well handled by Chair Colon — no apoplexy), so there is no video of the meeting for you to watch. However, Gadfly believes that he heard that the Webinar record will be available later.

In the meantime, Gadfly will spin out portions of this important meeting for you.

Here’s the Mayor’s opening statement:

  • Before we begin I think it important to repeat some things I have said about the Bethlehem Police Department.
  • I am proud to be Mayor of a City with a Police Department that enjoys an excellent reputation.
  • That reputation was hard-earned from difficult experiences leading to determination and hard work to implement reform and to elevate our standards of professionalism.
  • Bethlehem is the only department in the Lehigh Valley that is accredited by . . .
  • Our department works hard every day, every year to retain those accreditations.
  • Our department is involved in many aspects of the community . . .
  • But I recognize that we are here to discuss legitimate issues about policing, locally and nationally.
  • We should take this opportunity for self-reflection and to critique ourselves, and if necessary implement constructive recommendations that will continue to make the Bethlehem Police Department the best in the Lehigh Valley.
  • I look forward to a constructive discussion on these issues.

***Tip o’ the hat to Follower Downing for telling Gadfly that there were 8 members of Lehigh Valley Stands up at the meeting — Gadfly just doesn’t remember any speakers identifying themselves.

“Back the Blue” rally precedes City Council meeting yesterday

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from Andrew Scott, “Bethlehem Council says it’s not thinking about defunding the police. Still, 100 people joined Back the Blue rally outside City Hall.” Morning Call, August 12, 2020.

About 100 people showed support for Bethlehem police at the Lehigh Valley Tea Party’s Back The Blue rally outside City Hall during a City Council meeting.

Though City Council did not discuss defunding the police before or during its virtual Tuesday meeting, council previously passed a resolution to establish a community engagement initiative involving residents, police officers, school representatives and social justice organizations.

The resolution, which was proposed in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, passed at a July 7 council meeting, where some residents demanded local police be defunded.

“That resolution was passed without a balanced public discussion,” rally organizer Greg Gagni of Bethlehem said, explaining why he felt the need for a pro-police rally.

Gagni said he and other Lehigh Valley Tea Party members are concerned the initiative could lead to defunding the police.

“We’d like to see true equality for all and an end to this rancor and divisiveness,” said Gagni, who started a Defend The Police petition that has gained 6,000 signatures in a little more than a week. “We’d like to heal the divisions without destroying either side. We can build and create better structures.”

Inside City Hall, Councilman Michael Colon rejected the idea that the resolution was about defunding the police.

“Tonight’s discussion has nothing to do with abolishing or defunding the police,” he said. “I really hope as council, a police department and community we can set an example in terms of listening to each other and understanding where differing points of view come from.”

Council President Adam Waldron said he received about 50 emails before the meeting from people concerned council was considering defunding or abolishing police, but Tuesday night’s meeting was the first of several public forums to discuss issues surrounding systemic racism.

Councilman J. William Reynolds said that in addition to reviewing police policies, he hopes further discussions can address disparities in education, housing, lack of transportation and employment opportunities that can contribute to systemic racism.

The meeting also included a review of the police department’s use-of-force policy and a report detailing how often officers resorted to force, including deadly force; the race of those subjected to force; and information about how instances involving force are investigated and reported.

Meanwhile, outside city hall rally participants lined a small section of East Church Street, waving U.S. flags, playing patriotic music and carrying signs and banners with messages supporting local police and President Donald Trump. Passing motorists honked as speakers addressed the cheering crowd with pro-police messages.

“Many of us who live and shop here and have a stake in our community, we object to defunding the police,” rally organizer and Bethlehem attorney Tom Carroll said. “We pay high taxes for proper police protection and we have an excellent police department here. If there’s a problem with police, it’s that they don’t have enough funding to be properly trained and we need more police officers so they can engage in community policing.

”Holding a banner supporting Trump, couple Sharon and Rob Mac of Whitehall Township said defunding the police would lead to less effective law enforcement, “trouble and riots.”

“We don’t want our area to become like some other places,” Sharon Mac said. “We need police protection.”

Activist Scott Presler of Fairfax, Virginia, who travels the U.S. drumming up support for Trump’s reelection, urged people to stand up for local police.

“I support both Back The Blue and Black Lives Matter,” Presler said after speaking. “It’s so critical for both sides to come together. America suffers when there’s gridlock. I think defending and not defunding the police is something the majority of the country finds important.”

“Love we have to mention . . . The answer to all questions”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

Gadfly proposes that we think of this song as a kind of anthem for the Lehigh Valley
and that we start every morning with it.

“Lehigh Valley be Free” is the work of the Lehigh Valley Song Project that premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s “Songs of Hope & Resistance” event on July 24.

———-

DONATE NOW to support the musicians, artists, and producers who made the
Lehigh Valley Song Project possible!

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

Counting down! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting blasts off tonight at 6PM — One hour!

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The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

Important that elected officials don’t jump to conclusions and act without hearing from all sides

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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.

Gadfly,

I’ve been trying to keep up with all that is being written and said on this issue and how it relates to systemic racism in America. I’ve spoken with many people from a variety of backgrounds. My list of suggestions and observations is by no means complete. However, I believe there are some very fundamental steps that could be taken and explored. They are in no particular order.

Dana

Personally, I think there is too much rhetoric flying around and some people are not using common sense. Law enforcement is a necessity to maintain an orderly and safe society, period. So, calls to eliminate policing anywhere make no sense to me.

If I was the Mayor, I would be setting up community forums to receive commentary from all sides of the issue. I would make it as easy as possible for people to weigh in and would take steps to allow and encourage all voices to be heard so that the discourse is fair. Given the pandemic, these might need to be virtual meetings, but I think before anything is done we need to hear more from all corners of the city. Some residents and a business owner have expressed their concerns to me about retribution if they speak up in any way that might be construed as opposition to the current dialogue.

I don’t like the term defund because in my mind and for many others it has a negative connotation. I understand what is meant by it, but if this was a company trying to sell a product and they continually used terms that turned off their potential market and customers, their product wouldn’t sell. I think it frightens a lot of residents who recognize that we need law enforcement and that overall we have a pretty good PD in Bethlehem, but who also believe strongly in equal application of our laws.

That being said, I think we should always be looking for ways to improve the PD, especially in the area of relationships with all corners of our community.

More regular de-escalation training is a start. I don’t know the current frequency. I do believe that when any officer responds to a call their primary intent should be to maintain the peace. I also recognize that in some situations this may not be possible because of the heightened seriousness of a situation.

I think if there is a bad cop on the force, the process for removing them should be fair, yet swift.

If there is a way to mesh social services with law enforcement, I support that union in situations where it is applicable. Mental health issues have normally been the responsibility of state and county, so I’m not sure if cities have that capacity. I think it makes sense to hire police officers who also have a broader academic background such as in sociology as well as law enforcement. Perhaps degrees in criminal justice, of which I have no familiarity, need to incorporate a minor in sociology?

I think community policing has become a lost art in Bethlehem and would look to re-establish team policing and neighborhood bike patrols the way I remember and experienced them in the past. When the same officers worked in the same neighborhoods, they built relationships with residents and established a higher level of trust and respect between themselves and decent law-abiding citizens from all walks of life. A number of retired Bethlehem officers that I know feel those efforts achieved a great deal of success.

A former police officer has mentioned to me that the pressure-point training officers used to receive allowed them to better control a physical altercation. This would reduce the potential for the use of lethal force if that training was re-introduced and emphasized the way it apparently once was.

More minority hires would be helpful in law enforcement as I believe that a police force and the community are better served if they mirror each other in composition. From all I’ve read and been told law enforcement recruitment has become a challenge. What are those challenges, and how do you overcome them?

When I was hired by the city, all city employees including police had to be city residents. That was eliminated in 1988, so officers can now be hired from anywhere. Many new hires don’t have the in-place relationships with the community that generations of officers before them had. My personal preference would be to see some limits on where they must live, like in the city or in any municipality contiguous with the city as an example. This way they are more local and there’s a better chance for them to get to know the community than if they are living in the out-of-state or in the Poconos, as examples. I’m not sure how the FOP union feels about that, but I think it’s a discussion that should take place.

It’s my understanding that racial sensitivity training is already being done. Perhaps there can be more frequent or an updated method of training, if there are any alternative newer ways of looking at this. I feel very strongly as a lifetime resident of Bethlehem that my minority friends should be treated no differently than I would be, when interacting with a Bethlehem officer.

I’ve read that the school district and city are looking at whether school resource police officers are needed in our middle and high schools. The need for that has been raised by minority students. The data needs to be analyzed to see whether it’s effective or not

What I think is really important is that elected officials don’t jump to conclusions and act without hearing from all sides of the issue. Listening is critical.

We need to find the right balance between having effective law enforcement and meeting community needs and expectations. Knee-jerk reactions will not serve Bethlehem or any community well. The burden for achieving this doesn’t just fall on police; it falls on each of us because of the social contract we have in our free society.

 

A picture of sustainability?

logo The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort logo

How best to incorporate environmental responsibility into clothing decisions?

Follow the Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (in that order).

Alison 1

Reusable cloth mask, sewn by workers receiving a fair wage (ethical supply chain)
Cardigan, a very rare new clothing purchase, no synthetics (Reduce)
Tank top, which I’ve owned for years and years (Reuse)
Jeans, a flattering and versatile thrift store purchase (Recycle)

Alison Steele

Gadfly often recommends the always thoughtful “Radical Moderate” blog by Bethlehem native Alison Steele. The above is from her August 2 post.

Bad timing for Gadfly

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Yes, bad timing for Gadfly.

Tonight is the 3rd in the Bethlehem Area Public Library series “Dialogues on Racial Justice: An Introductory Workshop Series on Issues of Systemic Racism in the United States.

Same time as the long awaited Public Safety Committee meeting on the Bethlehem police use of force.

And tonight’s workshop subject?

You guessed it, “”Police Brutality: A Historic Perspective.”

Damnation. The perfect subject to be thinking about.

But this gives Gadfly a great opportunity to say again that one has to really admire the relevant educational programming coming out of BAPL.

And to give you an idea of the substantial impact this “Dialogues” series is having, I’d recommend taking a look at Hannah Provost’s article — “The Construction of Race and How Racism is Maintained: A Conversation Facilitated by Linda Wiggins-Chavis” — in “Southsider.” Yep, that there’s “our” Southside they’re talkin’ about in the title.

And while at “Southsider” be sure to browse around.

The site is stunningly beautiful and intellectually substantial. You’ll find a lot to like.

Gadfly found himself intrigued by Danny Digitall’s “Photography of Living Six-Feet-Apart.”

Enjoy!

Alert! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting tonight, 6PM — must register for best results

logoLatest in a series of posts on City Government logo

The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

Ochs on Citizen Review Boards

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Ever wonder about citizens involved in police misconduct matters?

Gadfly believes Allentown may be voting on a CRB tomorrow night. Will be interesting to see what happens there.

Gadfly was struck by such info on different forms of CRBs in the Rushin article discussed earlier: “Communities could elect civilians to a commission tasked with the creation of police disciplinary procedures, with recommendations from police management and union leaders. Communities could establish notice-and-comment procedures, similar to those employed by many administrative agencies, to promulgate disciplinary policies. Conversely, states could require communities to establish police disciplinary procedures in the same manner that they establish municipal ordinances—presumably through a public hearing and vote by local elected officials.”

Here are some notes by Prof Holona Ochs.

Ochs, Citizen Review Boards

Clips:

CRBs are committees charged with providing oversight of police compliance with the law and potentially offering transparency, accountability, and input regarding the administrative processes.

Members of the public cite the following potential benefits of citizen oversight:
(1) satisfy public concerns about the accountability of the police;
(2) reassurance that the appropriate discipline is implemented for misconduct;
(3) discourage police misconduct; and
(4) improvement in the public understanding of police work.

[There are] four models of citizen review boards that fall within the reactive approach.

The Collaborative Audit model [is a proactive model].

Effective procedures for public review of citizen complaints against the police require a fundamental shift in the traditional handling of citizen complaints, and a complaint process that makes consistent efforts to inform citizens of the review process and receive all complaints, that provides thorough and unbiased evaluations, and that is likewise subject to review is extremely difficult to establish and maintain.

CRBs should be structured to facilitate cooperation, and the results of the independent investigations should produce findings and recommendations that require a formal response from political and administrative authorities.

In order for CRBs to function as either a specific or general deterrent, the disposition would have to lead to discipline consistently to impact policing outcomes, and the extent to which the mechanisms of internal and external oversight provide consistent sources of management information determine whether or not oversight is mutually reinforcing or simply inefficient.

Citizen Review Boards (CRBs) tend to be reactively rather than proactively designed, which can lead to a backlash by police over time.

“Freedom from hunger . . . so all families can thrive”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

Gadfly proposes that we think of this song as a kind of anthem for the Lehigh Valley
and that we start every morning with it.

A special tip o’ the hat to all the many organizations that our community has that are working to make sure everyone has access to healthy, abundant food.

“Lehigh Valley be Free” is the work of the Lehigh Valley Song Project that premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s “Songs of Hope & Resistance” event on July 24.

———-

DONATE NOW to support the musicians, artists, and producers who made the
Lehigh Valley Song Project possible!

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

Ochs: highlights from the Police documents

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Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, August 11, 6PM: must register

Prof Holona Ochs:

Highlights from the BPD report (Mickel, Irons, & Strouse)

  • People of color make up 60-80% of incidents (compared to 44% of the city) and whites between 30-40% (compared to 60% of the city)
  • The single largest age range subject to use of force are 18-25 year-olds (an average of 37% of use of force incidents) . . . this range includes 18 and 19-year-old teenagers.
  • There are about 8-9 minors subject to force each year. In our view, subjecting minors to force is absolutely inexcusable.
  • BPD is quick to point out that incidents involving force are a small percentage of overall arrests. However, the majority of arrests in Bethlehem are for minor crimes like vandalism, drunkenness, and lesser offenses not even specifically named. Use of force in those incidents needs to be closely examined.
  • The Bethlehem Crime report revealed that 81% of Bethlehem cops are white men. (White men make up only about 30% of the Bethlehem population).
  • In addition, 70% of complaints to BPD are made by white people, which is again an overrepresentation. I recognize that it is less stark than the makeup of the police force, but it does speak to who feels that they have access to police as a safe service to call . . . and when viewed in combination with who is a police officer, this makes sense. ***
  • Bottom line: It’s white people calling a white police force, which overwhelmingly uses force on young brown and Black people.

*** Gadfly remembers a point made by Councilwoman Negron at last Council meeting, that the low number of Latinx complaints to the police department does not mean that all is good but that they are scared, do not trust the police. Real food for thought there.

Ochs graphs use of force incidents by reason

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Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, August 11, 6PM: must register

Prof Holona Ochs:

This graph shows the purpose of the uses of force. It destroys the fallacy that police have to be forceful because their lives are at risk; instead it is most often just to make a successful arrest. In a context where Bethlehem primarily experiences nonviolent crime, one should question why police are using violence to complete their arrests of primarily nonviolent offenders.

It is also worth noting that the BPD use of force policy allows for very loose definitions of “threat,” and so the increase of using force to “defend” may be more about shifting ideas of what constitutes threat than a threat that you or I would define with all the facts in hand.

Ochs 4

Ochs graphs use of force incidents by race

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Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, August 11, 6PM: must register

Gadfly’s been trying to cover a lot of context and background  for the meeting with the Police tomorrow night. Time, perhaps, to look at some of the documents provided for the meeting. Prof. Ochs is giving us some of her insights and that of her research team.


Prof Holona Ochs:

Ochs 1

Ochs 3

Alert! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, August 11, 6PM — must register

logoLatest in a series of posts on City Government logo

The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

“We, as a community, need to imagine leadership differently”

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We, as a community, need to imagine leadership differently.

  • There is evidence that Black leadership can lead to more peaceful police-public relations.
  • There is also evidence demonstrating that women lead in the same ways and as well as men.
  • The inclusion of womxn in policing has a demonstrated effect on constructively addressing gender-based violence.
  • It is unconscionable that we do not have officers openly representing the LGBT+ community and no task force to assist officers as they try to improve their relations with the LGBT+ community as well.
  •  Addressing gender-based violence is inextricably linked to addressing white supremacy/misanthrophy.
  • Strong leadership is about active listening.

Prof Holona Ochs