The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (1): Allison and Don

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The Gadfly

Allison Mickel

I teach at Lehigh, and if my grades showed that POC were disproportionately getting worse grades in this dramatic way, I wouldn’t really have a future. . . . The data bears out that POC are having more police encounters, are having more use of force directed at them. . . . It may not be a conscious thing . . . implicit bias is still a thing. . . . Let’s just point out that something’s broken in the system in Bethlehem. . . . [The Chief said] communities of color tend to have a higher crime rate. That is a really debunked idea. It is not actually the case. . . . That is a really out of date and stereotyped idea. . . . The system is not working. The Latinx community is not reporting to the police. . . . The answers we got from the Bethlehem Police Department were really unsatisfying. . . . I would want to see independent audits of these reports. . . . We need somebody to protect us from the broken system. . . . . We need a city budget that is in line with our priorities. . . . Training would cost more money and reinforce the idea that the police are the best institution to deal with every possible call when the data show they are not and commonsense shows that they are not. . . . How can we shift resources productively away from an institution that is unable to explain the problematic data that show racist tendencies. . . . Instead fund institutions that actually prevent crime without brutalizing residents.

Don Szabo

Thank the police department . . . some of the numbers  and statistics that they did. . . . I just wanted to say that I am very proud of the police department and think that being nationally accredited and accredited by the state shows how far ahead we are as a city, not saying that we don’t have problems that we have to work through and other issues that have come to light that we can certainly improve on, but at the same time to push everything toward the police department is unfair and unjust. . . . The statistics and questions that you are asking for is very hard to extract out of police department programs that aren’t meant to do what you are trying to do. . . . They are doing the best they can to extract all of this data out of the reporting system that might not necessarily be a check box on their system. . . . Use of force. . . . You have to remember that if people don’t comply, then use of force is going to be used. . . . I was impressed by the very low numbers of the use of force. . . . When we look at mental health crises . . . I certainly agree that every one can do better, but these are county services. . . . Everything should not fall back on the police department. . . . need overhaul of the entire system. Unfortunately, a lot of time [the police] take the brunt of everything. That’s something we need to open up for discussion and change. . . . I love our police department, I respect the police department, I think they do a great job, and I think that by the reports they are showing today they are doing a very good job of extracting the data that isn’t meant to be extracted to try to give us what everybody is looking for. . . . Hope that we can move through this as a community and a city and better the lives of everyone in the city and keep the police department the way it is and improve training and . . . county services for mental health, drugs and alcohol.

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See comments so far by Peter Crownfield and Allison Mickel

2 thoughts on “The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (1): Allison and Don

  1. Thanks, Allison, for pointing out the effect similar statistics would have in almost any other organization or profession.

    I was a little confused by Don’s comment that people are posing questions that the police programs and reporting aren’t designed to handle. If that’s correct, then we have to ask who would purchase or continue to use systems that don’t provide and report such fundamental information.

    And I should remind readers that I personally have never had any experience where a BPD officer was dismissive or unresponsive to me. (Of course, I am white, so that may not be a fair comparison.)

    In fact, the only somewhat negative experience I’ve had with BPD was a few years ago, when Chief DiLuzio did not even respond to repeated requests to meet and discuss some topics related to law enforcement in Bethlehem.

  2. Thanks for setting up this conversation. I think if Don and I were face to face, we would likely find a lot of common ground. We seem to agree that the police department should be doing less, taking on less responsibility, and that mental health crises are better handled elsewhere. Don seems to agree that there is overall room for improvement. And I wouldn’t disagree that accreditation is overall a good thing.

    I’m not sure what Don means (as Peter says) that the reporting system doesn’t allow us to pull out the statistics we’re looking for. The race-based data is extremely concerning, as a starting point. More data would be helpful, but the information we already have suggests that there is a problem– one that the Chief DiLuzio repeatedly emphasized was in line with national standards. This, to me– and hopefully to Don!– is a problem. Nationally, we are seeing really disturbing racist and violence practices by police officers. Bethlehem should seek to set itself apart with these national standards, not in line with them.

    As I said, I think this conversation would likely be more productive face to face. I’d like to talk with Don about the numbers in the use of force report, and where I feel differently about the numbers seem low. For example, there are about 8-9 minors each year who are subject to force by BPD. This, to me, is 8-9 too many.

    I also would want to discuss further the idea that force is always, or even mostly, used on people who resist arrest. The crime report reveals that most of the time, BPD uses force to effect an arrest, but then that many of those arrested were never charged with a crime. If they didn’t commit an offense, I can understand why someone might resist being arrested! These are the practices that make me wish we were investing in force-free alternatives to public safety.

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