Cindy suggests we read this: “The narrative around the killing of George Floyd is destructively false”

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

In her comment during the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting, Cindy O’Brien, as you saw in our last “conversation” post, suggested we read this article. If you know Cindy, be sure to tell her we are doing so.

from Wilfred C. Riley, “America Run Riot.” Commentary, July/August 2020.

George Floyd was brutally killed by police officers—probably murdered, in fact, in the technical legal sense of that term. However, beyond that fact, which virtually all people of good will agree on, nearly every aspect of the narrative that grew up instantly around his tragic and senseless death has collapsed or seems likely to do so.

The already-standard account is that Floyd was killed by white cops in a vicious display of pure racism, that the killing is evidence of patterns of institutional bias throughout policing and America itself, and that the riots following Floyd’s death represented an almost-justified lashing out at white society.

All of this is questionable or outright false, and the mainstream media, which abandoned a previous frenzied narrative about COVID-19 for this older one of race war, bears great responsibility for presenting it.

In reality, fairly little evidence points to Floyd’s killing being an act specifically of racism, rather than of criminally bad policing that should be punished by jury and judge. Virtually forgotten in the entire George Floyd conversation is that there were four officers on the scene when he died, at least three of whom apparently restrained Floyd—only two of whom could be considered white. Tou Thao, age 34, is of Hmong descent, while J. Alexander Kueng is a Korean-surnamed speaker of multiple languages with a college degree in sociology. Neither of these officers apparently confronted the knee-wielding Sergeant Derek Chauvin at any point during his restraint of Floyd.

Even the conclusion that Chauvin’s own motivation was “anti-blackness” is far from obvious. The most disturbing of several misconduct charges against him came from white Twin Cities resident Melissa Borton. Moreover, Chauvin was in an interracial marriage with a woman from the Philippines at the time of Floyd’s death. It is also notable that Floyd himself had worked security at the same Minneapolis club that employed a moonlighting Chauvin, and that the two might well have known and personally disliked each other.

Many recent “race violence” stories have shared this tendency—the denial of all-too-human complexity in favor of a simple and crude storyline. . . . The narratives of undeniable racism surrounding individual tragedies such as Floyd’s begin to lose their clarity upon close examination. But close examination is not what we get from our town criers. The consensus position of the center-left in the United States is that there is an extraordinary wave of widely tolerated police and citizen violence against people of color.

Excellent data on police violence are easily available, and they torpedo the “genocide” claim—and for that matter any narrative about generally out-of-control policing. According to the Washington Post’s police-killings database, the gold standard in this field from a left-leaning publication, the total number of unarmed black persons killed by police during 2019 was 15. There are 42 million Black people in the United States. The overall number of unarmed individuals killed by police during that year was 56. Even adding in all those armed with a weapon or attacking officers, police in 2019 took exactly 229 black lives, out of a total of 1,004 among the 330 million people living in America.

The situation surrounding the death of George Floyd is complex, because human beings and the world we occupy are complex. Certainly, the standard three-part conventional-liberal narrative about the tragedy should collapse upon any serious contemplation. George Floyd’s death was an example of brutal and abusive policing, but there is little evidence that the team of officers, 50 percent of whom qualify as “people of color,” was composed of rabid racists.

What to do about all this? Strong leadership from the White House, ranging from a major policy speech on policing to deployment of the National Guard where still needed, would be extraordinarily welcome. At the local and regional level, leaders must protect both the right of activists to peacefully protest and the right of all citizens to be secure in their homes and businesses. But we should also, now and in the future, take an additional step and loudly demand some actual facts from those whose job it is to provide them.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (9): Carmen, George, and Cindy

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Carmen LoBaido

I do not favor defunding or disbanding the police department. I don’t have any problem with them. For years I owned a business on Main St. , and I felt very safe with them around.

George Roxandich



Some of the citizens . . . I found alarming. That supposedly rational people can be manipulated . . . is sad. . . . Using the hammer/nail analogy, if you assume there is systemic racism, then everything will be caused by systemic racism. That begs the question, where is racism built into the system. It isn’t. It happens because occasionally individuals are racist. Those are two dramatically different things. One has to do with the individual, one has to do with the system, and using that systemic racism phrase, it really has no meaning. . . .  There was a young boy who died in a similar circumstance in a youth facility locally. Would sustained rioting be justified? . . . Persistent patterns of racial injustice. Are they persistent patterns or perceived persistent patterns?  Two dramatically different things. . . . Talking points. . . . Black Live Matter. . . . While many recent protestors are truly interested in supporting minority rights, Black Lives Matter Inc, contrary to its name, is at its core a Marxist organization, admittedly led by trained Marxists. . . . Easily verified. . . . Funded by. . . . well intentioned but misled corporations. . . Much of the money funneled might go to the fringe radicals and the Congo but not, you notice, to the devastated local Black communities. . . . Marxist organization. . . . Responsible for the deaths of 175m civilians. . . . The violence you see today didn’t begin with the death of the vicious felon George Floyd. . . . It began in 1999, maybe even earlier. Marxist Socialists protested the World Trade Organization in Seattle, demonstrating what was called the Black ___?___ . . . dressed in black, masks and helmets . . . setting fires . . . smashing windows. . . . Sound familiar? . . . Police were restrained from intervening. . . . This type of activity went on for years. . . . This is all twenty years before George Floyd. . . . They were waiting for a video like Floyd’s. If raising awareness of injustice was the reason for the protest, then how long would it have taken to raise awareness, a couple days. But the overthrow of our government is the goal. . . . There is no appeasing radicals. This may seem far-fetched here. . . . But things eroded little by little. First, the language changed, phrases like social justice and systemic racism, phrases that didn’t exist before. . . . If we are going to have discussion, let’s define the word and discuss whether the problem is real or imagined. What is social justice? Different things to everybody who says it. There are 18,000 police departments in the United States, there were 13 or 14 unarmed Blacks killed in 2019. That doesn’t sound systemic. In New York . . . stop and frisk . . . incidence of further police action was less for Blacks than for whites. . . . Antifa. . . . Say so strong and clear beginning at the beginning of this process, otherwise you are complicit ___?____ lawlessness. . . . Why did they bristle at the phrase “all lives matter”? . . . . Others engage with evil intent. . . . Would an organization whose goal is empowering Black citizens trash and burn its Black communities to the ground?

Cindy O’Brien

I’m a big supporter of the Bethlehem police. I think they do a really great job, and they deserve credit for doing a great job. We were all very surprised . . . defunding the police came up. . . . defund and dismantle the Bethlehem Police for no reason, right? . . . . Excellent track record and two accreditations, so on what basis do the people have for defunding the Bethlehem police? . . . Some of the members of City Council allege and support the idea of systemic racism . . . white supremacy widely spread throughout every institution in our country and particularly the police, I really want to challenge that, there’s really no basis of fact for that.  There are 42 million Black people in this country, and last year there were only about 15 unarmed Black people killed by police. Just 15 out of 42 million. You know, that is really something to contemplate. . . . There are no victims of any kinds of crimes at your meeting. Your meeting is full of professors who live in ivory towers. I don’t think these people understand what it means to be the victim of a crime. . . . One of the professors. . . . [Blacks] do have elevated rates of crime. . . . Black on Black crime. . . . a lot of Black on Black crime. . . . read an article in Commentary magazine. . . . This narrative of police brutality is just not true. . . . Next time you have another meeting, you should invite some victims. . . . I personally have been a victim of a crime, I know what’s it’s like to be a victim.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (8): Carrie and Vincent and Mrs. Loman

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The Gadfly

Carrie Fitzgibbon

Giving my warm thanks to the Bethlehem Police Department for everything they do to keep us safe and to keep our quality of life in Bethlehem, and I have heard hundreds and hundreds of comments over the past few weeks as this discussion has grown across our community. . . . Everybody I spoke to does not want any defunding, if anything they want to add more funding for the best training. But from what I heard tonight, it sounds like we are really off the track. So, I’m proud to be a citizen of Bethlehem and proud to have the Bethlehem police. . . . There is actually a “defend the police” petition online that in one week got, I believe, 6000 signatures.

Vincent Facchiano

I’m a second generation son of Italian immigrants that built this city, contributed to the Steel, contributed to the garment industry in Bethlehem. I’m an Eagle Scout . . . involved . . . . 11 years . . . coaching Little League . . . Vietnam veteran . . . I volunteer . . . married here . . . Grenadier band . . . so I am a true stakeholder in Bethlehem . . . living in Bethlehem 64 years . . . homeowner since I was 20 . . . paying taxes . . . registered voter . . . I don’t know how many City Council members can say that they are as deeply rooted in Bethlehem. Yet what if any are the stakeholder qualifications of the radical activists that have caught your attention? In particular, why s it imperative that actions be taken now? What’s going on? Is it because it’s an election year?
[Gadfly apologizes, he had trouble understanding several parts and trouble following Mr. F’s train of thought, so this summary is only the first part of his comment.]

Mrs. Loman

Neither defunding nor disbanding the police department would serve as a viable solution to the problems that have surfaced in the past few months. As a former teacher, I particularly view education as a valuable tool in addressing the issues of police brutality, racism, and other inappropriate behavior. It saddens me to think that the unconscionable actions of a few has cast a pall on so many dedicated and honorable police officers. . . . Any ideas of disbanding or defunding are appalling to me. I think there are so many police officers that truly do their job and go beyond that, and to put them in a category of people using force and treating people horribly is just awful.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (7): Greg

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

For the past six “conversation” posts, Gadfly has been pairing opposed views on defunding or altering Bethlehem’s system of policing expressed at the August 11 Public Safety meeting. However, the supporters of the status quo were more numerous than the “revisers,” so from here on we’ll just be hearing from the supporters. Mr. Ragni gives us a lot to think about here, so I won’t pair him with someone else. Remember that the text is not a transcription, so that Gadfly always suggests that you go to the primary source. For best results, please listen to the audio.

Greg Ragni

Thank you to the representatives from the Bethlehem Police Department . . . for their incredibly professional and thorough presentation. It’s obvious that they track their officers’ behaviors and actions in a myriad of different ways which makes them capable of self analysis and correction. . . . It doesn’t surprise me that they have these advance accreditations that they’ve earned. . . . With regard to the commentary by Holona Ochs. . . . One of the things  we’ve heard a lot about tonight is the concept of implicit bias. It may be a bias that we have only one criminologist that we have. . . . We might want some counterbalancing ideas. . . . Now I’ve been in contact with thousands of the citizens of Bethlehem. . . . I don’t think we need to tear each other down to achieve these goals. The police department doesn’t have to be dismantled, or defunded or destroyed in order to achieve these goals of equality and fairness. . . . And by the same token for the police department to survive and thrive there shouldn’t have to be members of the community who shouldn’t have to . . . experience any type of traumas from policing. I think we can figure this out. But maybe we need to examine our own implicit and explicit biases. It seems that everyone wants to talk about everybody else’s biases but nobody wants to talk about their own biases. . . . Everybody talks about people they think are great. . . . Holona Ochs . . . “the” expert? . . . There’s a lot of research on criminology. . . . So maybe we need to expand our views beyond our local criminologist. . . . Look at all of the possible options. . . . it sounds to me that Bethlehem is one of the cities that has done policing well. Maybe other cities should look to us. . . . It seems to me that some members of Council are struggling to understand the difference between statistics on a page and real life policing. . . . Perhaps members of City Council should do a defensive tactics scenario day, where Council would go and they would be the police. . . . It seems that some on Council, to be honest, are coming from a very strong political or ideological mind set — I’m going to call it their ideological blind spot. . . . An instance of racism I experienced when I listened to the July 7 meeting. One of the comments by one of the activists was “we don’t need to hear from any more white people.” It doesn’t get any more racist than that. . . . “Silence is violence.” . . . “Tolerating racism in any form is racist.” . . . You guys sat there and listened to that. . . .Every one of you should have called that out. . . . Practice what you preach. . . . perhaps we need more common sense. . . . Look at Seattle, Minneapolis. . . . If your idea of getting experts is to turn our city into that, don’t get too comfortable in those City Council seats.

Gadfly looks for the wave

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The Community Engagement Initiative is . . . is about . . . looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.
Councilman Willie Reynolds, August 11, 2020

America is ready . . . to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.
Prez candidate Joe Biden, August 20, 2020

I would ask Dr. Van Wirt, are you for defunding the Police Department?
Councilman Bryan Callahan, August 18, 2020

Gadfly has called the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative “audaciously ambitious.”

Means it.

And he was thinking about it last night during the Biden speech.

Councilman Reynolds has framed the work (“so eloquently,” admired Councilwoman Van Wirt) with our country’s highest ideals.

It’s a program to get excited about.

End systemic racism, create an equitable city.

Gadfly keeps hearing Anna Smith’s “We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.” (T-shirts coming)

What disappointed Gadfly so much watching the video of the August 18 City Council meeting (Gadfly has had some business to take care of at home so he could not be “present”) was the lack of detail about the program, the missed opportunity to generate enthusiasm and propel momentum.

A few posts back Gadfly invited you to listen to Councilman Reynolds’ words and “catch the wave.”

There wasn’t any.

Gadfly was surprised.

Gadfly can’t help but feeling that something’s wrong with the process. He still can’t understand the misalignment between the words of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution that puts the CEI in the Mayor’s hands and the way it is unfolding in Council’s hands, what to him seemed the long delay in getting the Public Safety meeting, the lack of a clearly visible plan (Tuesday Public Safety Committee chair Colon simply said vaguely that “Council will continue to discuss next steps and make sure anything coming forward in the future will be communicated to the public”), and the virtual silence about the 6-hour August 11 meeting marked by vigorous comment from 25 members of the public.

Gadfly senses lack of urgency. Maybe it’s Gadfly’s fault, though. When you make a 9-1-1 call like he did last Friday, your mind re-prioritizes. The trivial tumbles to the bottom. Maybe he’s asking too much.

But Gadfly was surprised at the virtual silence at Tuesday’s meeting about the issues raised by the resolution and discussed August 11. He remembered Councilman Reynolds at the earlier July 7 Council  meeting justly defending the CEI from charges it was a band-aid, citing his own record of getting things done, a defense President Waldron justly seconded. Gadfly agrees. When he first started “paying attention” almost 3 years ago, he looked for a City agenda, a list of things to do, and he found Councilman Reynolds’ “Bethlehem 2017” documents, and since that time has watched those proposals come gradually into being. My sense is that Councilman Reynolds gets things done.

But, of course, maybe things are getting done in the background. Gadflies don’t really know anything. They only can see what they can see. He just wishes he could see more about so important a project.

He also wishes there were things he could unsee.

Gadfly has said above a couple times that Tuesday night there was “virtual silence” about the Public Safety Committee meeting and issues related to the resolution.

Carefully chosen words.

For there wasn’t complete silence.

There was this.

With Prez Waldron’s adjournment gavel in the air, there was this.

Felt like a grenade with “Council disengagement” stamped on it.

Gadfly wept.

Put this in your file of clips for the highlight reel when election time comes around again.

Ghosts and goblins are pandemic’d

August 19, 2020 Press Release
99TH ANNUAL HALLOWEEN PARADE CANCELLED
TRICK OR TREAT TO BE HELD AS SCHEDULED.
Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced today the cancellation of the City’s Halloween parade. The parade was to be held on Sunday, October 25, 2020 and would have been the 99th annual Halloween Parade in the City. Unfortunately, the thousands of people it draws annually would not make it possible to create the social distancing needed to keep people safe. “The Halloween parade is another seasonal tradition that Bethlehem embraces. While we are disappointed, we believe it is the right decision for 2020 and look forward to it returning in 2021,” said Donchez.
Donchez did confirm “Trick or Treat” will take place as scheduled in Bethlehem on Friday, October 30, 2020 from 6-8pm. Residents that plan to take part are asked to wear masks if it is not already a part of their costume and practice social distancing when participating in the event.

Calendar alert! Touchstone’s Festival UnBound rides again!

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SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Festival UnBound Sept 4 – Oct 16

Festival UnBound, year two, socially distanced

Touchstone opens 2020-21 season with reprise of community festival

BETHLEHEM, PA – Touchstone Theatre will begin its COVID-friendly, social-distance-safe 2020-21 season with a return to Festival UnBound, a celebration of Lehigh Valley arts and community discourse that premiered in October 2019. This year’s festival will feature weekly events running from September 4-October 16, 2020.

The first year of Festival UnBound took place twenty years after the closing of Bethlehem Steel, a massively impactful and traumatic event for the community. In the years since the closing of the Steel, Touchstone began to explore questions of community and identity in the Bethlehem community: Who were we, now that the Steel was gone? What were the challenges ahead, and what were the values that would hold the community together as we faced the task of shaping our future? Out of these questions came Festival UnBound in October 2019, a ten-day festival of arts and community dialogue around concerns of diversity, sustainability, health, youth leadership, and interconnectedness. The festival was an immense success, and many in the community expressed a desire for the festival to continue.

“What emerged from the Festival was a vision of our community as a healthy, just, and loving place, as it had never been before— one full of music and play in the service of compassion and joy,” says Touchstone Ensemble Member Bill George, who coordinated Festival UnBound in 2019. “We knew we couldn’t let go of that vision but had to keep holding it up as a light to lead us forward. And so, the Festival must live.”

In an extraordinary 2020, Touchstone will be manifesting Festival UnBound in a series of outdoor events, parties, forums, and performances. Many will be free to attend, and most will provide a livestream or digital recording to accommodate audience members who are not comfortable attending for concerns of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Planned events include:

  • LATINX BLOCK PARTY – September 4, 7p – Kicking off the season with an end-of-the-summer party for our neighborhood and our neighbors – all are welcome! Join Touchstone for an evening of local food, live music by Héctor Rosado Latin Jazz Experience, and celebration of local Latinx culture and community. Cost: FREE, donation welcome. Venue: Touchstone Parking Lot (321 E. 4th St. Bethlehem, PA 18015). Rain dates: September 5 and September 6, 7pm.
  • MEDICAL WORKERS SPEAK OUT – September 12, 7p – In the last year, doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals have come to the forefront of national attention for their work on the front lines of COVID-19. Come out and take a listen to what some of our local medical workers have to say about the experience – tales of trauma, triumph, and compassion, from the healers in our community. Cost: FREE, donation welcome. Venue: Touchstone Parking Lot (321 E. 4th St. Bethlehem, PA 18015). Rain date: September 13, 7pm.
  • RUMI/NATION – September 18-19, 6p – An original project created by Touchstone/Moravian MFA student Sean Patrick Cassidy. This site-specific audio walking tour starts on the South Bethlehem Greenway and takes us into a world within our own, allowing the audience to reflect on how they interact with and benefit from natural cycles of change. Cost: FREE, donation welcome, limited spots available. Venue: Performance takes place outside, starting at the 400s block of the South Bethlehem Greenway and covers a 2-3 mile walk around Bethlehem. Rain date: September 20, 6pm.
  • SUSTAINABILITY FORUM – September 19, 6p – At last year’s Sustainability Forum, high schoolers from across Bethlehem came together to share projects that would create a more sustainable community for all of us. This year, our students – as they continue to reflect on the massive changes in our world – take those big plans and bring them to the steps of City Hall, to make their voices heard. Cost: FREE, donation welcome. Venue: Outside on the steps of Bethlehem City Hall. Rain date: September 20, 6pm.
  • ALOUD – September 26, Time TBA – An original project created by Touchstone/Moravian MFA student Adam Ercolani. LGBTQIA+ youth coming into their own identities often feel trapped and restrained by their surroundings and circumstance. How can artistic creation and performance allow us to process and understand our identities in a new way? An exploration of queer identity, self-discovery, and finding a way out of the bonds that hold us back. Cost: FREE, donation welcome. Venue: TBA. Rain date: September 26.
  • HOMECOMING – October 2, 7p – A continuation of last year’s celebration of the history, struggles, and successes in the Black community of the Lehigh Valley, recognizing exceptional talent, drive, and leadership. In this year of the Black Lives Matter movement, protests, civil discourse and loss of great civil rights icons – a year where the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are raised in voices across every state – we claim space and call for justice, recognizing that our history informs the present. Cost: FREE, donation welcome. Venue: Touchstone Parking Lot (321 E. 4th St. Bethlehem, PA 18015). Rain date: October 3, 7pm.
  • TALES OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE – October 9, 8p – From around the world, myths and fairy tales have always taught us how to triumph in the face of overwhelming odds. Touchstone in collaboration with Mock Turtle Marionette Theater presents retellings of traditional stories from the diverse cultural backgrounds of the Lehigh Valley, featuring live music and puppetry. Together, we look to the wisdom of the past to remind us that we are capable of overcoming adversity, now and always. Cost: Tickets by table: $40 for a 4-top, $30 for a 2-top. Venue: Touchstone Parking Lot (321 E. 4th St. Bethlehem, PA 18015). Rain dates: October 10 and 11, 7pm.
  • DICTATORS 4 DUMMIES… AND MORE! – October 16, 7p – An election season retrospective of original political satire. Ensemble Member Christopher Shorr presents a re-imagining of his 2018 musical, now a movie with larger-than-life characters played by action figures voiced by the original Dictators 4 Dummies cast. Plus: a live concert of satirical songs from the Touchstone archive. Join us for a comical evening… and a chilling reminder of the tenuous state of democracy. Cost: Tickets by table: $40 for a 4-top, $30 for a 2-top. Venue: Touchstone Parking Lot (321 E. 4th St. Bethlehem, PA 18015). Rain dates: October 17 and 18, 7pm.

Funding for Festival UnBound is ongoing, but to date, Festival sponsors and supporters include: CADC Bethlehem, Discover Lehigh Valley, FIG Bethlehem, Freestone Productions, Kira Willey Productions LLC, PBS 39, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Morning Call, RCN, WDIY, Webfoot Digital, and Working Dog Press.

Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound takes place September 4-October 16, 2020, with performances taking place in the parking lot behind Touchstone Theatre and other locations throughout the city. More information at www.touchstone.org

Ketch Up with what’s happenin’ at the Bethlehem Food Co-Op

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Great momentum going for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, a community enterprise aligned with the Gadfly mission. Have you joined yet?

Bethlehem Food Co-Op

Coop 1

Press release August 14

Bethlehem Food Co-Op to share info and updates
The public is invited to “Ketch-Up with the Bethlehem Food Co-Op”, an online Zoom gathering scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m.
The session will include a presentation about the group’s efforts to bring a full-service, community-owned grocery story to the north downtown area of Bethlehem. Lease negotiations are underway for the undisclosed location.
The co-op is a member-based organization, with each paying a one-time equity payment; this entitles them to vote on decisions about the organization and its operations.
In addition to the lease negotiations, the co-op recently hired an architect to design the interior of the store, issued a Request for Proposal for a Project Manager to guide the build-out, and finalized the job description for the store’s General Manager.
“We recently passed the 700 member mark,” said Kelly Allen, chair of the food co-op’s board. “This puts us in a great position as we get ready to announce our location and kick off a capital campaign for the financing we need. More members makes for a stronger co-op, and builds our case to secure funding.”
Thursday’s session will share information about the co-op’s efforts in the area of education, community involvement, supporting local businesses and producers, and addressing issues of food insecurity in our area.
“The pandemic has really shown how vulnerable we are to breaks in the food supply chain,” said Allen. “With our store we will offer an opportunity for local producers to sell their product, year-round, and for everyone – whether they are a member or not – to shop locally.”
For information on how to attend the session, visit the August 20 entry at  bethlehemfood.coop/calendar.
coop logo

What’s up in Allentown these days?

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Gadfly likes to keep an eye on what’s going on in Allentown. Been rocky there. But they have agreed to move forward to continue to talk about, to research some very significant issues.

Such as, for example, a citizen advisory board, availability of body camera footage, and, most importantly, in regard to what we’ve been discussing here on Gadfly lately, reconsidering how public safety is funded.

City of Allentown Resolution

from Andrew Wagaman, “Most of Allentown City Council supports latest resolution on police reforms. Here’s what it says.” Morning Call, August 11, 2020.

By voting for the resolution, council members voice support for:

  • Potentially creating a citizens advisory board for the police force.
  • Recommending the police department revise its use of force policy so officers are required to intervene to stop excessive use of force.
  • Prioritizing departmental spending on de-escalation training and implicit bias training.
  • A “public discussion” with city and police administrators on requiring police to present biannual performance reports to City Council on a variety of data, including use of force incidents.
  • Further consideration of legislation mandating community meetings following use of force incidents.

The updated resolution directs City Clerk Mike Hanlon to basically complete a research project by October on police reform efforts in Harrisburg related to:

  • Requiring body camera footage be made available to the public.
  • Requiring the state attorney general’s office or another third party to investigate all misuse of force allegations.
  • Requiring a shared statewide database of municipal use of force policies.
  • Banning stop and frisk and no knock warrants, and requiring statewide reporting of such incidents.

Next, the resolution authorizes city solicitor Matthew Kloiber and his staff to review — upon the subsequent request of at least two council members — the legality of:

  • Requiring the police department to place officers on administrative leave when they’re being investigated for misuse of force.
  • Punishing police officers, up to and including termination, for failing to use body cameras.

The final section of the updated resolution takes a different approach to reconsidering how public safety is funded.

Rather than specifically calling for the divestment of the police department’s budget, the updated resolution strives to tackle the broader issue of “priority budgeting and allocation of resources as they relate to community needs.” Council also promises to meet with “appropriate agencies and stakeholders” throughout the process.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith on the Community Engagement Initiative: building deeper, stronger, and more trusting relationships between the public, individuals, and the community as a whole

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Co-sponsor with Councilman Reynolds, Crampsie Smith decries those instilling fear and anxiety in others and stresses her law enforcement genes as she joins JWR in kicking off the Community Engagement Initiative.

[The goal of the Community Engagement Initiative is] to address all issues relative to systemic racism as well as build bridges within the community and the police. Community Engagement is a framework of guiding principles that respects the right of all community members to be informed, consulted, involved, and empowered. Community Engagement allows everyone a voice over decisions that affect their lives and their cities and builds deeper, stronger and more trusting relationships between the public, individuals, and the community as a whole. That is our goal. What do we hope this will look like? I agree with Mr. Reynolds. . . . It could include community engagement in training, deliberate dialog and community input, and engaged research. But mostgrace crampsie smith important the direction that Community Engagement takes is guided by the framework of our community members because that’s what its truly all about. While I strongly believe in our democracy’s foundation of the right of all to express their opinions, it is very disturbing to have false contentions to instill fear and anxiety in others. No one on Bethlehem City Council ever said they want to or will eliminate our police department. This is ludicrous, and it is unfortunate that innocent citizens in our city have had fear and anxiety instilled in them needlessly due to these false accusations.  I thank our Administration and police for meeting with us and revising our use of force policies to comply with 8 Can’t Wait. We’ll meet to discuss the need for superior training and resources for mental health. . . . And this is only the beginning of our dialog. I feel I am in a unique position because I come from a family of police. . . . Thus I have personal insight into the professional challenges that police face daily.  Concurrently, I have spent almost 40 years in the Human Services and Counseling field. . . . In my current role as a school counselor. . . . Thus, I certainly do not agree with any group that calls for the elimination of the police. I do feel that we need to work together as a community to be anti-racist. I also feel that we need to insure that we use funds within the police department to make sure that our police and community have the best training and resources available to them. . . . beginning of a long term process. . . . enhance the overall health of our community. . . .

Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative: looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city

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Councilman Reynolds at the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11 lays out his vision of the Community Engagement Initiative: the goal is working toward ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city through two types of meetings, one run by the City, the other by diverse community groups.

Councilman Reynolds is at his rousing best here. Worth listening and catching his energy and enthusiasm.

“That was beautiful,” said Councilwoman Negron, “you get it!”

Community engagement is of course, of course synonymous with Gadfly’s mission.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative is audaciously ambitious.

Catch the wave!

  • Community Engagement Initiative is not just about our police department. It’s about something much bigger than that.
  • People have different experiences based on their race.
  • A lot of the justified anger and frustration . . . has arisen because many Americans and people in positions of authority do not understand those different experiences.
  • Black Lives Matter . . . acknowledges that opportunities in this country have been historically unequal.
  • Correcting those inequities on a structural level is one of the basic tenets of the idea of social justice.
  • Social justice is not just about policing.
  • [the 1-10 analogy, min. 1:28]
  • We can’t have the conversation about #10 [the police] without having a conversation about #’sReynolds 3 1-9.
  • That’s what the Community Engagement Initiative is about.
  • This does not mean not having a police department.
  • It means understanding that systemic racism exists.
  • The CEI is about 1 through 10.
  • [JWR’s students at Allen High School]
  • Their experiences with the institutions that we on City Council personally trust so much . . . they don’t have those same experiences.
  • Systemic issues . . . a priority for me and proposals I have brought forward . . .
  • Systemic racism is real.
  • [Everybody] should care about these other areas [the 1-9].
  • The Community Engagement Initiative is not about our police department; it is about a different kind of conversation and looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.
  • . . . difficult to change things quickly . . . challenge to come up with a plan . . .
  • The Community Engagement Initiative is designed to create a vehicle through which change can be discussed and created by a community by listening to voices that traditionally have not had a seat at the table.
  • There can be two types of meetings, one type of meeting could be run by the City of Bethlehem similar to . . .
  • The second type of meeting, though, could and needs to be run by organizations and groups in our community . . . [schools, churches, social justice organizations]
  • It is important that City Hall or Council doesn’t control all of these meetings.
  • The goal of these meetings could be letting people share their experiences . . . whatever organizers of the meetings want.
  • The decentralized nature of organizing these meetings by design requires the host organization to set the agenda, control questions, etc.
  • The City can hopefully help to spread the word on these meetings, space on web site, etc.
  • Important that we allow organizations and groups the ability to create their own groups and the conversation [schools, churches, Boy’s Club, New Bethany, etc.].
  • Why do we need to have these meetings? Because it’s clear . . . that we need to hear from our residents and we need to hear what we as a city and a community need to do better.
  • How will we be held accountable for what comes up at these meetings? How will we see progress? . . . by what we say and what we do with the conversations and the discussion.
  • I think we do have an opportunity in the coming weeks and months to make tangible progress on ending systemic racism and creating more equitable systems.
  • I think we can change a lot of things in our city for the better.
  • The chance of us making progress, though, will come down to how many people in our community and in positions of authority believe, and are willing to say that they believe, systemic racism is real, that they believe that black and brown lives matter, and that they believe that it’s our responsibility, including anyone in society that has authority, to listen and fix these systems that cause so much damage and pain.
  • I do think that we can be doing much more.

Dueling petitions: defund or defend

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Gadfly is not familiar with the online petition scene, but can there be 15,000 Bethlehem residents signing here on change.org? 20% of our population? Or are there signature-for-hire services out there?

But this is interesting.

The “defunders” candidly seek ultimately the abolition of the police altogether. Their pitch is financial, pointing out that the police budget is 3x that of Community and Economic Development and Health, and that overtime pay is huge. “These numbers are very alarming,” and the money better spent elsewhere.

The defenders pitch fear. The defunders are “radical political activists” who will rain the kind of chaos and terror down on us that we see in Seattle and other places, rending our social fabric, replacing our peace with mayhem and murder.

Defund the Bethlehem Police Department
9,725 signees as of 8/17 8PM

With there being such a widespread eruption of anger due to systemic violence of policing, we are seeing a surge in different options to stop the unjust murders of Black and Brown people by the hands of police officers in communities across America. Even in smaller cities like Bethlehem, we want to make sure that civilians will be protected and prevent such incidences. We ask that the mayor and city council members must defund, and subsequently abolish, the police force in our city. We should instead invest the money into the things that will better our entire community.

For the year 2020, over $16 million went into police. Only $7 million went into Community and Economic Development, including health with little over $2 million. The Bethlehem police department also had the highest earnings of overtime pay in 2019 of any other department with a total of $500,000. These numbers are very alarming, and we could dedicate allocating these monies to projects that would benefit the entire community, such as housing, educational and social programs, and healthcare.

While abolishment of the police department is the ultimate goal, we must first take steps to hold our elected officials responsible and defund the police.

Defend the Bethlehem Police Department
5,997 signees as of 8/17 8PM

We are calling on all citizens to preserve, protect and defend the City of Bethlehem’s Police Department from recent attacks by radical political activists who intend to defund, dismantle and completely abolish our police.

Right now, the activists’ agenda is ringing in our City Council’s ears. It’s the only voice they hear and many council members are actively agreeing to implement their radical agenda.  It is vitally important for law-abiding citizens to send a strong message that we support fair and honest policing and we expect our City Council members to support our police as they preserve our quality of life in Bethlehem.

If we continue to remain silent, our hometown is in danger of experiencing the same skyrocketing chaos, violence and lawlessness already plaguing Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland.   Our families’ safety and the very social fabric of our community is now at stake.

Several cities have already experimented with defunding, dismantling or restraining their police departments to such a degree that the results have been mayhem and death.  Law-abiding citizens who only wish to live their lives in peace in these communities have had to tolerate and live with this terror for days on end – one city for 60 straight days and nights and counting.

Criminals can sense when the police are restrained from their ability to protect us, and the result has been an exponential increase in violent crime, especially in gun violence.  New York City is a perfect, recent example.  We cannot allow that reality in our hometown of Bethlehem, PA.

It is urgent that you add your name to this petition today.  Please show your support and sign this petition so that Bethlehem City Council and the Mayor hear you!  Let them know we have no intention of accepting a community without the brave men and women of our police department.  Let the administration know you expect them to support our police with proper funding for the best de-escalation and sensitivity training as well as improved mental health support for police officers. We need to strengthen their skills, not weaken their resources. Please Sign Today!!!

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (6): Tim and Kim

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Tim Schoenenberger

I support the Bethlehem Police Department. I think they were very transparent in their numbers. I feel some of the comments by some of the people were very off-base. And not supported by any statistics that they could prove. I don’t know what more you can ask from our Chief and our police department. I’ve worked with many of those men and women. . . . I think we have one of the best police departments in the state. I will go as far as saying we have one of the best police departments in the country. I don’t think you get there by not doing the right thing. Are there problems, yeah, I’m sure there are. I think they’ve addressed some of them. I think they are working hard to make sure that those problems are taken care of. I think they’re doing a good job. I’m a little concerned with this resolution . . . first line item . . . I feel the wording . . . just double-talk for defunding the police department. . . . Dialog needs to be opened up. . . . Issues aren’t going to be resolved overnight. . . . Community can achieved that without so much politics being involved. . . . I would be concerned with reallocating funds away from the police department.

Kim Carrell-Smith

I think it’s clear that this process for making complaints reflects a resident and police power gap that perpetuates disempowerment. . . who have to go in to the police department to file a written complaint. . . This could easily be transformed into an online process, if not a call in. . . .Do we really think the people in my neighborhood on the Southside who experience overt bias and demeaning treatment often on a regular basis based on where they live and who they are . . . are actually going to go in City Hall and file paperwork in the police department about the police. It’s a structure the City needs to address. . . . currently legitimizes bias and perpetuates the gap between those who hold power and those who are subject to it. My identity as a straight white 60-something woman means I receive more respect and hold more privilege than any in my South Bethlehem neighborhood when it comes to potential interactions with police, but I’ve seen that respectful treatment and benefit of the doubt isn’t always afforded my Southside neighbors . . . not often explicit . . . kinda hard to nail down . . . but I know the feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach when I think this wouldn’t be happening to folks in Historic Bethlehem, for example, or maybe white folks anywhere. So, just a couple of examples . . . after midnight by banging on our door . . . [officer] didn’t expect that anybody on the Southside would take care of their home. . . . Would this have happened in, say, Historic Bethlehem? . . . I do Southside tours for Lehigh students . . . police officer asked to speak to the group and warned them up and down how dangerous the Southside was. . . . Not true. . . . Exactly why I take students on this tour. . . . What would have happened if I was a POC and argued with him. . . . Chief DiLuzio was upset, which I appreciated. . . . But what about other officers on the force and their understanding or bias about my part of town. . . . So what if we had more officers of color? What if we worked to recruit to really raise our own folks to become our police department. . . . What if we looked at our community policing and thought more about building relationships with residents instead of just businesses and Lehigh students? . . . What if we thought about what the police could receive and could learn if they invited neighborhood residents to teach them about their lives and their neighborhood culture and listen very intentionally? I think it’s time to shift the power dynamic, and there are national models that show how to do that. One final example . . . taze him . . . ended up in jail . . . another crisis . . . afraid the police would use lethal force . . . violent confrontation . . . police admit to a lack of expertise in these crises . . . Time to think about investing in trained professionals . . . rapid response counseling system.

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow tonight Tuesday, August 18, 7PM

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow tonight Tuesday, August 18, at 7PM.

The meeting documents are located at the following link:
https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/66

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 August 18, 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 (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on August 18, 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.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Gadfly’s not sure he sees anything “hot” on the agenda.

General interest for us will probably be in reports by the Mayor, Council President, and the Public Safety Committee chair — and in new business.

Gadfly would hope for some sense of plan of future developments following up the Public Safety Committee meeting on August 11 as well as some Council feedback on that meeting.

But there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Be informed. Be involved.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (5): Will and Gail

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Will Strauss

There is a systemic issue impacting certain populations of the town of Bethlehem. The awful truth of the matter is when Bethlehem police use force it is disproportionately impacting Hispanic and Black communities. This disproportionate use against communities of color breaks the trust the community has with its police force. It is a measurable indicator of discrimination. . . . Just because it is on par with national statistics doesn’t mean it should be accepted at a local level. In a city that has 60% white majority, the use of force for the Black community which holds only 7.5% of the city population make up the same amount of incidents year over year for the past 10 years. In a city that brings in typically a million tourists for MusikFest . . . we still have more use of force for incidents for people of color  — Hispanic and Black combined — than white members of the population. There is a lack of transparency with this data that begs the following question . . . is this a few problem officers, is this a school resource issue? We are tracking use of force, but we have a disproportionate gap here. What reviews are in force to find officers who disproportionately use force in communities of color. On a personal . . . run-ins . . . in front of my young children that left all of them traumatized. No complaints were filed, out of fear for safety in the moment . . . What are my children’s thoughts of law enforcement after that? My wife’s skin color is not a threat. My children are bi-racial. My son is autistic. My children’s existence is not resistance. But it is treated as such by the people who we are supposed to trust the most. The data supports that fact. Too often all that we talk about still allows the system to continue unchecked. We need transparency on the who and then we can find out the why. We can then start holding people accountable.

Gail Schoenenberger

I want the police to know that we support you and the people who couldn’t get through support you as well. . . . I’m disappointed in this resolution that I feel was passed during a virtual meeting that took place during a coronavirus pandemic and that the communication was poor and I feel that was intentional. I appreciate through this meeting the transparency of the police, and the statistics only increases my confidence and my faith in them. I feel that some of the questions posed by Council seemed like a fishing expedition for bad behavior when there was none. . . . Recent polling suggests that Americans don’t support the defunding of the police department. 60% of Black Americans wanted policing to remain the same. . . . Training. . . . Defunding or resource reallocation is not the answer. . . . I would submit to you that violent crime is not being reported because people are afraid. . . . I voted for many of you on Council because your mailing suggested police support. . . . Was this a ploy for my vote, for right now I’m wondering where your support for the police is. . . . Minneapolis. . . . not to upset those that are robbing you. . . . If this happens in Bethlehem, I will move out of this city or I will work diligently to replace each one of you that has voted to defund this police department.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (4): Susan and Michele

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Susan Brown

I am just really disgusted with these people who are calling in and attacking our police department. I’ve been a resident for 40 years, I’ve had the police help me many times. One of the most important times was when my 14 yr old daughter was raped. . . . The Bethlehem Police Department got involved . . . Detective Galloway . . . spent over a year . . . getting the evidence because my 14 yr old daughter was afraid for her life and her family’s life, when the incident happened she was threatened. . . . I want to say that I’m tired of these residents, or these groups of people that are against the police department. We have one of the best police departments ever. . . . I have great respect for people in the service field. I think we should be praising them, thanking them, that in today’s society, with everything that is happening, that they even want to be of service to us, that they even want to go out and risk their lives every day, put on that uniform and not know what they are going to get in to. And they have families to go home to that are waiting for them. And these people that are blaming the police for everything, this has got to stop. There is no such thing as defunding, dismantling, abolishing the police department. These people are insane. They need to go somewhere and live in Minneapolis where all this stuff is happening. It’s not happening here in Bethlehem, and I just want to say thank you Chief DiLuzio and everybody else that’s involved in the Bethlehem Police Department.

Michele Downing

30 years registered nurse . . . licensed social worker . . . specialty substance abuse treatment. . . .  Courageous to be willing to have uncomfortable situations. . . . You should not be normalizing these kinds of behaviors. I have never, ever had to taze someone. pepper spray them, or threaten them with a gun. or take them to the floor to de-escalate a situation. . . . thousands of situations. . . . I don’t know if that is a training issue. . . . To normalize the fact that we are talking about brutalizing a human being as a method of de-escalation is just really not acceptable and alarming. . . . Police Chief . . . denied or ignored information from Dr. Ochs’ team. . . . Best case scenario I have a Police Chief who is not checking his email and worst case scenario I have a Police Chief who got on this call and lied to city council and all the members of this city who had the decency and respect to stay on this call for over 4 hours. . . . No one has told me what police officers are taking [in regard to training]. . . . I don’t think that asking how much training is actually happening is an unreasonable request. . . . Please do not get this mistaken. I am not anti-police. I am pro-Bethlehem. I am pro my community. . . . But if you do not live here you are not a citizen of Bethlehem. Because you work here does not make you a citizen. . . . hopeful that we can move toward . . . hire . . . candidates that live here so that they have the same investment in the welfare of this city.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (3): Jon and Lawrence

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Jon Irons

I have three takeaways. . . . I really appreciate all the questions that came from Council members tonight. . . . I see there’s a willingness to take your responsibility seriously of overseeing what is a department of the city of Bethlehem and not a special hallowed organization that needs to be held above other people. . . . My second thought is that I was really disappointed with the answers that you received. . . . I for one am in support of the 8 to Abolition campaign to re-imagine what Public Safety looks like . . . and I have a vision of that that includes much, much less police if not no police, and I understand that that is an intense point of view, and I understand that it’s not an all or nothing point of view but that there have to be steps in that direction. But the answers shrunk my faith in the police department. As an Hispanic male, the answers that were given about the disparities in the use of force were wholly inadequate. . . . You’re investing somewhere around 20% of your budget in this department, and if they can’t ask simple questions like that . . . consider whether this is an investment working for the city and the people. And the last thing that I kinda picked up on is in talking about the Community Engagement  Initiative. It sounds like there’s a lot of healthy infrastructure and caring infrastructure . . . It’s all there, and I’d really like to see those aspects of our community lifted up, and if our investment in the police is not paying off, and if it’s just growing year by year and not producing any accountable results, then let’s look at the programs that are, let’s look at the programs that are helping people with their mental health struggles . . . let’s look at our schools. . . . There’s a lot that this community needs to offer, and I think unfortunately one of the biggest impediments is the large amount of money that is earmarked very year straight to the police department with, in my view, very little accountability. . . . I feel that there’s been a lot of listening already going on. This didn’t start with George Floyd . . . decades, almost a century . . . This is not new. . . . My hope for the Initiative is that it’s coming from a Council ready for change.

Lawrence Mayo

I am not a resident, but I am a former police officer in the city. . . . There has been a lot of concern about last month’s demonstrators who called for abolishing and defunding the City’s police department. So I was very happy to hear from Councilman Colon that we will not be doing this tonight. . . . The City of Bethlehem has invested in this department over the years, and I think that the return on this investment . . . has yielded for the City has been exceptionally good. Over the past 10 years Bethlehem Police officers have definitely saved hundreds of live, probably many more. There officers have done so not only from stopping violent crimes in progress, but also by administering life-saving . . . to overdose victims, performing CPR when they arrive on the scene before EMS, deploying automatic defibrillators, and other actions. They have taken hundreds of drunk drivers off the road, seized large quantities of deadly heroin and deadly fetanol, and other drugs. They have eradicated and contained entire criminal organizations, and they have seized illegal guns. They have returned probably hundreds of missing children to their parents . . . domestic abuse, assault, and homicide. . . . Bethlehem’s violent crime rate is significantly lower than the national average. . . . Top 10 safest cities of its size in the United States. This is not a broken police department as one or two of the other commenters mentioned. A broken organization does not save hundreds of lives over the course of ten years. . . . The city of Bethlehem has indeed made a wise and profitable investment. . . . This investment has yielded not only safety but prosperity in terms of business development and residential development. . . . Exactly 9 years ago today I responded to an assist call and arrived to see officer Robert Lasso being taken onto an ambulance with a mortal wound from a shotgun. . . . [Officers] are heavily invested in your city as well.

The Bethlehem conversations on defunding the police (2): Justin and Jenna

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Justin Luckash (?)

There’s a large difference between calls to end systemic racism . . . and/or calls to defund or abolish the police. A lot of people may say that abolishing the police department is different than defunding it, but make no mistake, the goal is to eliminate the police department. As of this writing, there’s a petition right now on Change.org that has close to 10,000 signatures [9,725 as Gadfly posts] with the goal being to eliminate the Bethlehem Police Department. . . . Defunding the police is only the first step in their [8 to Abolition] plan. . . . believe in a world in which there are zero police murders because there are no police. . . . A lot of reactions that we have are based on fear. Can police departments do a better job, absolutely. . . . The best way to combat fear is with facts. . . . In 2019 alone the Bethlehem Police Department saved 45 lives with overdose medication. In the last four years . . . they saved 218 lives. . . . So my question is who will save these lives in the future? . . . Are we as a City seeking to defund the police saying these lives aren’t valuable? In that same time period zero residents died at the hands of the police department. So what I’m asking is what is the disservice here? In the same time period there were 298 officers injured in the line of duty, yet they continue to go to work protecting our city every day. 1300 DUI arrests made. So the next time you are out driving I ask you to consider the world in which there is no worry about drinking and driving costing lives. 128 rapes reported and 7 murders. I ask you who the rape or death of your loved one if we abolish or defund police departments. . . . 13 arrests made in internet crimes. . . . Who’s going to protect the lives of our children of our community if we abolish or defund the police department? . . . They are statistics that have been largely ignored tonight. . . .We can’t ignore the statistics of what the police department does aside from the use of force. For there’s far more good that’s done by our police officers. . . . Bethlehem Mounted Police going through our neighborhood talking with my children, that’s the kind of community involvement that the police department does. They were in our neighborhood for no other reason than to talk to residents, to say Hi. . . . That’s the things that we are not looking at. . . . Working with Project Life-Saver . . . [Police] willing to get up in the middle of the night, leave their families.

Jenna Teague

I’m coming as someone who is a citizen, a resident, as someone who has personally experienced mental health and substance abuse issues. . . . Encounters with police are traumatizing even when they don’t end with injury or death. I have personally felt on the brink of suicide. . . . I’m going to tell you when the cops show up with their lights and guns, that is traumatizing, whether or not they used force, whether or not they racially profiled anybody. When we say defund the police, we say don’t fund them to respond to those calls — pay social workers, pay mental health professionals. And I will tell you as a mental health professional, our work does not end at 5PM. . . . Work this is tiring, and underpaid, and there’s a high burn-out rate, and that’s because all the money is going to the police. . . . Introducing members of the community with health issues into the criminal justice system is not helping them. . . . Aiding? . . . They’re just not. Short of administering Narcan which pretty much anybody can do. . . . They are not designed as a structure, as an institution to assist anybody. I want to call out some of the racist remarks I heard by Chief DiLuzio. Saying that there’s racist cops as much as racist truck drivers . . . That statement was insinuating  that racism in any form should be tolerated. We’re here to tell you that it is not. . . . It’s no longer being tolerated. Tolerating racism in any form is racist. . . . Data. . . . Data that’s been reported by the Police Department. Data’s not all we have. We need to be listening to people. people who have experienced mental health, people who have been arrested, people who have actually been assaulted by police. . . . Experiences are just as valuable as the numbers on your reports. . . . Talk to the residents, talk to the people who can’t come to a meeting. . . . Let’s really talk about the people this is really affecting and that we are showing up here for. It’s not us, it’s for the people who can’t be here tonight. Our black and brown neighbors. I’m very against the idea that we can just train the police better. . . . Police encounters are traumatizing whether or not they end in injury or death. . . . They do not de-escalate the situation. . . .  They don’t make it better. So when we say defund the police, it’s we want to fund appropriate response. We’re not saying we’re going to allow rape and murder to run rampant. . . . We’re saying we need to think about what other people’s experience with police have been like. . . . Your point of view is not the only one that matters.

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

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Good conversation builds community.
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

Let’s continue the good conversation

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Gadfly has done a slow walk through the police presentations and Council discussion on the police use of force policy at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting.

He has asked you to think about what struck you, and we’ve had posted responses from Messrs. Hackett and Zahm. Tip o’ the hat to them. And a continuing beckoning finger to you to join the conversation.

Gadfly is now about ready to put the substantial public comment on the police part of the meeting (remember that the second agenda item was the Community Engagement Initiative — more on that later) on the table for us to analyze and discuss.

But how to do that interestingly?

That commentary was a feast for Gadfly, whose project was largely motivated by trying to amplify the good resident voices he was hearing at City Council meetings. Gadfly has always been proud of the high quality of Bethlehem citizen discourse.

Chair Colon said in his opening remarks that the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting “had nothing to do” with abolishing or defunding the police.

That’s not how the callers saw it. D-funding was d-focus.

Gadfly counted 27 commenters, pretty close in numbers, but definitely tilting against defunding.

Gadfly would like to keep the conversation going, particularly today and tomorrow prior to the Council meeting tomorrow night in which we hope to hear more about Council members’ views and plans for further activities.

We want to take every opportunity to make Council members aware of what we are thinking.

So what Gadfly has done and what you will see in the next series of posts is go down the list of commenters in chronological order and randomly and arbitrarily pair them, one supporting the police and against defunding, the other for defunding or other modifications of the police department status quo.

Thus you will see in the next post Allison Mickel, who was the first commenter, paired with Don Szabo, who was the fourth.

And Gadfly will continue in subsequent posts to work down the list and create pairs of contrasting views by people who spoke close to each other.

The idea is to keep civil and courteous conversation between two fellow community members going.

Gadfly invites each member of the pair to respond to the other, civilly and courteously. What do you agree with in the other’s post, what disagree? Why? What did the other post make you think about? What more would you like the other poster to think about? Do you see any chance for common ground, or do you think you are unalterably opposed? That kind of thing. Imagine that you are face to face. What would you be saying to each other?

Now maybe neither Allison or Don are followers of the Gadfly, so some of you who know them might have to alert them about this interesting opportunity to interact and to spur further thinking in all of us.

But even if we don’t get further buy-in from the actual commenters, Gadfly hopes this narrow point/counter-point presentation will help us focus.

Gadfly is big on focus.

Try to put your own view aside for a moment. Stand outside. Be objective. You’re a fly on the wall. How is each side arguing? What is the basis for each position? What are the strengths of their positions, what weaknesses? What did they make you think about? Were there any surprises, anything new? That kind of thing.

Granted, these are arbitrary pairs, people not precisely responding to each other, but pretend that they are.

Please listen to the voices. Gadfly says always go to the primary source. His text is not a transcription, his text does not transcribe everything, only enough to give you the gist.

And then please comment.

Good conversation builds community.

How is the defunding wind blowing on City Council?

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Nobody on Council has called for the abolishment or defunding of the police dept.
Council President Waldron, Public Safety Committee, 8/11

There was talk about defunding the police department.  And I just want to clarify that.
Councilman Callahan, Public Safety Committee, 8/11

The idea of defunding police departments is nationally a “hot” one.

How is City Council leaning?

First, Gadfly asks us again to be sure we define the term. “Defund the police” needs an agreed upon understanding, especially with people new to the controversy and the conversation, if meaningful discussion is to have any chance at all.

“Defund the police” is not synonymous with “Eliminate the police” (which, yes, some people advocate).

Not.

And nobody on Council is advocating elimination of the police.

Public Safety Committee chair Colon recognized the problem with the term “defund the police” at the very top of the August 11 meeting,  but Gadfly feels he may have compounded confusion by indicating the term can pretty much mean what the person using it wants:

No, it can’t mean what any one wants it to mean.

It must mean what the people who coined it meant it to mean.

It must mean what it is.

To say otherwise is to suggest that it has no meaning.

“Defunding the police” has a clear definition.

It would have been much more helpful if Chair Colon had said that during this meeting “defund the police” will be used in its proper meaning of “a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.” (good ol’ Wikipedia)

And defunding the police is not a harebrained idea. Gadfly has in these pages already explored with you its fruitful existence in such places as Eugene and St. Petersburg.

But defunding is politically hot. Maybe even a kind of third rail. Which way is the City leaning? Which way is Council leaning?

At last week’s meeting, Council president Waldron said nobody had called for defunding, to which Councilman Callahan immediately clarified that there was talk of such.

Prez Waldron may be technically right, but let’s look a bit more closely at some of the statements Council members have made, especially Councilman Reynolds.

Councilman Callahan seems to have been referring to statements by Councilman Reynolds. Councilman Reynolds speaks forcefully — we all know he booms! I want to salute when he talks! — and Gadfly remembers the definite feeling that he was envisioning the possibility of defunding this very year in urging space for discussion before the November/December budget season commenced. At the July 7 City Council meeting JWR urged passage that night of his resolution with Councilwoman Crampsie Smith in words that indicated there was no time to waste: he “didn’t want to wait to do this resolution . . . because the biggest part of this in [his] mind [was] creating the public pressure on the City to change.” Sure sounded like the possibility of defunding to me and, Gadfly thinks, to Councilman Callahan.

At the June 16 City Council meeting, JWR said, “the [residents of the] city want us to have a conversation about how are we spending this money in public safety, not necessarily reducing the money but whether or not it does make sense to allocate resources other ways.” Gadfly heard the possibility of defunding.

At last week’s Public Safety meeting. JWR introduced the valuable 1-10 analogy, with 10 the police department where all of the problems eventually end up after breakdowns in the 9 other areas. He broadened our vision to the need for reallocating resources outside the police department, or at least that’s the way Gadfly heard him in comments like this: “It means spending our time and allocating our resources as a city and a community,” he said, “in a way that recognizes the responsibility of people in positions of authority to improve 1 through 10” [and not just 10]. Gadfly heard the possibility of defunding.

Now there’s a nuance here possibly. On June 16, JWR did say twice that the focus was on allocating funds “within” the police department — and that doesn’t sound strictly as defunding.

Now JWR’s resolution colleague Councilwoman Crampsie Smith seems to take a firm position against defunding. She calls for outside funding to enhance the police department and/or re-allocating existing funds within the department.

I have never myself meant taking funds away [from the police department] nor will I. . . . I have recommended looking for grants . . . for additional mental health specialists. . . .   (8/4)

No one on Bethlehem City Council ever said they want to or will eliminate our police department. . . . I certainly do not agree with any group that calls for the elimination of the police. I do feel that we need to work together as a community to be anti-racist. I also feel that we need to insure that we use funds within the police department to make sure that our police and community have the best training and resources available to them. (8/11)

Councilman Callahan has an equally firm, an adamant position against defunding:

There was some talk a couple weeks ago about defunding the police department. I in no way would ever support anything like that. Defunding means taking away and removing funds from, and I think if we do anything, as Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith said, we have to have more training for the police officers. (8/11)

Gadfly doesn’t believe that Councilfolk Colon, Negron, Van Wirt, or Waldron have made explicit statements one way or the other about defunding the police.

Gadfly would hope all Council members would have an open mind about the notion of defunding the police.

He would hope that even Council members Crampsie Smith and Callahan would exhibit an open mind until they vouch for their significant study of model defunding programs and articulate the reasons for their lack of support. And GCS must know that Police Chiefs in some places have favored such programs, even initiated them, and have not been dragged kicking and screaming into them.

Proclaiming “I in no way would ever support anything like that” without undertaking careful study and engaging in open discussion with proponents of defunding would seem an intellectually disagreeable position.

(Is it a bridge too far to imagine an informational presentation on such model defunding programs for the City Administration, the Council, the Police Department, and the general public?)

It is curious to Gadfly that such firm positions would be announced before community engagement engages. Are we foreclosing the possibility that after presentations, examination, study, discussion the community might want to defund the police? What then? There seems to be a contradiction here.

Bethlehem police invite public comment

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Gadfly so surprised this wasn’t announced at Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting. Or did he just miss it among the many proceedings?

from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem police invite public to comment on its performance during reaccreditation process.” Morning Call, August 16, 2020.

As they go through the national re-accreditation process with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Bethlehem police invite the public and city officials to comment on whether they feel the department complies with national standards.

An assessment team will take calls from the public 2-4 p.m. Monday. Comments are limited to 10 minutes. The number to call is 610-865-1069.

CALEA is a national police accreditation agency which also provides guidance for departments in Canada and Mexico. It requires agencies to establish a framework for evaluating procedures and keeping arrest records, and requires officers to undergo bias and de-escalation training.

Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio said the commission mandates yearly reviews. And every three or four years, departments undergo a full reaccreditation process, which includes getting public comment.

Bethlehem Police Department has been accredited by CALEA since 2007. The department should have word on whether it satisfied the requirements by the end of the year, DiLuzio said. This review includes inspections of police headquarters and equipment, and an assessment of the department’s manpower.

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Note related story on peer intervention program:

from Dave Collins, “New push to train police officers how to stop abuse in own ranks.” Morning Call, August 16, 2020.

Despite policies on the books for years that require officers across the United States to stop colleagues from using excessive force, there has been little or no effort to teach officers how to intervene, law enforcement officials and experts say.

“I don’t think departments have prepared their officers sufficiently to deal with that sort of situation,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank. “Have we really thought through what that actually means, what’s actually expected of them? ‘Duty to intervene’ has to mean more than words. It has to mean actions.”

The Allentown Police Department has no such policy, but it’s among several reforms City Council is considering. The Bethlehem Police Department, the only one in the Lehigh Valley accredited by a national organization, already requires its officers to intervene when a fellow officer uses force inappropriately.

Like politicians, I always question the police: “It’s that power thing”

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Bud and Gadfly,

I wanted to make these comments, by phone, Tuesday [at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting]. The meeting was long enough. Gadfly, thank you for this forum. Bud, thank you for your continued commitment to discussion.

One can see the protest movement is not ALL attacks, if one is not overcome by emotion/anger and biases. Those in opposition to reviewing policing (and city leadership) might benefit and come together with protesters by thinking of (much of) their inspiration in calling for “defunding” the police as self-defense. Like the police and the public trading places, I’d like to see “White” people trade places with Minorities. And not for an hour or a day. OR a week. Our history has NOT been made right.

SO WHY ARE WE MEETING TO DISCUSS THE CEI?: I have always been grateful for police. My life has been protected, and I am eternally indebted. I respect those that do it and are willing to discuss their work – our work – with me. But I ALWAYS question them. Like I must politicians. It’s that power thing.

Best Police Force? Perhaps they are in measurable ways. But “best” is dangerous. (How is it a competition?) Loved by many residents? Truly a wonderful thing. But what about the other residents – all bad? Un-uh. Until the paradigm under which policing exists is deconstructed and discussed thoroughly by Bethlehem residents — most of whom didn’t/haven’t shown up — I believe we will continue to reap the divisive results of our effort and investment from over all of the last 400 years.

The primary reason we met on Tuesday, was to answer the call inspired by the COMMUNITY VOICES demanding to be heard ON BEHALF OF OUR MINORITY FAMILY! If you don’t understand the need, please invest the intellectual curiosity and find the compassion to research the reasoning and ASK those making the demands.

With the revelations of protests over the last several months, police – AND CITY LEADERSHIP – REVIEW must take place. THIS MUST INCLUDE FUNDING review publicly, with input from a broader representation of the community. AND NOT JUST THOSE CHOSEN BY THE MAYOR AND/OR HIS STAFF, please. Anything less fails to represent the needs of ALL community demographics. If the police are here to protect — and council and the mayor to lead — EVERYONE.

OPINION AND SCIENCE: I was happy to hear the contrasting, heartfelt, and often eloquent opinions of callers. Notwithstanding them, to make decisions, I believe we need to acquire science and then DISCUSS it WITH all stakeholders and not controlled by a political minority.

PROFESSOR OCHS/CORE: To this point, why was Professor Ochs NOT a planned/featured speaker?! To me this reveals bias and/or ignorance. Which is worse? For balance, why was her data not presented visually in the meeting for the public to see? (Fortunately, Gadfly did the city’s job and posted this for our review, as well.)

I read through the police use of force policies and report prior to the meeting, thanks to Gadfly posting them. And I listened in for about 5 hours to the meeting. The professor was given extra time (AS A CITIZEN CALLER) apparently as an afterthought. Unacceptable! At least several participants joined explicitly to hear her and discuss her data. And the participation of CORE was specifically written in to the resolution!

Perhaps there will be another meeting. But WHERE IS A SCHEDULE?! Or does the public have to dig down and squeeze through a digital gopher hole to find it?

PUBLICIZING CITY MEETINGS/NEWS: What response is there from council and the mayor regarding better publicizing of council and safety meetings when such topics are to be discussed? I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE TO RAISE FLAGS ABOUT THE CITY’S POOR COMMUNICATION: unanswered emails, unanswered public questions, poor attendance . . . DO WE CARE TO ENGAGE EVERYONE? Are we not valuable enough to be worth a couple digital message boards around the city????!!! I’D WELCOME REGULAR TEXT MESSAGES (but not as a singular substitute for message boards). Any GOOD teacher knows, you have to meet them where they are . . . if you care. (Yes, you want students to stretch. Adults too? Sure, but not at the expense of losing their input.)

The city must accept responsibility for the poor public turnout/comment on city business. (Unless it “accepts no responsibility.”) The community must certainly do the same. (This is the . . . fourth[?] . . . time I’m publishing it or speaking it at a council meeting over the last 2-3 months.) Whom did YOU let know about this meeting?

CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT: Regarding appropriate/thorough oversight, where is the effort by the city? Where is the discussion of a civilian review board? Not necessary? Well, then, why was it not until THIS SUMMER that council finally received the police dept’s policies on use of force? They had to request them! Did I read correctly that Chief DiLuzio felt it was for the safety of the police that they were kept from the public? Ironic?

QUALITY OF LIFE . . . OR FEAR?/NO ONE HAS BEEN KILLED: A caller pointed out that no one has died in a police call (in the last five years?). That is good news. Someone I said that to, however, responded, “That we know of.” That’s hard to hear, even for me, a skeptic. That person was a Latino with less trust of police from past experience here and in NYC. That feeling matters.

Now, shouldn’t at least some of the credit for not dying by police be given to those not doing the dying? I mean, has everyone assumed that that statistic is due solely to the police? Councilwoman Negron herself pointed out – and Gadfly highlighted – that many Blacks/Latinos/LGBTQ/Other minorities live in fear and adjust their behavior thusly.

Do we believe in a “healthy fear” of the police? I’ve lived – past tense – under the assumption for a long time that that’s normal. But should the “affected” (Mayor Donchez’s word, “Comments on Minneapolis”) live in fear of the police to the point that they LIVE. BUT AT WHAT PRICE THEIR QUALITY OF LIFE? Something is very wrong there. By “there,” I mean here, also.

AUG 11 SAFETY MEETING ATTENDANCE (to discuss the CEI): WHAT WAS IT? I want to know. Those demographics will reveal the city’s effort to reach its residents.

(Finally) SURVEY/FEEDBACK: And, Mr. Mayor and Chief DiLuzio, did you consider sending a survey to those who signed up to speak/attend? To the general public?

That could still be done and could provide valuable data.

Truly,

greg zahm