BAPL’s Rayah Levy: “Voices from the African Diaspora: The Black Experience of Bethlehem”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Black Bethlehem Project

Voices from the African Diaspora: The Black Experience of Bethlehem
Rayah Levy, Bethlehem Area Public Library
February 16, 2021, 6:30-8:30PM
Register here

We speak of Moravian Bethlehem. And many of us know at least something about it.

Rayah will speak about Black Bethlehem. Which only a few of us know anything at all about.

We are closing in on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.

What will we have to show for the year?

What have we learned about race in our lives?

Black Bethlehem Project

Bethlehem police & DA charge Bethlehem Gang Members with Torturing and Killing a Gang Friend

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

This report is adapted from a 2-4-21 story by Lehigh Valley Ramblings

ref: Recent news about troublesome “first contact” situations involving the police

Gadfly:

Here is a picture of the Bethlehem resident that tortured and killed a fellow gang member by lighting him on fire while still alive and killing him in a dumpster.

Imagine what it was like for the witnesses and Bethlehem Police who found the victim burning and still screaming in the dumpster.

That must have been quite a “first contact.”

Alkiohn Dunkins
photo from Lehigh Valley Ramblings

The Bethlehem gang torture/murder took place on April 24, 2018, at the Parkhurst Apartments complex in Bethlehem. Northampton County DA announced the arrest on 2-4-21.

Mr. Dunkins’ co-conspirators, Yzire Jenkins Rowe, 22, and Miles Harper, 21, were already charged with the homicide

The Bethlehem-based gang is called Money Rules Everything (MRE) and originated in the Marvine and Pembroke housing development.

The victim Mr. Holmes “could be heard screaming at a high pitch,” and witnesses could see movement while he was engulfed in flames.

Dunkins stabbed Holmes outside Parkhurst apartments. He directed his co-conspirators to douse Holmes with gasoline and set him afire.

Does the Bethlehem community know and understand the violence that is taking place among the gangs in our community?

Is the police work to stop the violence and protect our citizens a worthy pursuit?

How has Mr. Gadfly’s continued campaign to “defund the police” impacted that effort?

Bud

BAPL’s Rayah Levy: “Lessons Learned from the Black Bethlehem Project”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Black Bethlehem Project

Lessons Learned from the Black Bethlehem Project
Rayah Levy, Bethlehem Area Public Library
February 10, 2021, 12-1:30PM
Register here

Gadfly is fond of saying — along with many, many others — that the murder of George Floyd (should have) triggered (another) national reckoning with race.

He is also fond of saying that he fears time is passing and that soon we will be saying “George who?”

But the Bethlehem Area Public Library has more than done its part through resources and programs to sustain our reckoning.

Especially in the person of BAPL’s head of adult services Rayah Levy.

Knowledge of our racial history is integral to a true sense of community.

Here’s yet another chance to learn from Rayah.

Black Bethlehem Project

Recent news about troublesome “first contact” situations involving the police

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

A police officer charged with murder, an hysterical 9-year-old pepper-sprayed, a suicidal man with his hands up killed, suits lodged.

Gadfly reminds you that evidence abounds that something is wrong in the way that police respond to mental health calls and other “first contact” situations.

We have been promised a Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss these kinds of things locally.

We are not that far from the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and we don’t have a lot to show for the introspection that tragedy should have invoked.

Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world — pandemics, insurrections, multiple impeachments, record-breaking storms . . . you name it, we seem to be suffering it.

And, yes, the Police Department has initiated a modest pilot program with the Health folk.

(By the way, we learned at the January 25 BASD meeting that police department involvement in the “Handle with Care” program has been very successful.)

Unfortunately, the politics of “defunding” ensnarl such discussion.

But this has nothing to do with politics, but simply recognizing that there is an obvious problem in police practice that needs to be discussed.

But time is passing, and election season might make this an uneasy subject to bring up.

———-

Will Wight, “Former Columbus Police Officer Is Charged With Murder.” New York Times.” February 3, 2021.   [This is the Andre Hill case]

A Columbus police officer who was fired after fatally shooting a Black man in December was arrested and charged with felony murder on Wednesday, Attorney General Dave Yost of Ohio announced.

The officer, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran who is white, was also charged with felonious assault and two counts of dereliction of duty.

Mr. Coy shot Andre Hill four times after responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle. When he and another officer arrived at the scene, Mr. Coy found Mr. Hill in a garage and opened fire within seconds.

Mr. Yost said his office acted as a special prosecutor in the case, reviewing evidence, interviewing witnesses and presenting charges to a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Coy on Wednesday.

Tim Craig and K.J. Edelman,” Mother of 9-year-old Rochester, N.Y. girl said police rebuffed her pleas for mental health help for her daughter.” Washington Post, February 3, 2021.

The mother of the 9-year-old Rochester, N.Y., girl who was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police said Wednesday that she repeatedly told an officer that her daughter was having a mental health breakdown and she pleaded with them to call a specialist instead of trying to detain her.

The officer said “no,” Elba Pope said.

Pope, 30, said the incident, which sparked nationwide outrage and prompted fresh scrutiny of how law enforcement agencies deal with people in emotional distress, has left her rattled and fearful that her daughter could suffer long-term emotional trauma.

“I was saying, ‘We need mental health out there,’ ” Pope said in an interview. “He ignored me.”

Molly Bilinski and Peter Hall, “Family of teen fatally shot by state police on Poconos overpass announce lawsuit, are being represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.” Morning Call, February 3, 2021.

“Christian Hall needed a helping hand, but yet he got bullets while he had his hands up,” said Benjamin L. Crump, the family’s attorney. ” … When people have mental health crises, the police should de-escalate the situation, not settle it with a gun. That’s not what good policing is.”

At 1:38 p.m., state police responded to a report of a suicidal man and found Hall standing with a gun near the bridge, according to the agency. After speaking with Hall, troopers persuaded him to put the gun down, but he picked the gun back up and began walking toward the troopers, police said.

Police say Hall pointed the gun in their direction, and they shot him.

But, Crump and Jacob argue that Hall was standing with his hands up when officers shot him, and his killing “should never have happened.”

Hall was going through a breakup with his girlfriend, Crump said, and was suffering from mental health issues and could have been contemplating suicide.

A new video, recorded by a bystander during the incident and circulating on social media shows “Christian has his hands up — both hands — up in the air,” Jacob said.

HCLV goodies start Monday

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Gadfly’s planning on sessions 1 and 4. How ’bout you? Which are you interested in? The “Trust Building with Law Enforcements” looks especially relevant to concerns in the air locally in the post-GeorgeFloyd era, and perhaps we will have had the promised Public Safety Committee meeting beforehand.

Here are the links to register to each session:

SESSION 1

JANUARY 25, 2021

10:00am – 11:15am

Deeper Discussion About Colorism: Unpacking White Privilege in the Latino Community

Presenter: Dr. Griselda Rodriguez Solomon, PhD, City University Of New York Facilitator

REGISTER HERE

 

SESSION 2

FEBRUARY 23, 2021

10:00am – 11:30am

From the Streets of Los Angeles to a Ph.D.: Empowering Students and Families Who Need Us the Most

Presenter: Dr. Paul Hernandez, PhD, The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, Washington, DC.

REGISTER HERE

 

SESSION 3

MARCH 26, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Destigmatize Mental Health in the Latino Community Presenter: To be announced

REGISTER HERE

 

SESSION 4

APRIL 12, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Trust Building with Law Enforcements

Presenter & Facilitator: Guillermo Lopez, Intersekt Alliance in Partnership with Praxis Consulting Group

Guest Panelists: Michelle Kott, City of Bethlehem Police Chief and Jason D. Schiffer, Lehigh University Police Chief

REGISTER HERE

 

SESSION 5

JUNE 16, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Immigration as an Agent of Growth and Innovation

Presenter: Dr. Alberto Cardelle, PhD, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, Fitchburg State University, Massachusetts

REGISTER HERE

Reckoning with Racism

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

These two of the most familiar Insurrection Day images demonstrate that we have a ways to go toward achieving the American Dream of a multi-racial democracy in which all people are truly equal.

Gadfly is fond of saying that the murder of George Floyd triggered (another) national reckoning with race. And fond of saying that the Bethlehem Area Public Library has done a wonderful job of providing resources and programs that enable us to do the kind of reading, viewing, thinking, discussing, learning that that reckoning requires of us if that death is to have any lasting meaning.

Gadfly recommends these two programs now in progress.

Sundays January 3, 10, 17, 24 from 12:00-1:30

Information and registration

Note especially Rayah Levy, “The Modern African American Experience in Bethlehem,” January 24

———–

The next two meetings of our “conversations” will be based on the last two chapters of Kendi’s book, but the discussion is free-ranging, and you can profit even if you can’t complete the reading.

register here

Allentown Police Department: involving social workers a good idea, disagreements about funding

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

So much going on at the national level. Hard for Gadfly to think about local matters these days.

But here he continues to keep an eye on what’s happening in our neighborhood regarding reimagining the way public safety is done in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Gadfly has been worried that we will soon be in a “George who?” state if we don’t keep our eye on the ball.

Allentown is a little bit ahead of us in terms of movement on concrete proposals, but our police department has made moves toward partnering with the Health Bureau, and we’re looking forward to a Public Safety Committee meeting soon.

We’ve entered the election campaign season, and Gadfly wonders if reimagining public safety will be an issue.

He hopes so, while there is still some GeorgeFloyd momentum.

See here and here for Gadfly’s review of the Eugene, Oregon, CAHOOTS program cited in this article.

———–

selections from Andrew Wagaman, “Who should respond to 911 calls related to mental illness? Allentown discusses police alternatives, though path forward remains hazy.” Morning Call, January 14, 2021.

Allentown officials are largely in agreement: Recruiting social workers to help city police respond to 911 calls involving mental health crises, substance abuse and homelessness issues is, conceptually, a wise move.

But some are reluctant to bring in a consultant until they are sure Lehigh County officials and one of the regional health networks are on board — and prepared to provide funding. Others fear mental health professionals will expropriate, rather than supplement, police resources.

Allentown City Council set aside $100,000 in its budget this year for general consulting services. Legislators Ce-Ce Gerlach and Joshua Siegel want to spend a share to figure out how to adapt programs used in other cities where mental health workers assist or replace police officers in certain “community interventions.”

The best-known policing alternative is the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets model, developed by the White Bird Clinic in the late 1980s in Eugene, Oregon. Two-person teams consisting of a medic and a mental health crisis worker serve as the first responders to nearly a fifth of all emergency calls. Their uniform is a hoodie, and they do not carry weapons. The goal: connect people in crisis with services such as housing programs, youth counseling and drug rehabilitation rather than incarcerating them.

Dispatchers are trained to recognize which calls can be routed to the CAHOOTS teams. In 2019, police backup was requested just 150 times out of roughly 24,000 CAHOOTS calls, according to the White Bird Clinic.

Larger cities such as Denver, Houston and most recently Chicago have begun pairing police officers with mental health workers trained in harm reduction and deescalation. Each program is a little different, but generally, the social workers conduct welfare checks, respond to suicide threats and handle calls involving people with mental illness or substance abuse.

Locally, Bucks County last month announced a two-year, $400,000 pilot program that will pair social workers with police officers during mental health-related incidents in Bensalem Township, the township with the county’s largest police department. It’s based on a similar program in Dauphin County.

Supporters say such programs reduce the chances of violence between police and citizens, and save local governments money. More than a fifth of fatal encounters with police involved people with mental illness, according to one study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. And law enforcement agencies spend roughly $1 billion a year transporting people with severe mental illness, according to a 2017 Treatment Advocacy Center survey.

Allentown police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said pursuing a pilot program like those in Dauphin and Bucks counties is a “no-brainer.” But it shouldn’t come out of the police budget, he said, arguing that the city already comes up short in measurements of officers per capita.

“We would be served well by adding [both] police officers and social workers to improve the safety and quality of life in Allentown,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Ray O’Connell said city and county officials are meeting next week with interested community partners like Thomases and officials with St. Luke’s University Health Network to figure out how best to proceed. Before council calls in a consultant, officials need to pin down the questions it wants answered, O’Connell said.

“Go slow to go fast,” O’Connell advised council.

It’s important for Allentown to signal its commitment to other important stakeholders involved, Gerlach countered, in order to prevent inertia.

“I would urge us to be the one to lead this, and demonstrate some buy-in,” she said.

Over the past year, calls by Siegel and Gerlach to reallocate some of the police department’s budget to various social services have vexed Councilmen Daryl Hendricks and Ed Zucal — both retired city police officers — and Councilwoman Candida Affa. On Wednesday, Affa praised the merits of a CAHOOTS-style program but feared it could come at the expense of the police department.

“When you start taking money from the police budget to fund these programs, the citizens of Allentown won’t stand for that,” she said.

While the Eugene Police Department does fund the CAHOOTS program, it ends up saving millions annually because of its reduced call volume, Siegel said.

“We should be less wary of a reimagination or reallocation of public safety, because the need is still being met. We’re just shifting who’s meeting the need,” Siegel argued. “The community is being kept safe, the individuals in need of services are being addressed. But now, rather than being met with punishment, they are being invested in through mental health services.”

Locally, officials have been taking incremental steps reevaluating how it handles behavioral health calls.

For example, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin last month announced that the office’s Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center will work with local mental health experts to ensure crisis intervention training provided to the Allentown Police Department is as effective as possible. It will also work with the Allentown Health Bureau on data-driven efforts to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

The Lehigh County public defender’s office hired a social worker in early 2020 to assist clients with a variety of issues, and plans to hire another this year.

n Allentown, about 40% of police officers have undergone crisis intervention training led by mental health providers and family advocates, and Granitz said during an October budget presentation he’s committed to having the entire force complete the training in 2021. His department is also teaming with Cedar Crest College to measure whether its training and community partnerships are curbing repeat behavioral health emergencies and police use-of-force incidents.

In a separate initiative with Cedar Crest College, Allentown will begin a three-year process in 2021 of establishing a community police program. Part of the process will be researching community policing programs in other cities.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance on debunking defunding the police

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Facebook January 3, 2021

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance

Wanna hear the truth for a change?

Ya know, just for a goof.

Here ya go.

(Don’t let misguided politicians like Willie Reynolds or brainwash professors like Holona Ochs manipulate your mind with their debunked ideology.)

———-

selections from Christopher Young, “A cop debunks four core myths of the #DefundPolice movement.” New York Post, December 27, 2020.

As a progressive who wants to decriminalize drugs and advance the welfare state, I fit in well in my Pacific Northwest community. Except, that is, for my job: I’ve been a big-city cop here for 26 years. Before that, I served in the military. The raging #DefundthePolice movement doesn’t know me and my colleagues at all — and persistent myths about police and their critics do more harm than good.

Four myths especially deserve debunking by an officer who knows.

1) Police are killing large numbers of civilians. That’s simply not true. . . . The reality is that US policing has steadily improved over the past 50 years. In Gotham, officers firing a gun have gone from a daily to monthly occurrence. And the city has become dramatically safer over the same period. In other words, the NYPD has successfully used less lethal means of preserving — and improving — the rule of law.

2) The anti-cop movement is largely peaceful. Again, false. The movement, rather, is akin to the Batman villain Two-Face. Anyone who watched the protests on television would know that the daytime ones were lawful free speech. But the dynamic changed dramatically at night. Protests became intentional ­riots, designed to draw a police response that allowed rioters to claim victim status.

They would begin with insults, shouted at the riot line for hours in the hope that exhausted officers would retort on video; some told officers to commit ­suicide. Then they would throw rocks, shine bright lasers in our eyes and throw fireworks and Molotov cocktails — forcing the police to respond.

Yet the mainstream media adopted the comically false “peaceful-protest” narrative and perpetuated the myth of pervasive police brutality. For activists, it was a successful propaganda operation, encouraging the police to engage with force, then driving the narrative that law enforcement “overreacted” to latter-day Gandhis.

3) Abolishing police wouldn’t lead to lawlessness. Many of the defunders are genuine anarchists, who want no government at all and believe in a society of angels who serve each other voluntarily.

This is nonsense. One of the greatest achievements in human history was creating government monopolies on the use of force. Ancient tribal societies had a violent death rate of 500 per 100,000 people per year. That number dropped to 50 in medieval societies and just one to five in the modern West.

Seattle’s recent experiment with the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, proves this. Police weren’t allowed in the “occupied” protest zone for three weeks. It immediately became a hellscape and led to the shooting deaths of two young black men — the very people the movement claims to want to protect from the police.

4) Today’s police are “militarized.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. As a soldier, I rode in an armored vehicle and sat in a turret with a belt-fed machine gun. My job was to shoot enemy soldiers. In my 26 years as a cop, I have done no such thing.

Contrary to activist complaints, SWAT teams’ armored vehicles, armored clothing and special training help them avoid deadly force, not commit it. A regular cop is often justified shooting someone who threateningly brandishes a gun. A SWAT officer wearing protection, however, will wait longer before resorting to deadly force. In Seattle, our SWAT team recently saved a suicidal young black man with a gun.

Here’s the reality. We need police on the streets.

Social-justice warriors say that policing is hopelessly broken, and the only solution is “defund, disarm and disband.” Take it from a left-leaning cop: Those arguments are either wildly exaggerated or just plain false.

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See Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance under topics on the right-hand sidebar.

City leadership needs to demonstrate transparency

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

ref: Several “first contact” cases in the news

Gadfly:

We are reminded AGAIN of the 1 Corinthians 12:26 quote roughly, “If one of us suffers, we all suffer.”

Also be reminded that it is our past Bethlehem police Chief that kept the BPD use of force policies/procedures secret even from city council until finally they were revealed — in June, 2020? — after the great pressure created by the powerful and obviously necessary national and local protests following Mr Floyd’s killing this past May.

And Ex-Chief DiLuzio recently, following his resignation, was recognized for his service.

So let’s also recognize that to lead our City there is a great onus on leadership — the BPD, Council, and the Mayor — to demonstrate transparency in its behavior, past, present, and future.

Answering correspondences from citizens is one place to start!

Proactively informing the public of any progress in city/police-public dialogue would go a long way toward building transparency and trust.

And what about acknowledging the LACK of Council/Mayor discussion of appropriate funding of the police budget prior to its approval, even after its demand from the citizenry?

Greg Zahm

Several “first contact” cases in the news

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“The rampant police mentality to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to a Black person is incontrovertible evidence that Black lives don’t matter to
too many law enforcement officers.”
Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Hill family

ref: Yet another “first contact” gone bad

Gadfly keeping an eye on this Andre Hill case. The officer was fired. Still nothing put forth to explain or justify the shooting. But more details now about the shooting officer’s poor past disciplinary record. Gadfly says again that he would like to hear more about how our department handles misconduct. He can remember Chief DiLuzio saying that he had fired officers, so our disciplinary process may be just fine in weeding out “bad apples.” But Gadfly thinks we should hear more about it. Stories of such incidents very often show bad signs in an officer’s record and the role that police unions play in protecting them.

We should also note the 12-year-old Tamir Rice and killed-in-her-bed Breonna Taylor cases also made news recently, and not in a particularly good way.

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selections from Andre Welsh-Huggins, “Police observed no threats from Andre Hill before shooting.” Associated Press, December 29, 2020.

An officer on the scene of the fatal shooting of Andre Hill in Ohio’s capital city last week didn’t perceive any threats and didn’t see a gun, contrary to a mistaken claim by the fellow officer who killed Hill, according to records released Tuesday.

The city fired Coy on Tuesday, accusing him of incompetence and “gross neglect of duty,” among other charges.

Coy asked Hill in a “normal tone of voice” to exit the garage and Hill complied but without responding, Detwiler said.

As Hill walked out, Detwiler “did not observe any threats from Mr. Hill,” nor did she see a gun, the internal affairs report said.

“Officer Detwiler stated Officer Coy observed a firearm and yelled, ‘There’s a gun in his other hand, there’s a gun in his other hand!’” the report said. “Officer Detwiler heard gunfire at this moment.”

No gun was found at the scene, police said.

Reports also indicate that Police Chief Thomas Quinlan felt something was off about the shooting as soon as he arrived, saw the officers and then saw the body cam video.

“I have responded to many officer-involved shooting scenes and spoken with many officers following these critical incidents,” Quinlan wrote in a Dec. 26 report. “There was something very distinct about the officers engagement following this critical incident that is difficult to describe for this letter.” He did not provide further details.

Coy’s handling of the shooting “is not a ‘rookie’ mistake as a result of negligence or inadvertence,” Quinlan said in his recommendation that the 17-year veteran be fired. Quinlan added that Coy’s actions were “reckless and deliberate.”

A review of Coy’s personnel file shows more than three dozen complaints have been filed against him since he joined the department in January 2002, mostly for rude or abusive language with a dozen for use of force. No details about the allegations are contained in the sparse summaries the city provided from the department’s internal affairs bureau. All but a few were marked “unfounded” or “not sustained.”

Quinlan noted that he had first raised concerns about Coy in 2008, when Quinlan was his patrol lieutenant.

“If sustained improvements are not fully realized a decision whether Officer Coy is salvageable must follow,” Quinlan said, quoting from a letter he wrote.

Coy was fired Monday hours after a hearing was held to determine his employment.

Shelby Steele: “Blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“Shelby Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, and blacks attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency that will purchase nothing of real or lasting value.”

Gadfly believes in systemic racism, believes in the need for individuals and institutions and entities to be anti-racist.

Not everybody does, of course.

And a sometime but passionate follower believes the blog needs a counter voice, suggesting prominent Black conservative Shelby Steele.

Happy to oblige.

Gadfly asks you to listen (there is video on two of the links) to Shelby Steele.

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selections from Shelby Steele, “The American Dream is very much alive.” Fox Business Network, April 2, 2019.

“The American Dream is still very much alive . . . We are a free society essentially . . . based a good deal on individual initiative, effort, responsibility . . . These are the kinds of things that give you a very good chance of succeeding in a free society . . . [interviewer: You hear it all the time that somebody can be held back by their race, or their gender, or ethnicity . . . no?] . . . We live in a new age . . . I grew up in segregation . . . I know what it means to grow up in a society totally organized against your aspirations as an individual . . . I know what that’s like . . . That does not exist any longer . . . It’s not absolutely perfectly gone, but it is largely gone . . . So that today, no matter who you are, what your race is, your color, your ethnicity, etc., you can do pretty much what you want to do, what you want to work hard enough to really want to do . . . I don’t know any place in the world that offers more opportunity, more freedom, than this society . . . We convince ourselves , for all sorts of other reasons, that that’s not true . . . but as a Black American I can certainly tell you that one of the most important things I have ever understood in my life is that I am free . . . That was not the case when I grew up . . . That freedom is a very rare gift, and we need to appreciate it is the answer to all of our problems.”

selections from Charles Creitz, “Shelby Steele: Claims of ‘systemic racism’ are ‘expanding the territory of entitlement’.” Fox News, June 7, 2020.

“In order to pursue power as they [radical Blacks] do, you need victims . . . George Floyd is the archetypal victim . . . And the whole incident, his murder, is sort of a metaphor for the civil rights agenda, the grievance agenda . . . complete innocent . . . tortured to death . . . well, Wow . . . the excitement that triggers on the left in America . . . It validates their claims that America is a wretched country . . . that they must get recourse for what’s going on . . . It feeds this old model of operation that we’ve developed . . . that America is guilty of racism, guilty of this sin and has been for four centuries . . . and minorities are victims who are entitled . . . And so when people start to talk about systemic racism built into the system, what they are really doing is expanding the territory of entitlement . . . We want more, we want more, we want society to give us more . . . Society is responsible for us because racism is so systemic . . . That’s a corruption . . . The truth of the matter is Blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today . . . Opportunity is around every corner . . . Why don’t you take some responsibility . . . Why don’t you take more responsibility . . . If we had the nerve, the courage, to look at Black people . . . and say ‘You’re not carrying your own weight . . . Are you making things happen for yourself? . . . Or are you saying I’m a victim, I’m owed.”

selections from Shelby Steele, “The Inauthenticity Behind Black Lives Matter.” Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2020.

Insisting on the prevalence of “systemic racism” is a way of defending a victim-focused racial identity.

Even today, almost 60 years beyond the Civil Rights Act, groups like Black Lives Matter, along with a vast grievance industry, use America’s insecure moral authority around race as an opportunity to assert themselves.

Both [whites and Blacks] need blacks to be victims. Whites need blacks they can save to prove their innocence of racism. Blacks must put themselves forward as victims the better to make their case for entitlements.

This is a corruption because it makes black suffering into a moral power to be wielded, rather than a condition to be overcome. This is the power that blacks discovered in the ’60s. It gained us a War on Poverty, affirmative action, school busing, public housing and so on. But it also seduced us into turning our identity into a virtual cult of victimization—as if our persecution was our eternal flame, the deepest truth of who we are, a tragic fate we trade on.

Yet there is an elephant in the room. It is simply that we blacks aren’t much victimized any more. Today we are free to build a life that won’t be stunted by racial persecution. Today we are far more likely to encounter racial preferences than racial discrimination. Moreover, we live in a society that generally shows us goodwill—a society that has isolated racism as its most unforgivable sin.

Thus, for many blacks today—especially the young—there is a feeling of inauthenticity, that one is only thinly black because one isn’t racially persecuted. “Systemic racism” is a term that tries to recover authenticity for a less and less convincing black identity. This racism is really more compensatory than systemic. It was invented to make up for the increasing absence of the real thing.

We don’t have to fight for freedom so much any more. We have to do something more difficult—fully accept that we are free.

———

Steele points to Burgess Owens, Herschel Walker, Daniel Cameron, Tim Scott — speakers at the Republican National Convention — as examples of Blacks who have succeeded, defying the existence of a systemic racism ceiling.

to be continued . . .

Images of anti-racism (2)

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder 

On June 27, 2015, ten days after Dylann Roof killed eight Blacks in a Bible study class in a Charleston church, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience as American as apple pie, as they say, a Black woman, Bree Newsome, climbed the flag pole outside the South Carolina State House and removed the Confederate flag.

With her was a white man, James Tyson.

See the news story here

Gadfly talked yesterday about the image of anti-racism from “12 Years a Slave” that moved him during his participation in one of the local programs on race in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

In another one of those programs, the topic was the difference for white people between being an “ally” and a “co-conspirator” when it comes to the fight for racial justice.

That’s another way of saying the difference between being “not racist” and being “anti-racist.”

James Tyson was being a co-conspirator.

James Tyson was being anti-racist.

Simply by holding the pole.

When the Courthouse police threatened to taze Newsome, Tyson grabbed the pole, thwarting the police, who were reluctant to risk sending a “charge” through the white man.

And then he simply joined her in arrest.

A lively discussion among program participants centered on this very lively Bettina Love video (5 mins.) and the challenge to whites to be active in the fight for racial justice, to be co-conspirators. to “find your pole.”

Something to think about.

Being anti-racist, that is.

As we approach the traditional time of making resolutions.

If somebody today asks you if you found your pole, you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Images of anti-racism (1)

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is
that they take their feet off our necks.”
Sarah Moore Grimke’ via Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It’s kind of a quiet, in-between week in the Gadfly business.

City work mainly buttoned up till we hit the new year.

Time for a little “intellectual” work.

As you might have noted, Gadfly has been taking advantage of the various webinars, conferences, programs, etc., on race offered locally (BAPL has done a great job!) in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Will be doing homework today for a discussion tomorrow.

Ah, the luxurious gift of time: a joy of retirement.

But Gadfly has recently fretted here that the way the world turns in our manic-paced culture we’re in danger of losing the national reckoning with race his murder precipitated.

But maybe not for another week anyway.

We are entering the flush of those television year-end reviews of the big stories of 2020, and, like you, Gadfly has noticed that Floyd is much back in the news.

His murder still sharing top headline billing in a year overfilled with news.

The image of a knee [not the feet of Justice Ginsburg’s remark!] on a neck coming center stage again.

I was thinking of that image recently while watching for a local program on race the 2013 Academy Award Best Picture “12 Years a Slave” about a free Black kidnapped into slavery who for twelve years unsuccessfully attempts to free himself — a film based on a true story.

It takes the agency of a white man (Samuel Bass) to free the wronged Black (Solomon Northrup).

Sometimes it is not possible for a Black to “rise” on his or her own, though not for the lack of trying. [Think systemic racism]

At considerable risk to himself — a white man living in the South defying the laws of the South — Bass contacts white people in the North who arrange to free Northrup.

Northrup is able to reconnect and reclaim his life, once more becoming a valuable contributor to his society.

But it takes the agency of a white man, a white man performing an anti-racist act, a white man who moves from a hands-off passive intellectual repulsion at slavery to an active physical repudiation of and personal rebellion against the racist system, the very world in which he exists.

Gadfly was very much moved by this image of an anti-racism act.

We can’t have too many images of anti-racism, acts which are never easy.

to be continued . . .

Yet another “first contact” gone bad

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“There’s no compression on the wounds, no attempts at CPR, not even a hand on the shoulder and an encouraging word that medics were en route. To see him lying in the driveway minute after minute after minute after minute with no attempt to render aid and comfort. To be honest, I had never seen body worn camera footage like that.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

“Columbus voters in November also approved a city charter amendment to create a Civilian Review Board and inspector general, which will conduct independent investigations into police misconduct and policies. The city is currently accepting applications for the review board, which it hopes to seat early next year.”
NPR,  December 23, 2020

Gadfly gets no pleasure out of this.

And Gadfly makes no inferences about our police department, which, as far as he knows, has a fine record.

But the headlines read “Ohio Officer’s Bodycam Shows He Shot Unarmed Black Man Within 10 Seconds Of Encounter” and “Columbus officer who fatally shot unarmed Black man has history of excessive force, misconduct” and “Columbus mayor calls for termination of officer who killed unarmed Black man.”

Something is wrong with the way these “first contact” situations are handled. And perhaps with the way officer misconduct is handled.

And Gadfly feels that there should be open discussion of such topics in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

And the sooner the better.

We don’t want such occurrences to happen here.

The way the world turns, soon people will be saying, “George who?”

Consider this latest case of “first contact” gone wrong.

See news story here:

Bethany Brunner, “Here’s video and a timeline of the Andre Hill shooting by Columbus police.” Columbus Dispatch, December 23, 2020.

Good signs of the Christmas season

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

The headline on the Associated Press story on p. 13 of the print version of the Morning Call yesterday was “KC Star reckons with its past.”

KC Star. That’s the Kansas City Star. A major midwestern newspaper for over 140 years. Meaning it was founded in the post-Civil War generation. Just after the end of slavery. In the Reconstruction Era.

Gadfly has been fond of saying that the murder of George Floyd spurred a “nationwide reckoning with race.”

On December 20, the Kansas City Star editor Mike Fannin reckoned with the paper’s racial past: “The truth in Black and white: An apology from The Kansas City Star.”

It was brutal.

Today we are telling the story of a powerful local business that has done wrong.

For 140 years, it has been one of the most influential forces in shaping Kansas City and the region. And yet for much of its early history — through sins of both commission and omission — it disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining. Decade after early decade it robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition.

That business is The Kansas City Star.

Before I say more, I feel it to be my moral obligation to express what is in the hearts and minds of the leadership and staff of an organization that is nearly as old as the city it loves and covers:

We are sorry.

The Kansas City Star prides itself on holding power to account. Today we hold up the mirror to ourselves to see the historic role we have played, through both action and inaction, in shaping and misshaping Kansas City’s landscape.

It is time that we own our history.

It is well past time for an apology, acknowledging, as we do so, that the sins of our past still reverberate today.

This spring, the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis beneath the knee of a white police officer ignited protests worldwide over racial injustice. In doing so, it has forced institutions to look inward.

Inside The Star, reporters and editors discussed how an honest examination of our own past might help us move forward. What started as a suggestion from reporter Mará Rose Williams quickly turned into a full-blown examination of The Star’s coverage of race and the Black community dating to our founding in 1880. . . . Reporters were frequently sickened by what they found — decades of coverage that depicted Black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-laden world. They felt shame at what was missing: the achievements, aspirations and milestones of an entire population routinely overlooked, as if Black people were invisible.

Reporters felt regret that the papers’ historic coverage not only did a disservice to Black Kansas Citians, but also to white readers deprived of the opportunity to understand the true richness Black citizens brought to Kansas City. . . .

We encourage other Kansas City businesses to come forward and own their history as well, tell their stories, get the poison out — for the sake of the community and their employees.

It still pains me personally to know that in The Star’s monopolistic heyday — when it had the biggest media platform in the region — the paper did little to unify the city or recognize the inherent rights of all Kansas Citians.

But our history doesn’t have to own us.

We are grateful for how far we’ve come. We are humbled by how far we still have to go.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the Kansas City Star has taken an anti-racist step.

Gadfly has been scribbling such examples of institutional anti-racism he comes across on the back of an envelope. There have been many. Like Major League Baseball this month recognizing more than 3,400 players from seven distinct Negro leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948 as “major leaguers.” The New York Times called it “righting a wrong.”

The Kansas City Star and MLB took a knee.

Gadfly finds such “anti-racism” morally aphrodisiac.

And totally appropriate for this Christmas season of good will to all.

While he has been excited by the targeting of systemic racism in the discussions of our Community Engagement Initiative, he has been impatient with, in his opinion, the slow speed that concrete actions are taking place here.

He is afraid we are in danger of missing the George Floyd wave of concern for racial equity, and he hopes that anti-racism will be a feature of mayoral and Councilpersonic campaigns that are probably now shaping up for the spring.

While you are at it, add Elijah McClain

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop.
I have a right to stop you because you are being suspicious”
Aurora, Co., police officer

NBC News video, June 27, 2020, 6 mins.

Gadfly notes this segment on 60 Minutes two Sundays ago.

You may have seen it.

The specific focus was on the phenomenon of “excited delirium” and the use of Ketamine to control it by public safety personnel.

But we have here again a “first contact” situation that goes out of control and ends up in a tragic death.

The police and paramedics followed policy.

Goddam.

To Gadfly, it just makes sense to say that police have to do better than this.

Gadfly assumes that with our dual accreditation that our police department is trained as best can be expected, but he fears for this kind of thing happening here and, again, looks forward to open discussion of how our department handles “first contact” situations.

And what can be learned from case studies like this one.

John Dickerson, “Excited Delirium: The Controversial Syndrome That Can Be Used to Protect Police from Misconduct Charges.” CBS 60 Minutes, December 13, 2020.
video and transcription

  • District Attorney: “Well, the escalation started when [the 140-pound] Elijah McClain didn’t stop walking. They took it to the next level and say, ‘All right. This person’s not complying with our lawful commands. Now we’re gonna stop him and go hands on.'”
  • District Attorney: “They have a policy in the city of Aurora that says, ‘Paramedics do this when you have these circumstances.’ And they follow that policy.”

It gets worse, believe me, officers were fired for re-enacting the chokehold on McClain.

Add Casey Goodson to the list

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

December 9 news video

Add the Columbus, Ohio, case of Casey Goodson, killed by a police officer in front of his home December 4, to the necrology list of what Gadfly calls “first contact” situations.

This case probably has flown under your radar because there is no body cam footage or witness video.

Nothing visually shareable to cause “sensational” national coverage.

The details, the facts, are particularly obscure here even going on three weeks after the incident.

The Columbus police department apparently has a history of such incidents and a history of being charged with systemic racism.

Our police department has neither of those histories, but Gadfly is looking forward to the promised Public Safety committee meeting in January, where, among other things, we might hear how our department is trained to handle such situations.

What troubles Gadfly is seeing police departments/unions time and again defend officers in such situations by saying they acted properly according to their training.

Which means we should hear about that training, especially applied to a specific situation.

Gadfly has wondered aloud here several times about whether our department uses such situations as the GeorgeFloyd as opportunities to review training with officers.

———–

Bill Chappell, “Casey Goodson Update: Death At Deputy’s Hand Is Ruled A Homicide.” NPR, December 9, 2020.

“What we know about the fatal shooting of Casey Goodson Jr.,” Columbus Dispatch, December 17, 2020.

Danae King, “‘This has to stop:’ Faith leaders angry over Casey Goodson shooting, hot potato handling.” Columbus Dispatch, December 19, 2020.

Bethany Bruner, “Casey Goodson had a concealed handgun license. Here’s what that means.” Columbus Dispatch, December 21, 2020.

Legislation introduced to divert some 9-1-1 calls to 2-1-1

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Councilwoman Negron made the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance social media when she remarked that 9-1-1 wasn’t working well, a remark that was taken to mean she is suggesting that the 9-1-1 system be abolished. Which caused some alarm. And which is not true.

Here’s the idea Councilwoman Negron was referencing in a new bill introduced by Senator Casey: “The HELP Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 systems [United Way], while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 referral systems.”

The idea is to exercise some “discrimination” (pun intended) about what calls police respond to.

Such systems are already in operation as Gadfly learned when he was reviewing programs in cities that were re-imagining how they do public safety and reporting on them here.

In fact, Philadelphia has such a pilot program, but the mental health person was unfortunately not in the dispatch center when the call that would eventuate in the death of Walter Wallace came in.

———–

Selections from “Casey to introduce Police Overhaul that Would Reform the Way Law Enforcement Interacts with People with Disabilities”

Following Spate of Encounters in PA and Across the Nation, Casey’s Bill Would Enhance State and Regional 2-1-1 Call System.

As the Nation reckons with the high profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of police officers and growing calls for policy changes to prevent future violence, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is launching the Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative, to help bring about racial justice and address the high incidence rate of police violence involving people with disabilities.

The LEAD Initiative is comprised of two bills – the Safe Interactions Act and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act – which would reduce calls to 9-1-1 call systems regarding non-criminal emergencies and provide robust training to law enforcement on interacting with people with disabilities, including those experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The families of Walter Wallace, Jr., Ricardo Munoz and Osaze Osagie needed mental health crisis support and they didn’t get it,” said Senator Casey. “We must take action to ensure that someone’s ethnicity or mental ability does not preclude them from receiving protection and fair treatment. My LEAD initiative aims to protect the promise of liberty and justice for all by reforming our emergency systems so that people and police are connected with the resources they need.”

“United Way and the 211 network are deeply grateful to Senator Casey for introducing the HELP Act,” said Suzanne McCormick, U.S. President, United Way Worldwide. “211 is a vital resource supporting over 95 percent of communities in the U.S. and this expansion of coverage means that more people can get the help they need, particularly those with mental health illnesses and other disabilities. United Way looks forward to working with Senator Casey to expand critical services to the American people during these difficult times.”

The Washington Post database of police shootings estimates that at least 25 percent of shootings involve a person with a mental health disability. A 2016 Ruderman Foundation report estimated that between one-third and half of 2015 shootings involving a law enforcement officer included a person with a disability.

The HELP Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 referral systems. The bill would create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, ethnic and racial community members and members of other communities.

The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants to enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities. The training would be directed to both new and veteran officers and would include people with disabilities in the training as instructors.

Minneapolis experiences crime wave amid funding debate

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Gadfly keeping an eye on what’s happening in Minneapolis. The George Floyd ground zero. Very complicated.

Selections from Liz Navratil, “Divided Minneapolis City Council votes to cut $8 million from police budget.” Star Tribune, December 10, 2020.

The Minneapolis council preserved a plan to hire more officers in future years, avoiding a political showdown with Mayor Jacob Frey.

The late change to the department’s staffing projections, passed along a narrow 7-6 vote, does not change the number of officers who will work in 2021. The move, instead, avoided a political showdown with Mayor Jacob Frey.

The city expects a monthly average of 770 police officers will work in 2021, if council agrees to release funding for some recruit classes.

The City Council had initially planned to drop the force’s authorized size to 750 officers starting in 2022, but reversed course late Wednesday. Frey, who sought to keep the current target level of 888, had said he was considering vetoing the budget because he was concerned about “the massive permanent cut to officer capacity” in future years.

In a statement early Thursday, Frey lauded the council’s vote on the budget.

“My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities,” Frey said. “The additional funding for new public safety solutions will also allow the City to continue upscaling important mental health, non-police response, and social service components in our emergency response system.”

The 2021 budget served as the latest venue for debates on changing the police department after George Floyd’s death and a subsequent pledge by a majority of council members to end the department. As the talks unfolded, city leaders deliberated whether they should leave the department mostly intact while building out new services, or cut the department to fund them.

While the city is seeking to change its public safety system, it is also experiencing a crime wave that includes more than 500 shootings.

Frey pitched a $1.5 billion spending plan that included about $179 million for the police department, down from about $193 million initially approved for it in 2020.

The council cut an additional $7.7 million from the police department. That money will fund mental health crisis teams, train dispatchers to assess mental health calls and have other employees handle theft and property damage reports.

The council also placed $11.4 million in a reserve fund they created. That fund will include about $6.4 million that was included in Frey’s plan to hire two police recruit classes, and about $5 million that could be used to offset cuts council members made to police overtime. To access that money, the police department will need additional approval from City Council in votes next year.

Arradondo said the department — which had 874 officers at the beginning of the year — is effectively down 166 officers, between officers who have resigned and officers who are on leave. The department’s leave figures are far higher than average this year, in part because a large number of officers filed PTSD claims after the summer rioting.

In recent days, the negotiations focused on a different budget provision. The City Council, in a meeting Monday, voted to reduce the authorized force size to about 750 officers in 2022 and future years.The mayor, though, hoped to keep the target level at 888, its authorized size, which he said would make it easier for them to hire back amid the shortage.

The council voted 7-6 Wednesday night to restore that level to 888, with Vice President Andrea Jenkins as the swing vote.

Jenkins said it was a difficult decision. She had voted the opposite way earlier in the week.

“The reality right now is that Chief Arradondo is woefully understaffed for a variety of reasons,” Jenkins said. “Do I believe that this effort will resolve all of our problems, all of our crime issues overnight? Absolutely not. Neither will all of the social service programs and initiatives. It’s going to take all of these things together to lower the crime rate.”

If Frey approves the budget, the discussion next year will be about whether to cut or add to a department authorized to employ 888 officers. Had the council’s earlier plan remained in place, the discussion would have been about whether to cut or add to a department designed for 750 officers.

Mapping police violence

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Tip o’ the hat to follower M.D.

Mapping Police Violence

Very often discussions of police violence involves battles of statistics.

You show me yours, I’ll show you mine.

There is a ton of statistics in this web project.

Lots to chew on here.

Gadfly is not sure what you might want to look at.

Would somebody better at this than he is want to focus us on what you think is a meaningful or contested statistic?

We should know something about the source of the site. A Wikipedia article says it’s “a project affiliated with Black Lives Matter.” It is used and referenced many places with authority as Gadfly discovered browsing the web.

See also the Washington Post database: Fatal Force.

Mapping Police Violence

“Clearly, our system — our paradigm — of justice needs correction”

Latest in series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

re: “Do not let lethal force be the means by which you de-escalate the situation”

Gadfly:

Does BPD’s training compare to or include anything similar to ICAT?

I think I recall considerable efforts to improve the Dept, especially since the failed, lethal siege of some two decades ago. This is not to say, angrily, defensively, or otherwise, that BPD is near perfect or imperfect. That’s why we must look inward. To serve ALL.

Thankfully, Philly Councilman Gauthier used the phrase “sanctity of life,” which I don’t hear much anymore. Does it ever end? WHEN does one’s conflict with another’s?

While we all want to keep things simple — such as “When someone threatens another’s life,” recent and  historical events show us otherwise. And it’s not always the same for different people. So many scenarios involving the mentally ill (and not just among the poor). And then there’s systemic and personal bias which relate to lack of socio-cultural understandings, and others, as well as early childhood education that takes place in the home.

Clearly, our system — our paradigm — of justice needs correction. I am grateful for the protection I have received thanks to police and also for the actions demanded to reevaluate Bethlehem’s approach to policing and, more broadly, to strengthening community through uniting and using our resources to help HEAL ALL of its subgroups.

To me it is a MUST. Many have called for it. You might want to see no change. Then express that. Hopefully all will do so open-mindedly.

We owe ALL our brothers and sisters no less.

Greg Zahm

Let’s do the responsible thing

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

ref: Lots for Council to think about

Gadfly:

Having said the above, and being quite ignorant on the reasoning behind defund/abolish, the June ‘20 NY Times essay, link below, explains the argument for “why.”

(https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opinion/sunday/floyd-abolish-defund-police.amp.html)

Have you educated yourself before publishing or speaking an angry, disbelieving, rant to the contrary?

Council, have you lead from a more informed position that this essay and that Professor Ochs’ full data could provide?

Four HUNDRED years of trauma and damage and its legacy are not overcome in . . . well, it’s been 400 YEARS! For most of us, it has been many fewer, NOT to our credit. Not entirely against it, either. (When one part suffers . . . 1 Corinthians 12:26, right?)

Let’s do the responsible thing: ACTUALLY HAVE A THOROUGH DEBATE, INFORMED BY SCIENCE, DEEP THOUGHT and MORALITY until the end of which we can agree. (Rather than spout anecdotes or exasperation like “That’s crazy! And I don’t have the time!”)

‘Cause our neighbors, all human beings, all flawed, all worthy of compassion, are suffering.

Greg Zahm