George Floyd’s America (6): “the police were omnipresent in his life”

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

“This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

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George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week.

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“A knee on his neck: Police were a part of George Floyd’s life from beginning to end, an experience uncommon for most Americans, except other Black men”

HOUSTON — From the day George Floyd moved to Texas as a child to the day he was killed in Minneapolis, the police were omnipresent in his life.

They were there when Floyd and his siblings played basketball at the Cuney Homes housing project, driving their patrol cars through the makeshift courts. They were there when he walked home from school, interrogating him about the contents of his backpack. They were there when he went on late-night snack runs to the store, stopping his car and throwing him to the ground. They were there, surrounding his mother’s home, as his family prepared for their grandfather’s funeral.

They were at the bus stop, on the corner, and on his mother’s front porch. And they were in Minneapolis — 1,200 miles from where Floyd first said “Yes, officer,” to a patrolman — when he took his last breath in handcuffs.

The frequency of Floyd’s contact with police during his 46 years of life is an anomaly for most Americans, except for other Black men. While the majority of public interactions with police begin and end safely in the United States, according to 2015 survey data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for Black Americans, those encounters are more likely to happen multiple times in a year, more likely to be initiated by police and more likely to involve the use of force.

continue . . .

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the sixth and final part in a 6-part series

San Francisco D.A. when charging police officer: “No one is above the law”

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

“[The officer] was doing, the union argued, what he was trained to do.”

Gadfly keeping an eye on subject shootings. This may be the first time San Francisco charged a police officer with homicide. In the post-GeorgeFloyd era officers are being held more accountable. We need to review training for “first contact” situations among other aspects of officer conduct. That the unnecessary death occurred from the actions of an officer following his training is precisely what needs to be reviewed. It’s increasingly clear that officers will no longer get a pass in such situations.

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The District Attorney describes the incident (3 mins.):

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Selections from Paulina Villegas, “In a possible first, San Francisco charges an officer with homicide over fatal on-duty shooting.” Washington Post, November 24, 2020.

A former police officer was charged with manslaughter by the San Francisco district attorney’s office Monday, three years after he fatally shot Kita O’Neil during an alleged carjacking incident.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced that his office had filed homicide charges against former San Francisco Police Department officer Christopher Samayoa, a decision that appears to be the city’s first homicide prosecution against a law enforcement officer who has killed someone while on duty.

“I hope the message people take from this decision is my commitment to follow through on my campaign promises, the recognition that no one is above the law, not even police officers, and that we value the Black and Brown lives impacted by police violence,” [D.A.] Boudin told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“We recognize that the vast majority of the police officers are doing the job well, but when an officer violates the law, there will be consequences,” he added.

The charges come amid mounting public demands nationally for greater accountability in cases of alleged police abuse and in police killings.

Boudin argued that cases such as the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, cases that sparked protests across the country, reflected “the failures of our legal system to hold police accountable for the violence committed against the very members of the public they are entrusted to keep safe,” he said.

“This lack of accountability for police who abuse their power has created great mistrust, particularly for communities of color,” he said.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Officers Edric Talusan and Samayoa followed a person thought to have carjacked a state lottery van in the residential neighborhood of Potrero Hill.

When the van reached a dead-end street and other police cars blocked its path, O’Neil, 42, jumped out of the car and ran past the police car where Samayoa was seated in the passenger seat.

Samayoa, who was just out of the police academy and four days into his field training, fired his gun through the side window, killing O’Neil.

Samayoa’s body camera showed that O’Neil did not have a weapon, and O’Neil’s manner of death was determined to be a homicide, according to the district attorney’s office.

In March 2018, the officer was fired from the SFPD as a result of the shooting, prompting outrage from the police union, which argued that Samayoa’s firing was unfair given the fact that he was doing, the union argued, what he was trained to do, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“This prosecution is an important, historic step towards showing that Black lives matter and that unlawful police violence will not be tolerated,” [Boudin] said.

George Floyd’s America (5): “Being Black in America . . . is its own preexisting condition”

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

“You and me, we had hurdles [speaking to Councilman Reynolds], but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week.

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“Racism’s hidden toll: In Minneapolis, the physical and mental strain of a lifetime confronting racism surfaced in George Floyd’s final years”

MINNEAPOLIS — George Floyd came to this city with a broken body and wilted dreams, his many attempts at a better life out of his grasp. He was left with no college degree, no sports contract, no rap career, not even a steady job. At 43, what he had was an arrest record and a drug problem, his hopes hinging on one last shot at healing.

So in February of 2017 he decided to board a bus in Houston and ride more than 1,100 miles on Interstate 35 almost straight north to Minneapolis. Waiting for him was his friend Aubrey Rhodes, who had taken the same journey a year earlier. Rhodes was now sober and working as a security guard at the Salvation Army.

“Damn, bro, it’s cold,” Rhodes recalled Floyd saying on what was, for Minnesota, a balmy 50-degree winter day.

“You ready for this?” Rhodes asked him. “You can get yourself together here. You can find a way to live.”

Finding a way to live has never been a sure thing for Black men in America, who are taught from an early age that any misstep could lead to a prison cell or a coffin. They have higher rates of hypertension, obesity and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are twice as likely as White men to die of a cocaine overdose, twice as likely to be killed by police and, in Floyd’s age group, 10 times as likely to die of a homicide.

Public-health researchers and scientists once held that these disparities were the result of poor choices — bad diets, lack of exercise, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But experts are increasingly pointing to another culprit: systemic racism. Being Black in America, they have found, is its own preexisting condition.

continue . . .

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the fifth part in a 6-part series

George Floyd’s America (4): “The Texas prison system’s mission was to end the type of recurrent incarceration that Floyd experienced by rehabilitating inmates and returning them to society with skills”

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

“A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds], we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

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George Floyd died 6 months ago yesterday. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week,

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“Profiting from prisoners: Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment. Inside, Floyd withered”

BARTLETT, Tex. — The prison transport to this tiny city north of Austin took George Floyd past ranch land and cotton fields — worlds away from his home in Houston. But for the then-36-year-old Floyd, the spring of 2009 was another turn through a cycle of incarceration that would be both familiar and futile.

Floyd had been through stints in jail for drug possession since his 20s, spending up to several months at a time behind bars. But Bartlett State Jail was his first taste of extended time. He was sentenced there after pleading guilty to an armed robbery in Houston in 2007 and would spend nearly two years at the 1,049-bed facility.

He was one of several men accused of holding a woman at gunpoint and ransacking her home for money and drugs until they realized they had the wrong house and hustled away — but not before pistol-whipping the woman in front of her children. Floyd was arrested months later, driving what witnesses had identified as the getaway car. He is the only person who has served time for the incident, records show. The victim says she remembers Floyd’s face, and a police report states that she “tentatively” identified him in a lineup — though the photo lineup techniques investigators used are no longer approved.

At Bartlett State Jail, Floyd bunked with childhood friend Cal Wayne, who said Floyd long contended that he was innocent of that crime but took a plea deal out of concern that a jury would unfairly judge a man with previous felonies. He accepted a five-year sentence rather than risk decades in prison. He paroled out in four.

The Texas prison system’s mission was to end the type of recurrent incarceration that Floyd experienced by rehabilitating inmates and returning them to society with skills that would help them live law-abiding lives. But Floyd’s time in Bartlett State Jail only furthered his downward spiral. Behind its walls, Floyd found few opportunities to better himself, friends and relatives said, and the experience only exacerbated his depression, drug dependency and claustrophobia — the very issues that would play a role in the final moments of his life nearly a decade later.

continue . . .

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the fourth part in a 6-part series

George Floyd’s America (3): “How do you get a George Floyd to think beyond the walls of that housing project?”

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

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

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George Floyd died 6 months ago today. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week,

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“Segregated from opportunity: Nearly three decades after George Floyd first left Cuney Homes, another generation tries to make it out of Houston’s oldest housing project”

HOUSTON — The last time Kimberly Gibson made a cake for her son was on his first birthday. But she knows 18 is a milestone, especially for a young man on his way out of the projects, destined to play college football.

So on a September afternoon, Gibson dumped two boxes of Betty Crocker vanilla cake mix into a bowl, added eggs, water and oil, and stirred the lumpy batter in her cramped galley kitchen.

Baking hadn’t been an option for birthdays past, when she was exhausted by the daily tasks required to simply keep her son out of trouble and alive in a neighborhood ridden with violence. In this part of Third Ward, where Black men are referred to as an “endangered species,” each untimely death is memorialized on the orange brick wall of the corner store. The “ghetto angels,” as they are collectively known.

The most prominent of those is now George Floyd, the former Cuney Homes kid who has become the embodiment of police brutality and systemic racial inequality in America.

For Gibson, Floyd’s death has been more personal, an unsettling reminder that the future for her son Daniel Hunt remains precarious. His goal of making it out of Houston’s oldest public housing project on a football scholarship echoes Floyd’s journey nearly three decades ago. She knew Floyd as a “gentle giant,” and his face, now emblazoned on neighborhood murals, serves as a solemn warning of the obstacles ahead for Daniel.

“Sports was supposed to have saved him,” Gibson said of Floyd. “I told my son: ‘That is you. That is you all day, every day.’”

Daniel had been accepted to a historically Black Christian college a three-hour drive away in Tyler, Tex., on the prospect of an athletic scholarship. But the novel coronavirus halted those plans. With college turning to virtual classes until at least January and the football season canceled, so, too, was his chance to escape a neighborhood that, by design, remains segregated from opportunity.

Decades of government-sanctioned housing discrimination reverberate through this city. In one of the nation’s most diverse metropolises, much of the housing occupied by low-income Black families is segregated into the shape of a backward “C” around the city center, pierced by wealthier, Whiter neighborhoods to the west that form the shape of an arrow.

The pattern, formed by Jim Crow-era policies dictating where African Americans could live, is cemented today by state law allowing landlords to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders, weak enforcement of federal civil rights laws promoting integration and White residents’ objections to the construction of affordable housing in affluent communities.

continue . . .

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the third part in a 6-part series

George Floyd’s America (2): “Floyd had long seen sports as his path out of the poverty, crime and drugs of Houston’s Third Ward”

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

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities. Ok, that’s part of the problem, that goes back to housing, poverty, education, medical assistance in this country and a lot of other different issues. . . . This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . And I do have to agree with you, I’m not disagreeing with you . . . but what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system. And that’s what we need to go after. And I understand the anger of people out there. I understand the anger of people of color out there. They have the feeling they are not getting their part of the American Dream. And that’s what it is. A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me, we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio
Bethlehem Chief of Police
2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials, and scholars.

Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day, using as your frame the remarkable statement above about the reality of systemic racism by retired Chief Mark DiLuzio at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting as part of a conversation with current Chief Michelle Kott and Councilman Willie Reynolds. The entire 6-minute exchange is worth listening to.

Disputes over the reality of systemic racism disrupt and divide us nationally and locally, but our officers and our councilman agree that systemic racism not only lives but it haunts us.

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“Looking for his ticket out: At Jack Yates High, No. 88 pinned his dreams on sports”

HOUSTON — Shortly before the kickoff of the 1992 state championship game, George Floyd, the starting tight end for mighty Jack Yates High School, stepped onto the field at the University of Texas.

As he took in the stadium, packed then with nearly 78,000 seats, Floyd bumped into Ralph Cooper, a sports radio personality who had had him on his show a few times. Over the years, he had gently pressed the basketball and football star to take the school part of school more seriously.

There, surrounded by the state’s flagship university and all it had to offer, Floyd wondered aloud whether he should have listened. “Now I see what some of you all were talking about in regards to making that extra effort in the classroom,” Cooper recalled Floyd telling him.

At that moment, Floyd’s future was already in jeopardy. He had tried and failed at least twice to pass a mandatory state exam. If he couldn’t pass it, he wouldn’t graduate. A big-time college scholarship would be out of the question.

Floyd had long seen sports as his path out of the poverty, crime and drugs of Houston’s Third Ward. At 6 feet 6 inches, he excelled at basketball and then football, and his talents repeatedly gave him a shot at a different life. But, just as often, Floyd’s shaky education stood in his way.

Jack Yates High School has long been a source of identity, pride and affection in Houston’s Black community. Founded in 1926, it was named for a formerly enslaved man who became an influential minister. Graduates include city leaders and national figures such as broadcaster Roland Martin, actress Phylicia Rashad and her sister, the choreographer Debbie Allen. It has thrived in sports, producing, in 1985, what some say is the best high school team in Texas football history.

But for decades Yates has struggled in its central mission to educate students, a victim of a U.S. educational system that concentrates the poorest, highest-need children together, setting them up for failure.

continue . . .

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the second part in a 6-part series

George Floyd’s America (1): “Born with two strikes: How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition”

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

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities. Ok, that’s part of the problem, that goes back to housing, poverty, education, medical assistance in this country and a lot of other different issues. . . . This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . And I do have to agree with you, I’m not disagreeing with you . . . but what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system. And that’s what we need to go after. And I understand the anger of people out there. I understand the anger of people of color out there. They have the feeling they are not getting their part of the American Dream. And that’s what it is. A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me, we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio
Bethlehem Chief of Police
2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials, and scholars.

Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day for the next six days, using as your frame the remarkable statement above about the reality of systemic racism by retired Chief Mark DiLuzio at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting as part of a conversation with current Chief Michelle Kott and Councilman Willie Reynolds. The entire 6-minute exchange is worth listening to.

Disputes over the reality of systemic racism disrupt and divide us nationally and locally, but our officers and our councilman agree that systemic racism not only lives but it haunts us.

———–

“Born with two strikes: How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition”

His life began as the last embers of the civil rights movement were flickering out. Its horrific, videotaped end ignited the largest anti-racism movement since, with demonstrators the world over marching for racial justice in his name.

During the 46 years in between, George Perry Floyd came of age as the strictures of Jim Crow discrimination in America gave way to an insidious form of systemic racism, one that continually undercut his ambitions.

Early in life, he wanted to be a Supreme Court justice. Then, a pro athlete. At the end, he just longed for a little stability, training to be a commercial truck driver.

All were bigger dreams than he was able to achieve in his version of America. While his death was the catalyst for global protests against racial inequality, the nearly eight minutes Floyd spent suffocating under the knee of a White police officer were hardly the first time he faced oppression.

Throughout his lifetime, Floyd’s identity as a Black man exposed him to a gantlet of injustices that derailed, diminished and ultimately destroyed him, according to an extensive review of his life based on hundreds of documents and interviews with more than 150 people, including his siblings, extended family members, friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars.

The picture that emerges is one that underscores how systemic racism has calcified within many of America’s institutions, creating sharply disparate outcomes in housing, education, the economy, law enforcement and health care.

continue . . .

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the first part in a 6-part series

George Floyd’s America

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

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. Gadfly’s been worried that the impact of that dramatic event and the subsequent national reckoning with race is ebbing on the local level.

There may be some relevant public safety discussion in upcoming budget hearings, a Public Safety Committee hearing is promised for early in the new year, but Gadfly is not aware of any movement on the Community Engagement Initiative yet.

There is nationally as well as locally conflict over whether such a thing as “systemic racism” exists.

This 6-part Washington Post series ran in October.

Gadfly is going to suggest that you follow him as he reads one part of the series each day beginning tomorrow to keep both George Floyd and the idea of systemic racism on our front burner.

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Washington Post staff, “George Floyd’s America:
Examining systemic racism and racial injustice in the post-civil rights era”

The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars.

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Keeping an eye on the George Floyd case

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

Gadfly keeping an eye on criminal proceedings against the main police officer in the George Floyd incident.

Recognizing the speed of the news cycle and the shortness of the media attention span, Gadfly has been afraid that the moment to ask questions about how we do public safety locally in Bethlehem may pass.

There may be some relevant public safety discussion in upcoming budget hearings, and a Public Safety Committee hearing is promised for early in the new year.

Gadfly is especially interested here in the fact that there is “history” of charges of excessive use of force against the offending officer, charges that were dismissed by the police department internal review.

Gadfly thinks we should know more about how we handle police conduct cases here.

Do we have a situation in which an officer charged with excessive use of force on multiple occasions but cleared can continue to serve without some adjustments such as an early warning system or a citizen review board?

Gadfly implies no failures by our police department. These are simply questions that need to be asked. This is simply information that needs to be discussed.

Selections from Holly Bailey, “Former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death seeks to bar evidence of past neck and body restraints.” Washington Post, November 17, 2020.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee at George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and is now charged with his murder, has asked the judge in his case to block prosecutors from introducing evidence of his allegedly having used similar neck and body restraints on other suspects. Chauvin’s lawyer argues in new court documents that his “use of force” in those cases was legal and cleared by police supervisors.

Prosecutors have said they want to cite eight incidents from Chauvin’s 19-year career as a Minneapolis police officer to show a pattern of excessive force and behavior similar to the Memorial Day encounter that left Floyd dead. Prosecutors want to include four cases from 2014 to 2019 in which they claim Chauvin restrained suspects “beyond the point when such force was needed.”

In a court filing Monday, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the case, to block that proposed evidence, arguing that his client had used approved force and, after routine investigations, had been essentially “acquitted by MPD supervisors of applying force in a manner that was either unreasonable or unauthorized.”

“The state attempts to characterize Mr. Chauvin’s use of force as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘beyond what was needed,’ ” Nelson wrote, noting that Chauvin had reported his use of force in each of the incidents. “And in every single one, it was determined by a supervisor that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable in the circumstances and authorized by law and MPD policy.”

One of the cases prosecutors have sought to mention at Chauvin’s trial is a July 2019 domestic disturbance incident in which a caller reported that a man had poured gasoline throughout a house and was armed with a knife. In seeking to subdue the suspect and keep him from reaching for scissors on a nearby table, Chauvin allegedly “delivered a single kick” to the man’s midsection and then applied a neck restraint, causing the man to lose consciousness.

Chauvin later told a supervisor that he realized the man had passed out and placed him in a “recovery position” until he “came to,” prosecutors said, something they say the officer did not do when Floyd complained of struggling to breathe.

In what appears to be a new defense argument, Nelson repeatedly claimed Chauvin did not use a neck restraint on Floyd but rather what he called “body weight control techniques.”

That is a shift from previous defense motions, in which Nelson defended how Chauvin handled Floyd by arguing that he used an approved neck restraint. In an August motion to dismiss charges, Nelson filed exhibits that included past department training materials with photos demonstrating the knee-on-neck hold similar to the one Chauvin used on Floyd and argued that his client “did exactly as he was trained to do.”

Prosecutors said in a filing Monday that they want to show the jury body-camera video of one of the incidents: a September 2017 encounter where Chauvin allegedly hit a 14-year-old boy in the head with a flashlight during a domestic assault investigation and then restrained him with a knee to the back for 17 minutes even though the child was handcuffed and complained of struggling to breathe. According to prosecutors, the boy’s mother, who had called police, repeatedly asked Chauvin to get off her son, who was bleeding from the ear and later received stitches. Prosecutors described Chauvin’s behavior as “far more violent and forceful” than his police report had implied.

[Defense attorney] argued that allowing the incidents to be cited as evidence before a jury would violate Minnesota legal precedents on how past acts can and cannot be used in current cases. Nelson wrote that he thinks prosecutors want to use past incidents to “illegally prove propensity,” which he argued is not allowed under state law and would be “unfairly prejudicial.”

If Gadfly had his way . . .

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

Gadfly is concerned about a Walter Williams “first contact” situation here.

Gadfly feels he has good reason to be concerned.

Walter Williams is the tip of an iceberg going back to Jacob Blake, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd and beyond to

Gadfly guesses some people will say such an incident is not likely here, we are a good town, we have a good police force, but he also guesses that towns like Kenosha and Ferguson felt that way too.

Gadfly suggests nothing negative about our police department.

He would just like to know how our police department would handle such a “first contact” situation and whether such tragic events have prompted any re-thinking or brand-new thinking relative to such situations.

Gadfly feels that the “first contact” situation is “the” front-burner problem in policing today.

And thus he was frustrated at the way it was, in his opinion, buried at the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting.

What we learned at that meeting (and rolled out a bit more at the November 9 budget meeting — and Gadfly will get to that meeting in more detail shortly) is that the City, in a pilot program, is reassigning a social worker funded mostly (how much exactly has been left vague) on grant money to handle a variety of mental-health type referrals from police officers. There also will be a freebie intern from Kutztown during the academic year. The idea is to save police time with repeated calls regarding a troubled individual and to cut down on the number of arrests.

All well and good.

But this plan does not relate (directly anyway) to the first contact situation.

Gadfly assumes that a person referred by the police would have to voluntarily comply with interaction with the social worker and with whatever mental health or counseling treatment was appropriate. So there’s no guarantee that a referral will avoid a first contact situation.

Even a person who voluntarily complies might “go off” at a some point and create a first contact situation.

And there could be/would be first contact situations with people not previously known to the police.

So Gadfly was not satisfied with our response.

He felt the October 29 meeting was a waste. Everybody who was anybody was in the room. The time was ripe for a good discussion.

But the elephant was not in the room.

With great presumption, he realizes, Gadfly has said he would have run the October 29 meeting differently.

He would have put this picture up on the Town Hall screen and played this short video and this short video.

And asked the assembled very directly, “How are our officers trained to handle a situation like this?” “If you agree that there was not a good outcome here for either the subject, or the officers (it must be shattering to kill some one in any circumstance), or the community, how do we avoid such an outcome?”

This is the focused point at which Gadfly would start the discussion with all the players in the room.

And if (when) discussion flagged a bit, he would play a few seconds of Walter Wallace’s mother screaming over his body.

All along, Gadfly has been puzzled with the City and City Council’s pace and indirection in dealing with the post-GeorgeFloyd reckoning with race, but he is glad to hear that there will be another meeting with the police after the turn of the year to deal with such matters as the first contact response.

But Gadfly found something interesting in his mail bag last week that might relate to the lack of urgency that has frustrated Gadfly.

More on that next.

Incident in Philadelphia (10): system failure

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

Ok, in 9 posts Gadfly has tried to wrap hisself around the October 26 incident in Philadelphia as a proximate point of reference with which to judge the City’s proposed changes in policing talked about at the Committee of the Whole meeting October 29 and at the Budget hearing November 9.

And he has invited you to wrap yourselves around that incident in Philadelphia too.

The Wallace incident was the cause of Gadfly’s frustrated little outburst about confronting the “first contact” situation at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

He did not feel the need to speak at the Budget meeting because Walter Wallace’s name was invoked several times by both the virtual Head Tablers and the caller-commenters.

So, before we go on, join me with pulling together a bullet list of salient points about that incident.

Compare your list with mine.

What did Gadfly miss?

What do we see?

  • Police were called to the Wallace house twice before on the same day October 26.
  • Phone calls to the police made clear it was a mental health problem not a crime.
  • The call proximate to the event asked for an ambulance.
  • There were 31 prior contacts over time with WW’s house.
  • WW had a long “rap sheet,” but we don’t know the nature of his offenses.
  • WW was (or should have been) “known” to the police.
  • The officers made no attempt at de-escalation.
  • WW was dead within a minute of “first contact” with the officers.
  • Police shoot 14 times.
  • WW is killed in front of his mother, wife, family, dozens of neighbors — lots of trauma to go around.
  • Listen to WW’s mother screaming over his body.
  • WW had just gotten married, his wife delivered a baby shortly after the event, he had 9 children.
  • WW was carrying a 4-inch blade pocket knife.
  • WW was advancing on the officers but not charging or running.
  • The officers did multiple times tell WW to drop his weapon.
  • The street scene was noisy and chaotic.
  • It was estimated that 15 feet separated the officers from WW.
  • The police were armed only with guns, they had no tasers, no non-lethal weapons.
  • Police Union: WW initiated the action.
  • Police Union: WW ignored numerous lawful orders to drop his weapon while advancing on the officers.
  • Police Union: officers are blameless, they followed their training and police department policy.
  • The officers are in their mid-20s and on the force c. 3 years — young but not unseasoned or rookies.
  • Did the officers panic? Tension was high. Lots of screaming.
  • The police officers look white, but their race is not specified.
  • Both WW’s parents imply racism, lack of respect, unconcern for humanity.
  • WW’s mother reports that an officer on one of the earlier visits that day laughed at them.
  • The officers are heard saying “get him” and “shoot him” just before the shooting.
  • The shooting initiates several days of harsh and ugly unrest, confrontations, and looting in the city.
  • The National Guard is called in.
  • Wallace’s family urges calm.
  • The Mayor, Police Chief, etc., etc. know immediately on looking at the bodycams and other video that the officers screwed up.
  • City officials offer no defense of the officers.
  • The Police Chief offers no defense of the officers.
  • The police chief is a female.
  • The Police Chief did explain the nature and amount of deescalation training officers get in the Academy.
  • The District Attorney engages immediately in sympathetic way with the Wallace family, fights back tears at WW’s wake.
  • Philadelphia is a “Democratic” City.
  • The Wallace family don’t want murder charges, blame City for officers without tasers.
  • The Wallace family suggests some defunding.
  • In public statements, City officials talk mainly about what they will learn from this incident.
  • Quick release of the bodycam videos for the first time in such a case is touted as a sign of the City doing the right thing.
  • In public statements, City officials talk mainly about new or nearly new programs to avoid such incidents in the future.
  • A new program put a behavioral health specialist in the dispatch room, but that person was not there when this call came in.
  • In public statements, City officials focus on their after-the-fact actions to avoid such incidents in the future.
  • In public statements, the sense of City officials is that WW did not die in vain, that good will come from this tragedy.
  • In public statements, the City is in an “after-the-fact” humble, penitent reform mode. A we’ve-got-to-do-better mode.
  • The Police Chief is now requesting a review of the department’s training in handling mentally ill people and is exploring other models to address the problem.
  • The Police Chief pledges reforms by late next year.
  • The Mayor talks about healing for the city not the Wallace family.
  • The Wallace lawyer — himself a former officer  — says police are trained to kill.
  • The Wallace family plans to sue. Past history suggests that they will receive a huge settlement.
  • WW had an “existing relationship” with a mental health organization in the neighborhood that police knew or should have known about.
  • That organization was not contacted that day.
  • That organization had previously offered many times to formally partner with the police department on such mental health calls, but the department did not take them up on their persistent offer.
  • The Twitterverse shows little if any compassion for WW.
  • The Twitterverse suggests that crying “mental health” is a dodge now consciously and artfully employed to excuse individual responsibility.
  • The Twitterverse blames WW for not obeying a lawful order and for being a “criminal.”
  • The Twitterverse opinion is that WW got what he deserved.

What do we see here?

Gadfly feels that one thing we see is system failure, massive system failure.

Gadfly is no “abolitionist,” but he can’t help but feel a tug of truth in the suggestion by the Minneapolis abolitionist at the NCC conference that a police department structure whose only response to tragedies is a cycle of reform in catch-up mode may not be worth supporting.

But, sigh, ok, in this national climate of examining how we do public safety, what should Bethlehem’s response be?

Next.

Incident in Philadelphia (9): the “official” response

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

“The real violence was perpetrated by a knife-wielding man, who confronted our police officers,” [Police Union president] John McNesby said in a statement. “These officers followed their training and police department policy. It’s completely inappropriate that these officers continue to be vilified for doing their job.”

———-

The Mayor
click here, mins. 18-20

Will be announcing new programs. Releasing bodycam footage. Recognizes a feeling that nothing has changed. A willingness to be transparent and accountable is a sign that things must change, are changing. Shining a light that will bring a new day — peace, trust, healing. Open process that will help us heal.

The Police Chief
click here, mins, 25:40-30

After detailing the internal investigative process regarding officer action, calls special attention to explanation of programs (some in process) designed to improve the department’s “service to the community” and about to be implemented with the Department of Behavioral Health, involving deescalation training, a medical health person embedded with dispatch and police radio, implicit bias training, active bystanderdship training (officers intervening with other officers), with a decision-tree for dispatchers.

Behavioral Health official
click here, mins. 30-38

Points to long history of collaboration with police. Innovative initiatives with health-centered approach to law enforcement. Beginning a class with dispatchers next week. Embedded program of mental health specialists. Mental health navigator in dispatch room. Has “Network of Neighbors” coalition. Sadly trauma is ongoing.

The District Attorney

The District Attorney pledged support to the Wallace family, praised them for willingness to release the bodycam footage, and “fought back tears” at the wake, saying, “Philadelphia owes you a lot.”

Incident in Philadelphia (8): the mental health connection (or lack thereof)

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

The (West Philadelphia) Consortium

The missing link.

Selections from Max Marin and Michaela Winberg, “Philly police rebuffed offers from crisis response center to work together, director says.” BillyPenn, October 29, 2020.

The executive director [John White] of the West Philadelphia Consortium, a mental health crisis response center, can’t escape the feeling he could have saved Walter Wallace Jr.’s life.

Staffers at his center had an existing relationship with the 27-year-old. They knew him and a few of his family members intimately. And their office sits just five blocks from where Wallace was killed by police Monday afternoon.

But they didn’t get the call when he reportedly suffered a mental health breakdown outside his home.

Police did — and it ended in gunfire.

“I’ve been asking myself why,” White said. “There’s a sense of guilt, knowing and believing that if we had been involved we could have made a difference.”

By Outlaw’s [the Philadelphia Police Chief] own admission, the department has failed to build a formal relationship with crisis response providers like the West Philadelphia Consortium, despite what director White describes as persistent requests.

Instead, his organization relies on an informal network of police officers and city residents to summon them to the scene of a crisis.

Upon arrival, these unarmed mental health professionals can offer on-site counseling, medication, transport to a hospital and signups for outpatient care. The teams are experts in de-escalation, White said. In more than 1,200 interventions last year, he said only six resulted in police arresting someone at the scene. None resulted in deaths.

While the city does fund several crisis response providers to help with mental health emergencies, there’s no official connection to the Police Department.

The PPD does not have its own behavioral health unit, either, according to Outlaw. While White told Billy Penn he’s been talking with police officials for months to formally integrate his services, the commissioner wasn’t aware of any such conversations. Asked about this at a briefing Wednesday, she vowed to implement a new unit in the department “as soon as possible.”

“There’s clearly a disconnect on our end in terms of knowing what’s out there,” Outlaw said. “There hasn’t been any coordination.”

A month before Wallace’s death, the PPD began a new program, under which a behavioral health expert is seated in the radio room with 911 dispatchers, who’ll employ a procedure for flagging emergency calls that might have mental health risk.

That point person wasn’t in the room when the emergency calls came in on Monday, according to Commissioner Outlaw.

With a formal system lacking, White started distributing West Philadelphia Consortium contact info directly to police on the ground

As a result of this outreach, which began early last year, many officers in West Philly’s 12th, 16th and 18th police districts know about the consortium’s services. They often call the organization themselves when they know they’re responding to a mental health emergency, White said.

The consortium’s mobile crisis team is made up of two units, three people each: a clinician, a counselor and a nurse practitioner. Each team has its own van, and can respond to a call from the Schuylkill to the end of Cobbs Creek, from City Line Avenue to Philadelphia International Airport, within 10 to 12 minutes, per White.

Even if these teams are first on the scene, called by family or neighbors, they sometimes ask for police assistance if a person needs to be involuntarily brought in for an evaluation.

“The first step is to try to get someone to go in voluntarily,” said Rob Wetherington, an outreach worker and mental health advocate in the city. “We’ve known for a long time the Pandora’s box that can get opened when officers get involved.”

For White, getting experts to the scene quickly is the most important factor to deterring bad outcomes.

“The main purpose is to deescalate tense situations that arise,” White said. “In virtually every situation that we have been involved in, if the assessment does not include a crime, assault or threats to others, the police yield to our judgment.”

———

Taylor Allen, “Walter Wallace Jr.’s neighbors say bodycam footage reveals systemic problems — and they have solutions.” WHYY, November 6, 2020.

Incident in Philadelphia (7): the subject’s father and mother

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

We continue to fill in the picture around the death of Walter Wallace.

The subject’s father asks for respect. “They’re” labeling us — drunks and alcoholics. (2 1/2 mins.)

Selections from Bill Hutchinson, “‘They didn’t give a damn’: Mother of slain Walter Wallace says police knew her son was in a mental crisis.” October 28, 2020.

Police responded to the family’s home three times on the day of the shooting.

The mother of the 27-year-old Philadelphia man who was gunned down by officers Monday in front of his family’s home said police knew he was having a mental crisis because she told them and begged them not to shoot him.

The killing of Walter Wallace Jr. has sparked protests as well as rioting and looting in Philadelphia and beyond, and mirrors what experts say is an ongoing problem nationwide of law enforcement officers using deadly force on mentally ill people.

Wallace’s mother, Cathy Wallace, said police were called to her home three times on Monday but were not able to help her and her family deal with the mental-health emergency her son was experiencing. She said that when officers returned to her home the third time, they ended up shooting her son multiple times when he broke free of her and appeared to step toward two officers with a knife.

“I was telling the police to stop, ‘Don’t shoot my son, please, don’t shoot my son,'” Cathy Wallace said at a news conference Tuesday night. “They paid me no mind and they just shot him.”

She said the first two times the police came to her home on Monday, they only irritated her son, the father of nine children, instead of helping him.

“They weren’t trying to help us, they didn’t give a damn about us,” Cathy Wallace alleged. “My son said, ‘Look at them, they standing there laughing at us.’ So I took my son and I and walked down the street and left the cops standing out there.”

The shooting erupted around 4 p.m. on Monday after Wallace’s brother called 911 and requested an ambulance and medical intervention for Wallace. The police showed up again, Cathy Wallace said, even though the family had only asked for an ambulance.

Regarding her son’s history of mental health issues, Cathy Wallace said “they already knew about it; it’s already on his record,” due to the dozens of times the police had been called to her home in the past.

The shooting erupted around 4 p.m. on Monday after Wallace’s brother called 911 and requested an ambulance and medical intervention for Wallace. The police showed up again, Cathy Wallace said, even though the family had only asked for an ambulance.

“Officers who are properly trained should notice certain things when they arrive at a scene,” Johnson said. “Especially when his wife tells you, ‘Stand down officers, he’s manic bipolar.'”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference on Tuesday that the two officers involved in the shooting did not have less-lethal tools, like stun guns, due to a department-wide lack of resources.

“We have to adapt our training,” said Outlaw, who was appointed Philadelphia’s police commissioner in February after serving as chief of the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice recommended that all Philadelphia officers be issued stun guns to carry at all times. Outlaw said that while the department has equipped many officers with stun guns, it is still working to ensure all 6,300 officers have them.

She said they still need another 2,000 stun guns to equip the entire police force.

Outlaw said during a Zoom news conference on Wednesday afternoon that she has requested a review of the department’s training in handling mentally ill people and is exploring other models to address the problem.

“It’s a plethora of things; it’s not just how we respond to someone with a weapon, it’s how we respond to someone in crisis,” Outlaw said. “And that’s not just at the patrol level. We also need to look at what we’re dispatching, how we’re dispatching, the types of questions that we’re asking, what information is relayed to responding officers to help us determine response, and then shall we require a supervisor to be in route as well to assist with scene coordination?”

A study published this year in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law found that of the nearly 1,000 people shot by police officers in 2018, a quarter of them had a mental illness.

Although officers are trained to handle tense situations, foiling a robbery or assault is not the same as someone who is in deep mental distress.

“Police officers who are trained as paramilitary may not recognize a mental health crisis and treat it as something else,” Akhu said.

Incident in Philadelphia (5): the body cams

Latest in a series of posts about the death of Walter Wallace

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

Let’s start the week with a bang.

Walter Wallace died in this incident with the Philadelphia Police on October 26. It’s the kind of classic mental health incident that occasions debate about the nature of policing. Gadfly had been providing info without commentary till a little matter of a presidential election took precedence last week. During that “break,” however, the body cam video was released and a major press conference was held. So let’s pick up once again with canvassing all the information on the case. Click “Walter Wallace” under Topics on the right-hand sidebar to catch up on past posts.

Here is the long-awaited body cam videos from the two officers spliced together.

The Philadelphia police department publicly released the bodycam footage in a police shooting for the very first time in its history in an effort to improve transparency.

The action plays out in less than a minute.

In addition, here is the viral on-the-scene spectator twitter video that we’ve seen before but this time we get a glimpse of his mother (we think) over the dying Wallace on the ground.

And the range of twitter comments should not be missed.

———

Vanessa Roma, “Philadelphia Police Release ‘Traumatic’ Bodycam Video Of Walter Wallace Jr. Shooting.” November 4, 2020.

Erin Donaghue, “Philadelphia officials release bodycam video and 911 calls in police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.” November 5, 2020.

Jenny Gross, “What We Know About the Death of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia.” New York Times, November 4, 2020.

Lehigh County shifts $500k from corrections to prevention

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

Gadfly keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. Gadfly guesses we might call this action in Allentown “defunding.”

Selections from Geoff Brace and Dave Harrington, “Your View: by two Lehigh County commissioners: Why we need to reform the criminal justice system.” Morning Call, November 6, 2020.

As Lehigh County commissioners, our commitment is to contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy and the institutions that reinforce it. In early 2020, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners began reviewing the policies and practices of the county that may contribute to these problems.

Reviewing the county’s criminal justice system and pushing for reforms that are morally just makes good sense for the taxpayers and ensures safe communities for everybody in Lehigh County.

The board’s Courts and Corrections Committee has met several times to dive deeply into these issues.

These conversations, informed by self-reported and publicly available information, have paved the way for budget and policy suggestions.

Also gleaned by these conversations are the reports from other county departments and elected officials. For instance, it may not have become public knowledge that the Lehigh County Court Administration is working on creating a Drug Court to handle addiction as a disease and not a crime in many cases.

In 2018, 16% of offenders in Lehigh County were charged for new criminal offenses within one year. With the most recent data from 2016, 33% of offenders would be charged with a new crime within three years. Simply said, the cycle of crime, even with fewer total offenses, continues.

We need to take steps to address many of the underlying issues contributing to criminal activity. When one in three individuals going through the criminal justice system returns within three years, we are squandering lives and taxpayer dollars.

Budgets are more than plans for revenue and expenditures. They are moral documents and reflect taxpayer priorities. With the county jail population significantly down, some of the excess funding is better used to fund prevention.

To that end, the board of commissioners unanimously voted to shift almost $500,000 in funds from the Corrections Department, devoting those funds to youth violence prevention, services for individuals reentering society after incarceration and homelessness prevention.

Every youth steered away from a gang, every former inmate who finds gainful and meaningful employment upon reentry and every person kept in safe housing represents critical steps in successfully avoiding the criminal justice system.

This is a down payment on our commitment to fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all in Lehigh County. We are not done. Jail is not a substitute for mental health and addiction treatment. Communities get better through cooperation and investment, not criminalization and incarceration.

We need to reform Lehigh County’s criminal justice system further by ensuring effective legal representation, fixing the broken mental health care system and addressing root causes of crime.

Many in the county care deeply about reform but, too often, institutions cannot see their own blind spots. While it may be politically expedient to simply jail people, it is ineffective in addressing society’s problems, wastes tax dollars and takes a toll on human lives.

Allentown Chief is thinking about the “first contact” situation, we’re not

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

“Allentown’s police chief is asking the city for a little more money next year for programs that could lessen the chance of a deadly encounter between a citizen
and an officer.”

As always, this is Gadfly keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. Allentown is addressing the “first contact” situation. While Bethlehem is not.

Selections from Paul Muschick, “Defund the police? Why that’s a bad idea in Allentown.” Morning Call, November 2, 2020.

Allentown’s police chief is asking the city for a little more money next year for programs that could lessen the chance of a deadly encounter between a citizen and an officer, and improve relations with the community.

The request is reasonable. I hope it doesn’t become a target of the defund the police movement.

You can’t take funding away from police departments and expect officers to be well-trained and well-equipped to respond perfectly to every situation. In many cases, a top-notch department will cost more.

Philadelphia police have been criticized for fatally shooting a knife-wielding, mentally ill man on Monday instead of trying to subdue him with a Taser. But the officers were not equipped with Tasers.

Thousands of Philadelphia officers don’t carry them despite a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Justice and a plan that was put into place several years ago to make Tasers standard equipment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A police spokesman said funding was an issue.

We will never know if a Taser would have made a difference. But if it had, and if Walter Wallace Jr. hadn’t died, the looting and rioting that are terrorizing parts of Philadelphia now wouldn’t be happening.

Fortunately, Allentown has not had such problems.

The goal is to keep it that way, and some of the additional money that police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. asked for on Wednesday could help.

He is seeking $40.8 million for the department next year, an increase of about 1.25% from the $40.3 million budget approved for this year.

The additional expenses include a second community intervention specialist, a civilian who arranges services, including mental health services, to people who need assistance with problems that may result in police being called. By getting them help, the goal is to reduce the need for police to repeatedly respond to the same location for the same issue.

Granitz said the city is working with Cedar Crest College to analyze the impact the specialists are having, including whether there is a decrease in officers using force.

Other budget requests include money to upgrade and expand the city’s network of street surveillance cameras. Not only can the cameras help officers solve crimes, but they can be used to hold officers accountable if they do something wrong.

The department also wants to replace its 10-year-old robot, which also is outdated and inefficient. The newer one slated for purchase is more nimble and able to climb stairs and reach small areas of buildings that cannot be reached by the current robot.

During standoffs and other tense situations, robots can be used to communicate with people and serve as the eyes and ears of officers, instead of an officer coming face to face with someone who may react violently.

The department also wants to increase training, and complete training it already has begun. About 40% of Allentown officers have gone through crisis intervention training, which includes instruction from not only law enforcement professionals, but from mental health providers and family advocates.

“This is something that I believe the community is asking for,” Granitz said.

If city residents want a top-notch force that’s well-trained and well-equipped to deal with problems, and to prevent riot-inciting incidents, they have to be willing to pay for it.

“We’re all connected . . . You help me and I help you”

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

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

We’re in for a rough week. Divisive election. Rising virus. Falling stocks. On the front page of Friday’s Morning Call we find these headlines: “State prepared for civil unrest” and “Another day with more than 2k cases.” Not a wonderful day in the neighborhood. Let’s hang together, gang.

————

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

———-

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

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

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

Incident in Philadelphia (4)

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

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

Gadfly’s been holding off on commenting on this recent incident that he referenced at the Thursday Committee of the Whole meeting, waiting for the official press conference. That’s not scheduled till next Wednesday now. Long time a’coming. Gadfly suggests that you read along in the meantime, though, for you will recognize now classic issues that he feels we should be discussing locally.

———-

Paul Mickelson. “Readers React: We need better mental health policies.” Morning Call, October 30, 2020.

“Philly curfew now in effect till 6 a.m.; 4 councilmembers push for more police budget cuts.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 30, 2020.

“Amid civil unrest, National Guard arrives in Philadelphia,” Associated Press, Morning Call, October 31, 2020.

Maryclaire Dale, “Lawyer: Mom, child trapped in crowd when police smashed car,” Associated Press, October 30, 2020.

 

“We’re all connected . . . You help me and I help you”

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

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

We’re in for a rough week. Divisive election. Rising virus. Falling stocks. On the front page of Friday’s Morning Call we find these headlines: “State prepared for civil unrest” and “Another day with more than 2k cases.” Not a wonderful day in the neighborhood. Let’s hang together, gang.

————

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

———-

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

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

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

NCC interview with Justan Parker (3)

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference
October 13-15

Black Lives Matter panel video

Remember that we are taking our time to listen to the guy who created Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley (not affiliated with the national organization).

Since GeorgeFloyd Gadfly has been trying to see the world through the eyes of those who feel aggrieved by the police. For understanding. For empathy.

Gadfly asks that you listen to the audio clips to gain a sense of the person that tone gives.

Remember too that the Gadfly text is just quick paraphrase and summary, not exact transcription.

———-

Did you have an encounter with the counter-protestors? Did you have a confrontation or even a peaceful interaction? (5 mins.)

There was a counter-protest in Pen Argyl, and it was hard not to have an emotional response to them. Because they don’t like your skin color or believe that you have any value. They believe that black lives do not matter. It’s hard. In Allentown there was a counter-protest on the other side of City Hall. We tried to start a conversation with some of them, but “a protest is not the place for that.” Emotions and feelings are too high. At Emmaus there were two men with rifles. “Why are we bringing rifles to a park with children?” I’m not against gun rights, but “what is the point” of that? A means of intimidation. A fear tactic. In my eyes that’s the Klan. That’s what Black and Brown people equate it to. The Klan. Counter-protests are very often populated by people outside the community. Some people equate protest with deviance. In Palmerton there was a lot of online agitation about Antifa and etc. I’m not part of any of that. People try to get you in an a-ha moment. So that’s not the time and place for us to engage with them.

 

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved? First-time activists, maybe afraid. (2 mins.)

The great thing is that there are many lanes to run in, many ways to participate. Actual protesting, sharing live-stream on social media, writing to elected official. Activism isn’t restricted to protesting. Activism comes in many forms.

 

Did you have the experience of first-time people feeling empowered? (2 mins.)

Yes, we have the experience of people having an epiphany during discussion of defunding and etc., walking away feeling better, and then communicating with others. But some people left the Palmerton protest feeling broken from the counter-protestors. The racism, the violence. You can see in the pictures a girl physically scared and children crying. A great amount of hate out there, and that was accepted by the police.

Allentown Chief asks city to “further invest in the police department”

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

As usual, Gadfly is keeping his eye on what is happening around us. Note new programs cooking in Allentown relevant to the issues that we have been talking about. Our new budget is due out c. November 13 or 16. No dates for budget meetings have been announced to the public yet. There was talk early on of having discussions of possible changes in public safety before budget season. Those discussions have not really occurred, so Gadfly assumes the police budget here in Bethlehem, for example, will be simply more of the same.

Selections from Andrew Wagaman, “Allentown chief asks for $40.8 million police budget, with additional officer training and community programs.” Morning Call, October 29, 2020.

Allentown’s top cop on Wednesday made a case that the best way to reduce crime and improve community relations is to further invest in the police department.

During an hour long budget presentation to City Council, police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. detailed a number of initiatives the department plans to tackle in 2021 related to community engagement, enhanced training and crisis intervention. He also shared statistics indicating violent crime has fallen for the ninth time in 10 years, and argued that the police force has played an active role in the overall crime drop.

A majority of council members heaped praise on the department in an hours’ worth of follow-up questions, while council members Ce-Ce Gerlach and Joshua Siegel urged Granitz to more ambitiously pursue equitable policies and combat institutional racism. Councilman Ed Zucal, who ran the meeting, suggested their comments weren’t relevant to the budget hearing.

There has been much discussion in Allentown and beyond on how law enforcement agencies can more effectively address the growing number of people struggling with addiction or mental health issues. Granitz and Assistant Chief Charlie Roca provided details on the department’s partnership with Treatment Trends Inc., certified recovery specialists connecting those struggling with addiction with helpful resources. The chief touted the success of Lehigh County’s Blue Guardian program, launched in 2018, in which officers and recovery specialists make follow-up visits with individuals who suffered a drug overdose and encourage them to seek treatment.

Allentown police also work with a Pinebrook Family Answers’ community intervention specialist to connect people to mental health resources. Granitz hopes to fund at least one additional “mental health liaison” in the coming year.

About 40% of city police officers have undergone crisis intervention training led by mental health providers and family advocates, and Granitz said he’s committed to having the entire force complete the training in 2021. The department is also improving its field training program to more accurately measure officers’ performance and progress, and to introduce a leadership component preparing officers for future supervisory roles.

In addition, officers will undergo “active bystandership” training provided by the Georgetown University Law Center. Allentown was one of the first 30 police departments in the nation selected for the program, which provides officers with tactics to intervene and prevent misconduct by their peers.

The police department will also partner with Cedar Crest College to measure whether its crisis intervention training and partnerships with community intervention specialists are curbing repeat behavioral health emergency calls and police use-of-force incidents.

Granitz said, “If we are going to do something, I want to do it well. … Does it have an appreciative effect on our officers’ use of force? Are they better able to de-escalate using this model? Or after a few years of study, do we need to make a change?”

The proposed 2021 budget does not include a formal community policing program, but department leaders are working toward it. Granitz is eliminating a captain position and creating an additional sergeant position focused on community policing. He has also met with former department leaders involved in the neighborhood police program that was phased out in the early 2000s, and wants to establish a “center for police innovation and community engagement” to figure out the best approach.

Gerlach said she was looking forward to examining more crime data trends related to race, ethnicity and gender. She also asked Granitz what the department was doing, amid ongoing civil unrest over police misconduct, to root out policies that have a disparate impact on minorities.

Despite Zucal, a retired police sergeant, arguing that it wasn’t a “budget-related question,” Granitz answered, saying he has fired a number of subpar officers over the past year, increased mandatory training and invited the city’s human resources and legal teams to scrutinize hiring practices, department policies and operational procedures.

Siegel urged the department to reconsider its membership with the National Rifle Association, which Granitz said provides training to city firearms instructors.

“I always like to consider what the underlying ideology and intention is, and [the NRA] are a little bit more ‘defend yourself at all costs’ than I’m comfortable with,” Siegel said.

“With all due respect, let’s stick to the budget,” Zucal said.

Siegel also pressed the department to consider handing off the first response to behavioral health and substance abuse calls as it continues to build partnerships with intervention and recovery specialists. He also requested the department to pursue the community service officer program developed in San Jose that has civilian employees, who are armed only with pepper spray, handle traffic issues and other lower-priority calls.

Siegel and Gerlach, elected to council last year, have said the city should reallocate some police funding toward addressing social inequities that they believe drive crime — like a lack of affordable housing, treatment services and recreational opportunities for youth.

Incident in Philadelphia (3)

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

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

Gadfly has refrained from extended comment on this October 26 incident — which he referenced centrally in his brief comments at City Council last night — waiting for a major press conference and a sense that all (or most!) of the relevant facts are in. Gadfly suggests you read what’s available for now and begin to gather your thoughts.

Gadfly invites suggestions for other news sources to read:

Maryclaire Dale, “Philadelphia police face rebuke from city, Wallace family.” Associated Press, October 29, 2020.

Walter Wallace Jr.’s family does not want officers who shot him to face murder charges, attorney says.” CNN, October 29, 2020.

, “Philadelphia shooting is just the latest case in a long history of mental health crisis calls that turned deadly in the US.” CNN, October 29, 2020.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance

Incident in Philadelphia (2)

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

The subject’s name was Walter Wallace.

Gadfly invites suggestions for other news sources to read:

Robert Klemko, et al, “Philadelphia imposes curfew, calls in National Guard as protests continue over Walter Wallace shooting.” Washington Post, October 28, 2020.

Eric Levenson, “What we know about the Philadelphia Police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.” CNN, October 28, 2020.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance

A student interview with Dr. Roy on systemic racism in the Bethlehem schools

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Virtual Health Equity Summit: Racial Justice for Stronger Communities
Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley
October 27 2020

Gadfly has remarked more than once at the wealth of local events and resources available to us in this post GeorgeFloyd period of national reckoning with race.

Yesterday was a great Gadfly day in that regard.

In the morning was the Hispanic Center event and at night another of BAPL’s “Courageous Conversations” moderated by Rayah Levy.

There were three parts to the HCLV event: Systemic Racism in K-12 Education, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Communities of Color, and Understanding Colorism within the Hispanic Community.

Gadfly learned from them all, but he is just going to focus here on the education one with Dr. Roy and students Xenise Price and Dayanara Marrero-Allen since it is more related to topics we’ve been discussing here on the blog.

Dr. Roy is always a good interview.

Gadfly planned to just excerpt a piece for you.

Instead, you have the whole segment.

Listen, don’t depend on Gadfly’s text — just paraphrasing and giving you the gist.

Enjoy!

“Systemic Racism in K-12 Education”
Dr. Joseph Roy and students Xenise Price and Dayanara Marrero-Allen

Why do you think that teachers aren’t encouraging and supporting students of color to take higher level classes? (3 mins.)

One of the challenges we have to overcome is encouraging students more. One of the solutions may be encouraging students to sign up in groups to overcome the solitary student of color situation. Doing a better job of “cohort scheduling.”

 

Why does it seems that white students get more opportunities in choosing classes? (3 mins.)

We have to start further back and lay the groundwork. We need to do a better job of literacy skills. We have an intense focus on early literacy skills to prepare for the advanced work later.

 

What about the role of counselors? (2 mins.)

Course selection time is critical for all of us in school to not think of courses in terms of a gatekeeper mentality. We want to be the gate opener. A student recounts a positive experience in this regard.

 

Why do you think that students feel that they have to work twice as hard to keep up with the white kids to get the same opportunity? (2 mins.)

I’ve been heavily involved in equity and access. And we’re moving to more heterogeneous, mixed groupings in Middle School.

 

In addition to tracking, what else is the school district doing to promote equity in the schools? (3 mins.)

The most impactful is literacy. A second is our challenge for everybody to be anti-racist. We’ve been looking at opportunities to improve participation in sports, activities, and clubs, for instance. Dual enrollment classes with college as another concrete thing. Gifted education too.

 

Students of color aren’t really being prepared for advanced classes . . . Why aren’t students of color being mixed more, and doesn’t it seem a little counterproductive for teachers to teach this way? (2 mins.)

That’s an issue that has been fixed. Old model is gone. We’ve received national recognition for what we’re doing in early education. Working on it at higher levels.

 

Teachers and staff . . . Are they proportionate to students of color? (4 mins.)

No, certainly not. A challenge. Making some progress each year. Started an education pathway here, to grow our own teachers here. Also connecting with Temple University to figure out how to recruit people to come here. Not an easy sell to come to the Lehigh Valley. Selling the lifestyle in the Lehigh Valley. The students agreed that more teachers of color would be a benefit.

 

What is something you are proud of at the Bethlehem School District? (1 min.)

How teachers and students have handled the pandemic.

 

Dr. Roy talks of the digital divide and the pandemic. (3 mins.)

Pandemic has put spotlight on inequities in society. Trouble for some students keeping up with schoolwork. Worried about them. We’re working to close the digital divide. Great progress.

Tip o’ the hat to HCLV for doing this!