The resolution an extension of Crampsie Smith’s long career of advocacy

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Co-sponsor of the “Resolution urging the creation of a Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem” Councilwoman Crampsie Smith followed, highlighting her extensive enlightening experience and ending with a strong pledge for life-long advocacy.

  • Some misconception about the purpose of this resolution.
  • I also attended [like Mr. Reynolds] all the marches and rallies.
  • We need to give citizens of this city a voice beyond the rallies.
  • It’s a mechanism for the citizens of this city.Grace Crampsie Smith 2
  • They are the ones who are going to navigate this process.
  • I’m hoping we can have a virtual meeting at some point.
  • I have almost 40 years of experience working in mental health . . . [etc.] . . . and the majority of the people and students I have worked with are people of color.
  • I’ve learned a great deal from them . . . I have tried to open my mind . . .
  • This [resolution] is a vehicle by which the citizens can come and express their concerns, and we can work together to try to make changes . . . in all areas.
  • Even though I do have white privilege, I have, and I will continue to advocate for people of color, people living in poverty, people who have mental illness, addictions, you name it, I will continue to advocate till the day I die.

Reynolds rationale for the resolution

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Gadfly is moving chronologically covering the July 7 City Council meeting and the “Resolution urging the creation of a Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem” sponsored by Councilpersons Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

Gadfly has brought you the in-person and by-phone public comment, which, as the newspaper characterized it, was “lukewarm at best.”

Give Councilman Reynolds credit. He was “in the room” (the other Council members except president Waldron participated online) directly facing and speaking to the activists.

His rationale for the resolution was clear and strong.

  • I agree with a lot of what’s been said.
  •  . . . the most learning goes on where there is the most amount of discomfort . . .
  • What is in front of us here is really a concept
  • I attended and I marched in every one of the rallies that have gone on in Bethlehem during the last several weeks.
  • The energy there was unbelievable, and the people in this room deserve a lot of credit for that.
  • What I am trying to do here . . . is find a public, open structure by which that energy is able to continue.
  • This is not about me saying I have the solution. This is not about me saying we should do A, B, and C.
  • I kept the resolution vague for that reason.
  • Trying to work out having a public space meeting during a pandemic . . . has been  impossible.
  • Unacceptable to me to do nothing till August or September.
  • I had an hour and a half conversation with [Prof Ochs] at Lehigh . . . [the kind of research] that needs to be at the center of what we’re looking for going forward.
  • I disagree that anything I’ve been involved with has been a band-aid, I think that me record of public service shows that I don’t usually get involved in things that I don’t think will lead to real change.
  • It’s about creating real change. Reynolds 3
  • The energy we have about making change . . . extends beyond the police department.
  • The reason I came up with this idea now is to start the conversation.
  • The structure is designed to create public pressure such as we’ve seen tonight to create change within the city and within our police department.
  • I’m trying to create something here that will allow for permanent access for these conversation and actions that need change.
  • What I wanted to do here is create an organic structure that does not have a lot of direction . . . no votes, no official members, but it’s about transparency and accountability.
  • We need to look like a department that understands that not every call needs to be answered by a police officer.
  • . . . opportunity to hear from our police department about what we currently do . . .
  • We need to allow conversation from all different corners of the city.
  • I was just trying to create a space, not an agenda, in which for one month we are hearing from [anybody /everybody] that wants to.
  • People deserve to have a voice, and it’s important that the right people are in that room to hear about those topics, and it’s not just us.
  • What I am trying to do here is create a permanent structure that will change the face of that conversation going forward.
  • We need to draw the lines [from what happened in the past] to what’s going on today.
  • What this was to me was just the opportunity to create that space.
  • [vague] designed that way.
  • It was never about we need to do this, this, and this. I felt that would be disrespectful to those who have other ideas.
  • The best that we can do is to give people who have ideas about what we need to do access to power and a voice in being able to have these conversations.
  • This is an opportunity, an opportunity for all of us to create real change.
  • But it only happens if we get buy-in from the city and buy-in from the community.
  • The only way this piece of paper means anything is if we’ve made progress a month from now . . . year . . . two years.

Sounding off about defunding the police

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Gadfly’s been trying to educate himself on this idea of defunding the police. Today’s Morning Call had a “Sounding Off” section with five views on the subject.

Join him listening in.

“‘Defund the police’? Readers debate police reform proposal.” Morning Call, July 9, 2020.

Some soundbites from the five views:

Different from abolishing and starting anew, defunding police highlights fiscal responsibility, advocates for a market-driven approach to taxpayer money, and has some potential benefits that will reduce police violence and crime.

Data show that 9 out of 10 calls for police are for nonviolent encounters. This does not mean that an incident will not turn violent, but police at times contribute to the escalation of violent force. Police officers’ skill set and training are often out of sync with the social interactions that they have to face. Police are mostly trained in use-of-force tactics and worst-case scenarios to reduce potential threats.

Officers respond to everything from potholes in the street to cats stuck up a tree. Police are also increasingly asked to complete paperwork and online forms. It could be argued that reducing officer workload would increase the likelihood of solving violent crimes.

Violent urban crime that drains police time and funds is a symptom of poverty and lack of quality education. More needs to be spent on curing the disease in order to reduce the symptoms.

Now, let’s address the “defund the police” demands. Absolutely unacceptable. Police departments need more funding, not defunding. So because of the actions of one rogue cop, obviously a one-percenter, the other 99% of dedicated law enforcement officers will suffer, along with the communities that they serve.

We true Americans cannot allow America-hating groups to use unfortunate isolated incidents as fodder for their misguided agendas.

The usual suspects — radical leftists, anarchists and professional agitators — would love a diminished police presence. If a crime occurred and due to underfunding the police could not respond quickly enough, I believe the negative outcry from the aforementioned groups would be deafening. The same outrage would, of course, be directed at the average citizen who defended family and property and now will be even more vilified by these same groups.

If the goals are to improve police practices and ensure they are accountable for their actions, improve community relations and help all people not be in fear when dealing with police, then funds shouldn’t be reduced but be directed to improved and continual police training and recruiting.

I believe the majority of people want a well-trained police presence in their communities. Providing the resources for that is paramount.

What needs to fundamentally change is the relationship between law enforcement and the public (particularly with Blacks). While most police officers and departments are dedicated to serving the public, unfortunately some act more like an occupying force. Too many people have been killed or brutalized by the police, quite unjustifiably, and often simply because they were Black.

This means better training, actual accountability (by an independent body), weeding out authoritarian types or those with anger issues, not using brutality as a form of punishment, de-escalate rather than inflame situations, and working with the public rather than seeing it as the enemy. In other words, operating as peace officers not a police state.

Policing can be done less coercively and remain effective. Camden, New Jersey, has created a new model for this. In 2013, then-Gov. Christie worked with community leaders to disband its police department and reconstitute it as an agency that partners with the residents and earns their trust. Most officers were rehired, but under a different contract and different rules. Crime rates have fallen sharply since.

What are you thinkin’? We may be faced with making a choice in the relatively near future. “Budget season” starts in November.

“He wasn’t a criminal. . . . . Why did they feel it necessary to shoot him?”

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This is what the current conversation is all about.

From Andrew Scott, “Relatives say Jim Thorpe man shot dead by police in Monroe County was mentally ill.” Morning Call, July 8, 2020.

Joey Hoffman was only 4 or 5 years old when he started showing signs of mental illness, his parents said.

It was a struggle, but the 40-year-old Jim Thorpe man made a life for himself, marrying, fathering two children and working in home improvement.

“He seemed so happy,” said his stepmother, Doree Hoffman.

But something went wrong. On Monday morning, state troopers responding to a report of a man behaving erratically at a house in Smithfield Township shot Hoffman in the chest, killing him. According to officials, Hoffman pointed a laser-sighted handgun at the troopers and refused to drop it.

“He wasn’t a criminal,” a tearful Doree Hoffman said Tuesday from her Florida home. “He didn’t even like guns. Why did they feel it necessary to shoot him in the chest?”

According to state police, troopers called to a Mosiers Knob Road house, where they found Hoffman, in a pickup truck, pulling into the driveway. Hoffman called troopers names and said the property was booby-trapped, according to police.

When troopers tried to detain him, Hoffman fled into a garage and refused to come out. He then reappeared in the garage doorway, pointing the gun at troopers, police said.

Hoffman refused to drop the gun, police said, and was shot in the chest. He died at the scene, the coroner’s office said.

Hoffman settled in Jim Thorpe with his two children and their mother.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and Hoffman lost his job. The family said the stress caused a mental health relapse.

“It all just piled up on him. People tried to get him help, but he refused,” Doree Hoffman said.

She said her stepson was trying to buy the house where the shooting happened.

“All Joey wanted was to do the right thing in life and see his kids,” Lance Hoffman said. “He loved his kids.”

Situations with people in a mental health crisis put police in a difficult situation. . . . police aren’t trained as well as mental health experts in dealing with the mentally ill.

“Police are left to do the best they can with the limited training they have,” Shane said. “They bring EMS with them and use certain words and a certain tone of voice when addressing people with mental health issues. They have to present themselves as community caretakers instead of armed authoritarians.

“It would be ideal if mental health experts were on call 24/7 and available to respond with police to emergencies, but they’re not,” Shane said. “And if a mentally ill person is pointing a gun at an officer or civilian and refuses to drop that gun, what are police supposed to do?”

Another set of “8”

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The June 9 memo from Councilfolk Reynolds and Crampsie Smith to Chief DiLuzio concerning Use of Force Directives and a Community Engagement Initiative had as its appendix this list of “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations for police policies, indicating their support for them.

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In the Morning Call article in the previous post, the Chief is quoted as saying current police policy already includes those 8 recommendations.

Among the activists who appeared in person at the Tuesday City Council meeting, Gadfly heard references to an “8” organization, assuming it was always the “8 Can’t Wait.”

But it wasn’t.

“8 to Abolition.”

Further to the left of “8 Can’t Wait.”

Floyd 9

Such is the way of revolutions . . .

One wave begets another wave.

Not sure how the co-sponsors of the Community Engagement Initiative feel about these 8!

Gadfly just letting you know what’s out there.

Public response to Community Engagement Initiative “lukewarm at best”

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As his wont, Gadfly has been working through Tuesday’s City Council meeting on the Community Engagement Initiative in chronological fashion, having given you posts on the in-person and by-phone public comment as well as Anna Smith’s comment in full, and he will be presenting the proposers’ responses next. In the meantime, here is the good Morning Call overview.

from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem residents pressure council for bold police reforms, including defunding the department.” Morning Call, July 8, 2020.

On Monday, the creation of a 21-member NAACP community advisory board was announced. The board will meet monthly to review Bethlehem’s law enforcement policies, including use of force, police training and transparency. There will also be discussions about how race affects other issues like health, housing and education.

On Tuesday, City Council also approved a resolution to eventually hold a public forum for further discussions about police reform, social justice and race.

But the initiatives didn’t excite community members who spoke at the virtual meeting. They said they wanted to see real reform such as defunding the police.

That movement is gaining momentum across the county, with activists arguing for local governments to reallocate or redirect funds from law enforcement to education, social justice and other agencies.

“Community engagement is only a piece of improving policing,” said resident Anna Smith, adding that education and the development of an action plan to improve the police department’s demographics and its outreach efforts will be needed.

“I think we need to do more and demand more before we set the stage for a mediocre initiative,” she said, suggesting the city hire someone to oversee the development of social policies.

The council’s initiatives “look like “the same old, same old,” said Albert Wurth Jr. a political science professor at Lehigh University. “The most important thing I’d like to say is that it doesn’t look like a real response to the young people who I saw marching down Broad Street from my home,” he said.

The new community advisory board was created on the advice of the national NAACP, which directed its local chapters to meet with police, said Esther Lee, the longtime president of the Bethlehem NAACP. The board includes Mayor Robert Donchez, members of City Council, the Bethlehem Police Department, Bethlehem Health Department, clergy, students, members of the Bethlehem NAACP, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure and Bethlehem Area School Superintendent Joseph Roy.

“Our desire is to initiate immediate change for encouraging transparency, accountability and effective communication that will stabilize the climate of the Bethlehem community and adjacent communities which are needed in these tumultuous times,” Lee said.

Rallies across the country and calls for police reform were sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the deaths in recent years of other unarmed Black men across the country at the hands of police. While there haven’t been such occurrences in Bethlehem, Lee said members of the local NAACP felt they should come forward to discuss issues of social justice reform with leaders in the community.

“I’ve been here all my life. I think it’s time for us to come together, sit at the table and come to an agreement on how we can make life a little better,” she said.

Donchez said the group has met three times since June 15 and will meet again Monday. His goal is to release a community report on some of the initiatives discussed.

Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said the policy already includes the recommendations in the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, which are points reformers have asked departments across the country to adopt, including: banning chokeholds, requiring de-escalation techniques, warning suspects before firing, using alternatives to guns and requiring officers to intervene when force is inappropriately applied.

On Tuesday night, City Council unanimously approved a second initiative to host a public forum discussing issues surrounding systemic racism like discrimination, race-based inequities, social justice, mental health, addiction, poverty, inclusionary housing, education and fair policing. But the coronavirus could complicate the forum.

Gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited, even in the least restrictive green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to mitigate the virus. City Council members spent some time Tuesday debating how they might host such an event. They hoped it might be held in the auditorium at Liberty High School, but noted people might not feel safe attending or some may be turned away because of the restrictions on crowd size.

Hosting a forum virtually could be complicated to manage. One idea is to postpone the meeting until the end of summer when it might be safer.

“I thought it was a good idea to get the resolution out there because it really is a concept, a structure that will allow for public pressure to create change within the city of Bethlehem. It’s about starting the conversation,” said Councilman J. William Reynolds who sponsored the resolution with Grace Crampsie Smith.

After hearing from the public, whose response to the forum was lukewarm at best, council amended the resolution.

Council added a sentence saying it will include the input of experts on community policing, and removed the first three paragraphs of the resolution, which praised city officials and the Bethlehem Police Department for efforts to protect the community while also overseeing the peaceful protests that have occurred.

An abundance of community engagement committees?

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photo WLVR-FM

Stephen Jiwanmall, “City of Bethlehem Creates Community Advisory Board.” WLVR FM, July 7, 2020.

At the June 17 City Council meeting the Mayor announced he was approached by Esther Lee of the NAACP and that plans were aborning to form a kind of community engagement group to tackle all things African American in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

Gadfly was puzzled by that. Wasn’t it clear that the Mayor was about to be “urged” by Council to take on a Community Engagement Initiative? How did the NAACP committee relate to the Council’s idea of a CEI.

At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Mr. Evans, speaking for the Mayor, indicated the plans for the NAACP group  were far along. Listen. Then read the article linked above. Doesn’t it sound like the same mission as the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith proposal?

Gadfly is confused. Ha! Not an unusual occurrence.

The Mayor knew the Council proposal was coming.

The group is a “Community Advisory Board,” not the African American Community Advisory Board.

Membership is large — 21 — and the purview a sweepingly comprehensive one.

And they are meeting already.

Are we to have two “community” committees?

At first glance, that feels like either an embarrassment of riches or needless duplication?

Why didn’t the Mayor merge the two committees?

And, to harken back to a question that’s been on Gadfly’s mind and just surfaced the other day — where is a Latino community advisory board?

Latinos make up around 30% of our population, African Americans less than 10%, and the same issues face both communities.

Actually there is a Latino community advisory board already. Look here.

Will it be mobilized similarly?

But kept on separate tracks, never the twain shall meet?

And where does Council’s “urged” Community Engagement Initiative fit it?

Does that mean we may have three community groups?

Yes, Gadfly is confused.

“We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous”

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

To: City Council

Thank you for the opportunity to address Council. As a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem, I’ve been proud to see our community stand up through marches, protests, letters, and phone calls against institutionalized racism which permeates both our immediate community and our society as a whole. I’m pleased to see Council taking a stand and working on these issues, but as you move forward, I’d like to offer a few items for consideration:

Community engagement is only a part of the solution to improving policing in the City of Bethlehem. We need to commit to simultaneously evaluating and establishing policies on citizen oversight; evaluate and develop action plans for improving department demographics, recruitment, and outreach; research and implement alternatives to policing for dealing with individuals in mental health crisis (to avoid repeatedly tasering and incarcerating individuals like my former neighbor); and finally, through community engagement, discussion, and training, address the long history of institutionalized racism and implicit bias that has led to the current state of affairs in our country as a whole.

Let’s invite local experts on policing to provide guidance and feedback on potential policies. Professor Holona Ochs from Lehigh University has dedicated much of her career to researching effective community strategies for working with police departments. I don’t know her personally, but I know that we have a scholar of community participation in policing and its intersection with race in our midst. Let’s base our approaches on evidence supported by research by inviting her to the planning table.

As far as community engagement goes, I’ve participated in a lot of community engagement initiatives in the past, as a participant, facilitator, planner, door-knocker, funder…etc. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and I know that saying “Community Engagement” is not sufficient to ensure that the community is truly engaged in a conversation. I appreciate the sentiment behind the proposed resolution, but I think we need to do more, and demand more, before we set the stage for a mediocre initiative with all the usual suspects (and up until a few months ago, I would have been one of them). A few ideas to consider:

Engage a single, paid person to lead this initiative. As someone who has worked in the world of underpaid, overworked community folks for my entire career, I know that you need a single individual dedicated to a project as one of their primary responsibilities for something like this to TRULY work. And yes, this is possible, and worth it—I’m happy to suggest a few places that this money could come from. And this person NEEDS to speak Spanish.

The Administration should NOT be in the position of deciding who participates in this initiative. With all due respect to the Administration, they do NOT have the contacts, trust, nor awareness of our communities of Color and other marginalized groups in the City to be able to create an effective structure to truly engage the broader community in effective discussions. I know this because:

In the three years that I have been a member of the Bethlehem Human Relations Commission (the entity responsible for investigating instances of discrimination in the City), they have appointed ONLY White members—repeatedly. We have one member who identifies as Latino, and no Black, Asian-American, indigenous, or immigrant members. A reminder that the City of Bethlehem is currently:

28.6% Latino (of any race)

59.4% White

6.5% Black

2.9% Asian

2.6% mixed race

When establishing the new Community Engagement Initiative that is scheduled to meet next week, the ONLY Latino person that they invited to represent the Latino community was my husband—a White-passing recent immigrant from South America—when 20% of the City of Bethlehem is specifically Puerto Rican. If you don’t see the problem with that, then you should be educating yourself on Hispanic/Latino heritage and culture before you try to lead an engagement initiative within the Latino community

Not only should the Administration not be in the position of leading the initiative, but organizations shouldn’t be the primary focus, either. As a former representative of an organization, I can tell you stories of negative interactions with Police in the City of Bethlehem, but wouldn’t you rather hear from the individuals who know what it’s like to have obscenities screamed at you in a language you don’t understand by a police officer (an incident I witnessed)? Don’t you want to hear directly from the homeless individual who was tracked down and searched by Lehigh and Bethlehem Police and forced to sign a document saying he would never set foot on Lehigh’s campus ever again, for the simple “crime” of visiting campus in search of a psychology professor who could give him feedback on a peer mentoring proposal for individuals with traumatic brain injuries? Don’t you want to hear from him, a peer mentor for homeless individuals, about potential solutions for policing? Yes, this is hard—it requires a lot more time and effort than reaching out to the director of a non-profit and asking them to attend a meeting. But I’ve learned through experience that if you do the hard work to build trust and relationships, you can create effective community engagement—and the end result is always worth it.

I’m here because I believe that we are at an important moment in our community’s history, and we have an opportunity to do something truly momentous. But unless we focus on doing it the right way—by relying on experts in our community to provide advice, supporting community members with deep neighborhood ties to lead the charge, and taking the time to build relationships not with other organizations or the usual suspects, but with the very folks that are marginalized—then we are doomed to another series of community meetings where the same folks talk, the same folks listen, and nothing changes. It takes courage to yield power to folks that might come up with ideas and solutions that you don’t like, or that might challenge you and your place in the power structure. As a White woman working in a community where the majority of my program participants didn’t look like me, I had to talk myself down frequently from reacting defensively to folks sharing their truths. But the heart of the matter is, for those of you who are White and middle class sitting at that table—this isn’t about you, and it isn’t about me, either. But we are in the place to use our privilege to take real, serious, progressive, boundary-pushing action, and I am confident that this Council is capable of doing it. Please think seriously about amending your resolution to call for more specific, concrete action. If I can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out. Thank you.

Anna Smith

This was a phone comment at the July 7 City Council meeting. Gadfly finds much wisdom here.

More open mic commentary on the Community Engagement Initiative resolution from last night’s City Council

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City Council Meeting July 7 video
mins. 3:15-41;45

More public comment on the Community Engagement Initiative resolution before City Council last night, this time by phone rather in person.

Gadfly loves resident voices, lives on resident voices, so he is pleased to memorialize them here.

Browse.

Hear your neighbors talk.

“Good conversation builds community.”

(Gadfly’s old ears not too good, may have gotten some names wrong — sorry.)

Greg Zahm: Why weren’t the minority members of Council consulted? Why not discussion with the public? Why in 2020 did Council have to ask the Police for copies of the use of force directives?

John Irons: The resolution does nothing to address systemic racism. We don’t need more discussion with the police, etc., we need to immediately defund the police. I demand an apology for the historical patterns of abuse in policing. We need misconduct reports and more made public, a hiring freeze, end to administrative leaves and relationship with school district, end to qualified immunity, and many more concrete action steps.

Anthony Downing: We are missing the mark. Bring the people who are demanding justice in the streets into this conversation. That police account for 20% of the city budget is outrageous. We need misconduct records publicly available. Withhold pensions from officers accused of misconduct. We’ve had listening sessions. Wrong to let police make decisions.

Unknown 1: Accountability is missing. Need a community review board. If community review board recommendations are not accepted the Mayor and etc need to sign off on why.

Preston Parker: Police department dollars should be reviewed and recommendations made on how used. Data base for accountability.

Unknown 2: Resolution lacks commitment to reducing budget. Mandatory de-escalation training. Registry of officers fired. End to qualified immunity.

Anna Smith: text will be posted separately soon.

Jenna Keys: we’re already engaged. We don’t need the discussion. We don’t need the police involved in what’s going on already. Police need to apologize for historical abuses. Mandatory de-escalation training. Fired officer registry, etc.

Al Wurth: Optics look like same-old-same-old. Doesn’t look like a real response to the young people marching. Looking for more than a resolution from two white Council members. Need something more. Use prof Ochs from Lehigh.

Gordon Nelson: Better ways to be spending the money during the pandemic than on the police. We don’t need more conversation, we need real action. Money better spent on housing homeless. Housing insecurity in Lehigh Valley. Help fallout from pandemic.

Unknown 3: Don’t need this. Need to re-allocate funds. Invest in removing police from some situations. We’ve already had a lot of discussion.

Ed Gallagher: wishes for the Public Safety meeting to have had more discussion before a resolution. No teeth in this. Council like on dock waving to a boat leaving and hoping it will visit the destinations it has mentioned. Soft. Where’s Council in all this? People want to talk about details in regard to police.

“It is only a matter of time before we have our own George Floyd”

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Allison Mickel is a Lehigh University professor and a community activist.

Dear city councilmembers,

My name is Allison Mickel, and I am a resident of Bethlehem and a faculty member at Lehigh University. I am deeply concerned about police misconduct and the militarization of the police, which is happening here in Bethlehem as it is elsewhere. It is only a matter of time before we have our own George Floyd, or Joey Santos.

I do not call the police when I have a safety concern, because I am worried about the ramifications of inviting police into my racially diverse neighborhood and my interracial home.

If City Council is going to pass a resolution on policing that will make Bethlehem more equitable and safe, it needs to include the following:

1. Pledge to move money in the city budget away from policing and into public health, social services, and infrastructure. Bethlehem police currently receive 20% of the city budget. This is outrageous.
2. Implement a hiring freeze for BPD. No new positions will be created.
3. End any MoUs or contracts with the school board that allows for SROs to be in Bethlehem schools.
4. Create a public registry of officers fired for police misconduct.
5. Mandatory de-escalation training for Bethlehem police.
6. Make police misconduct records publicly available.
7. Withhold pensions from police officers accused of misconduct.
8. Amend the use of force policy to include clear consequences for violations of the policy, to define threat ex post facto rather than by the officer in the moment, and to require officers to intervene if they observe excessive force being used.

Thank you for your attention,

Allison Mickel

We’ve posted here testimony from people who attended the City Council meeting, and Gadfly is preparing some testimony from people who called in. Here’s an example of the kind of mail Council got.

The activists speak at last night’s City Council meeting

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City Council Meeting July 7 video
mins. 41:50-56:10

Start your listening with the activists themselves, who came in person to the meeting to speak and to speak against the Community Engagement Initiative resolution.

Please listen and not just read Gadfly’s skeletal notes.

Listen.

Matty Fall (min. 41:50):

  • The Community Engagement Initiative is problematic in even the first sentence when you decide to thank the police department and the Mayor in facilitating a peaceful protest and not the black members of the community who actually organized it.
  • This entire documents appears like an effort to appease us instead of taking necessary action.
  • Have you consulted black people in the creation of this coalition?
  • It seems that the entire message of these protests is lost on you.
  • We are actually protesting the very existence of the police.
  • There needs to be a complete dismantling of policing as it stands.
  • We ask you to defund the police and invest significantly in out community.
  • [The resolution] has no substance. It was very vague. And it seems entirely like a piece to silence us and keep us quiet, just to say that you are doing something, which is not the case.
  • I am demanding a public discussion . . . before the resolution is voted on.

Mike Enriquez (min. 44:45):

  • Have you reached out to the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest?
  • Are you listening to the Black and people of color who will feel the consequences of this initiative?
  • Why are you not consulting the Latinx members of City Council?
  • Do you believe our relationship with the police will eradicate systemic racism or just heal a symptom of injustice?
  • You are asking members of the community to form a relationship with an evil inanimate system that wasn’t created to serve blacks or people of color.
  • I am demanding a public discussion so the people can help construct a city we all love before a resolution is voted on.

Julie Bradley (min. 47:30):

  • What this resolution seemed like to us . . . was an attempt to pacify the movement toward defunding the police.
  • We are not asking for a stronger relationship between the cops and the community, we are asking for a stronger community.
  • We need not  . . . a coalition . . . to start conversations. These conversations have been happening for decades.
  • You need to defund the police, you need to hire transformative justice workers, you need to address mental and physical health in schools.
  • You need to make a concerted effort to amplify black voices.
  • There needs to be direct action [to defund the police].
  • The are solutions already proposed, and you are simply not listening.
  • You should be listening to conversations already being had regardless of the existence of a coalition.
  • I support concrete plans to defund the Bethlehem Police Department . . . and allocate funds . . .

Shelly Cooper (min. 50:35):

  • . . . a band-aid rather than a solution to a much bigger issue.
  • I believe we need to defund the Bethlehem Police Department and redistribute these funds to public services
  • schools . . . mental health professionals

Eric Stat (min. 51:50):

  • [The CEI] is a public relations initiative for the Bethlehem Police.
  • It’s not trying to change anything. It’s trying to appease activists. And make the police department look good.
  • Under no circumstances do protestors actually like when there are a lot of cops at protests. It doesn’t actually make us feel safe.
  • Cop-sponsored pizza parties aren’t going to appease us. That’s basically what this {CEI] is.
  • It’s a joke.

Recent Moravian graduate (min. 54:10):

  • The resolution seems much like a band-aid,
  • Why is 20% of your budget going towards police rather than education?
  • We should be looking at mental health services . . . different areas for the community to become better and not just make everyone get along so that you can continue to police us.
  • I find it very disheartening to see a lack of diversity within the City Council.
  • You are not listening but having blinders on and trying to give us something that maybe we’ll take.
  • We are not ignorant. We know exactly what’s going on.

Community Engagement Initiative resolution passes

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City Council Meeting July 7 video

Quick overview. Gadfly will return with highlights later.

The center of attention last night at the long City Council meeting was the “Resolution urging the creation of a Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem” put forth by Council persons Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

That resolution was amended twice and passed 7-0.

Public comment on the resolution was vigorous.

There were 10 or so phone callers and a half-dozen or so in-person commenters as the Council meeting opened to the public for the first time since the shutdown — attendees wearing masks and observing social distancing.

Councilman Reynolds attended in person.

The in-person commenters were local activists.

Since public comment precedes presentation and discussion of resolutions on the agenda, this resolution was hammered pretty good from the get-go.

When their turn came, however, Council persons Reynolds and Crampsie Smith showed empathy with the activists and provided cogent rationales for the nature and timing of their resolution.

Councilwoman Negron had problems with the resolution and the two amendments responded to her concerns.

Substantial time was given to explaining and discussing the COVID-19 logistical reasons that a Public Safety Committee meeting — anticipating a large audience — has not occurred yet.

As you know, your Gadfly was in a bit of distress about the nature of the resolution prior to the meeting but was much relieved after the various explanations.

In related news, the Mayor and the NAACP have advanced their collaboration on a community-engagement-type endeavor.

This was a good meeting. Video link at the top of this post.

More later.

From Prof Gadfly’s homework pile

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Assignment:

Watch Bethlehem and Allentown Police recruiting videos and write a short reflection paper for Professor Gadfly

———-

As Peter Crownfield commented earlier, I also thought I knew which police dept had a more progressive outlook and would want to pitch community connections over militaristic sensationalism. I also thought I would see more diversity among the officers in Bethlehem. Wrong on both counts.

After viewing both of these recruiting videos: bravo Allentown. Even if this is simply marketing and pr (and I don’t know, I don’t live there or experience interactions with Allentown police), the APD recruiting video is at least delivering the message about the kind of department they aspire to be: diverse, inclusive, friendly (with smiling faces), with a department emphasis on building relationships, and anxious to communicate with all people in their community. The video seems to say they are an asset-based rather than deficit (or control) focused department. Is this true? Or perhaps that approach will be realized as they add new officers who may apply because of this constructive approach to policing? If the training is as positive and community-connected as their marketing, this is one up and coming department. Change takes time, but what a step, what a way to communicate to the existing force that this is what we EXPECT all of us to be.

And what does Bethlehem’s video tell us? Policing is about drama, about control, about domination. Yes, there are a few images of friendlier aspects of policing, but I am sad (and appalled) that Bethlehem couldn’t come up with a more positive, inclusive video. Do we want recruits who are all about SWAT teams? Walking in phalanxes through crowds? How many smiles do we even see in this video? The tense, dramatic music: do we want to encourage that kind of feeling about policing among recruits (surely it is part of the job, but is that what we want to focus on?)?

There are two Black officers seen in two photos within the video, but shouldn’t those statements, “We are the Bethlehem Police Department” include a Black officer, at this moment in our history? Not just for optics, but for the commitment it would show: Black Lives Matter here.  Also, seriously: no Spanish heard or seen (although there was at least one officer who may be Latino in “We are” section)? Unlike Allentown’s video there are no Spanish subtitles for any potential Latinx recruits to see they are genuinely welcomed to apply, or for other recruits or current officers to see that Latinx people –from fellow officers to constituents—are valued by the BPD. There is nothing that says to the Latinx community in general, “We see you, and want to communicate with you?”

Sadly, I feel an urgency about our local leaders tackling changes in Bethlehem policing after watching this video, and fear that it may actually represent the way officers are trained, as well as recruited. The video has reinforced my concern that in Bethlehem attitudes conveyed to new and experienced officers by the recruiting video, and perhaps also by trainers, and department leaders may (almost certainly do?) negatively impact everyday interactions with folks in our community. The recruiting message depicted in the video stirred me from a vague, semi-comfortable complacency about our little town of Bethlehem, to serious concern.

Certainly recruiting videos are not policy; they are not necessarily representative of how a department works. But these kinds of videos are the public face of a department, and reveal a lot about what its leaders and city leaders believe policing is all about, and what they publicly commit the department to do with (and to?) our communities. Does stereotyping and deficits-based thinking rule the city’s policing (however unconsciously)?  Do the BPD trainings and the department leadership model active antiracism and strive to counter ethnic bias?  Who will chart a new assets-based and antiracist approach to policing (from public actions and statements, to what goes on within the walls of the department)? How can “we the people” of this city influence, push for, and assist with these changes?

Meanwhile, city officials: at least take down the current video. Please.

Respectfully submitted
Student 1

Prof Gadfly notes that the Bethlehem video seems to have been taken down.

Commenting on Gadfly’s questions for the police department

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Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

These are good questions!

Community policing — I was told by a police officer that a few years ago they disbanded the separate group of “community policing” officers and made the policy department-wide; the officer also said that the result was “the end of community policing here.”

Racial composition — Ideally, the police (and all departments) should reflect the population, but that isn’t always realistic in the short term, because the pool of applicants doesn’t reflect the community. Better recruiting could help, but I think it would have to start with minorities wanting to become police officers.

Handcuffing — Good points. Up to that point, a person may be willing to converse & answer questions — but now the officer is taking them into custody. For POC, that has an unavoidable connotation of your life being at risk.

Citizen Rights — You should be able to ask the police about your rights, but it might not be the smartest move (depending on the officer & situation). It is clear that you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle or home; in general, a search without a warrant is unconstitutional. [Fourth Amendment] You clearly have the right to say anything you want to a police officer or any other government official [Fifth Amendment] — but you can expect that some officers will retaliate.

In Greensboro NC, some police officers volunteered to teach immigrants — both documented and undocumented — about their rights.

Police response — There’s a problem with crime statistics, because they are sometimes self-fulfilling prophecies. If a neighborhood is deemed to have more crime, it generally will be patrolled more frequently and aggressively — so more crime is detected.

Also, consider crimes such as drug / alcohol use and domestic violence. In crowded neighborhoods, things occur in public areas that would be hidden in suburban houses and backyards — so even if more crime occurs in the suburban neighborhood, it may not be detected.

Training — I think it’s obvious that Police Academy curriculum has not kept up with the times. According to several officers, it also focuses heavily on dangers to police and the need for the officer to dominate and control.

Community engagement — See my previous comments on other posts. No committee, task force, or meeting can come anywhere near real community engagement. What we need is an approach that is deeper and more open, like the one developed in Detroit. This would be comparable, in many ways, to the “truth and reconciliation” processes we’ve seen elsewhere.

As I’ve said before, I want to see the recent history of changes to the use-of-force policy. (Or do we have to do a RTK request to find out about the history of changes before the updated version was released?)

Peter

Gadfly with questions for the police department

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Gadfly understood there was to be a Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss the two prongs of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo to the Mayor: the use of force directives and a Community Engagement Initiative.

He is not sure of the status of that Public Safety Committee meeting now that a resolution on the CEI is to be voted on tonight.

But he was hoping for this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about and to think more about our Police Department during this time of national conversation about how police departments are structured. In fact, he was hoping for the kind of invitation for the public to ask questions beforehand — like was done by the Mayor for the online coronavirus sessions — that would then be answered at the meeting.

What questions would you want to ask? What are the kinds of things you’d like to know  about our Police Department now that we and many others around the country are putting these departments under some scrutiny?

Gadfly shotguns here some things he would like to know.

History: Gadfly’s a historian, and he’d like a little history to frame the present discussion. There is an interesting “Department History” section on the City web site. But Gadfly is thinking of something different. What have been the past “philosophies” of the department? What type, what brand of policing characterized the department under, say, the chiefs before Chief DiLuzio? Go back 3-4 chiefs: Schiffer, Bedics, Miller, Donchez, etc. What philosophies were in play? Was there any change with Chief DiLuzio? How did the department get where it is now? Why is the department doing what it does now?

Community policing: Gadfly is confused. The Department describes itself now as following a Community Policing philosophy. When and why did that occur? But he has heard resident Lisa Rosa in particular at City Council meetings bemoan the loss of community policing. And just recently in the post-GeorgeFloyd conversations others have called for a return to community policing. Which is it? Do we have it or not? Or are there different forms of community policing? What is the definition of community policing anyway? What other kinds of policing are there? How does community policing differ from them?

Citizen complaints/officer discipline: There is an “Issue with an Officer” page on the City web site that speaks of an “Employee Misconduct Allegation form” that can be filled out at headquarters. (Let’s not forget that there is a “Commend an Officer” page as well that we hope gets a lot of action.) Shouldn’t this “Issue” page be online rather than requiring perhaps awkward and perhaps intimidating interaction with an officer downstairs at City Hall? Let’s go back, say, 5 years — how many issues have there been each year? Are the issues coded or classified by type so that we can better understand their nature? If so, what are they? Are there categories for improper use of force, profiling, disrespect, intimidation, etc.? How and by whom are these complaints handled — the Chief? the Standards division?  What are the outcomes (guilty/not guilty, warning, a lecture, letter in the file, disciplinary action, dismissal) and give statistics over the past 5 years? How many of the current officer force have had a citizen complaint? How many have had multiple complaints? How many complaints have the top 5 officers in number of complaints had? What role does the FOP have in investigation of the complaints? Has the Department fired or tried to fire an officer for such complaints? What role does the FOP play in a firing? What is the process to fire an officer? We could use a case study of handling a complaint — what happened in this case that was reported to Gadfly? Give 2-3 other examples of how complaints were resolved. Are complainants made aware of the disposition of their complaints?

Racial composition of the department: If Gadfly remembers correctly, he has heard the Chief recently say that the department is racially mixed, even one Asian if memory serves. But what are the exact numbers? How many white, how many latino, etc? Does the racial composition of the force mirror the racial composition of the City? How many minority officers are in leadership positions?

Cameras: body cameras came in 2019, and, if Gadfly memory serves again, he heard the Chief say recently that every officer has one. However, what are the rules for use? Gadfly has heard of two cases settled definitively by camera evidence. Was there camera evidence in the case above? Have the cameras changed officer behavior? Is there any evidence that the use of body cameras has changed the number and kind of citizen complaints?

Handcuffing: Gadfly, no doubt naively, has always been curious about this. What is the policy on handcuffing? Gadfly is thinking of the Rayshard Brooks case recently where the interaction of Brooks and the officer seemed fine until the cuffing. Cuffing is both humiliating and emasculating. Lack of control. Resistance is natural. None of us would like it. Especially if feeling innocent of wrongdoing or if the offense or suspected offense is minor. Must handcuffing be done for every arrest? (We’ve seen very young kids in cuffs.)

Citizen rights: Ha! Maybe the police are not the ones to ask this question of. But Gadfly has often heard the advice to just go along with an officer, not to question, not to resist, even if you know you have done nothing wrong. And that’s probably what he would do. But what can you do? What “resistance” is allowable? Do you have a right to know what you are being arrested for? What happens if you deny a request to search your car? Gadfly is thinking that information on allowable citizen behavior and what citizen rights are when detained or arrested would be good, perhaps through role playing of example situations .

Police response: We heard recently that the City is divided up into 8 sectors. And we heard that the area around 6th and Hayes is in the worst crime area in the city. Gadfly would like to see the ranking of those 8 areas. But what is the department response to a high crime area? Is the response to station more manpower there? More heavily armed manpower? To exercise more surveillance? To implement more force? Or is there any attempt to understand the reasons/causes for that high crime and to establish programs or to work with other departments in the city to establish programs that might hack away at the root of the problem? What specific policies has the department implemented to stem crime in the past several years in the top two crime areas in the city and have those plans been successful. Show data.

Past CEI-type activities: There was a CEI-type event in 2016 with the local NAACP called “Black Lives Also Matter.” The newspaper said troublesome stories reported by residents “all came as news” to Chief DiLuzio, “but he agreed police training hasn’t kept up with the times, noting a recruit goes through 600 hours at the academy compared to the 1,500 hours it takes to become a cosmetologist. Raised on technology, a new officer might come on duty lacking the interpersonal skills, the ability to read body language that the job requires, he said. . . . ‘All this technology, great: Get the new iPhone 974, great, whatever it’s up to now. But it can’t replace a human,’ DiLuzio said. ‘The training is, I don’t think, up to snuff for 2016. I’ll probably get criticized for it. I’m in this job for 36 years. I have a right to say it’.” Were there any changes instituted as a result of this forum? Was there any follow-up contact with the NAACP to determine the outcome of the forum? The Mayor is quoted as saying this was the “fourth such forum on race relations,” but Gadfly hasn’t been able to find info on the others. What prompted the Mayor to institute this series, if it was he who did it? What can we learn from the success or failure of this forum (or series of forums) that bears on the one being proposed now? Were there other such CEI-type activities in recent memory that we also should know about as we contemplate a new one now? In other words and simply, do CEI’s do any good?

Educating the public: Here’s a wild idea. Looking at use of force directives is one thing. Seeing them in concrete situations another. Gadfly imagines there must be training videos of situations involving police interactions with the public showing right and wrong police behavior. How about the police sharing them with the public? How about educating the public about the police viewpoint in regard to specific situations where force is applied? How about open conversation between police and community members around not just “directives” but “real life” — showing how an officer properly or improperly processes his or her training? For instance, Gadfly posted this “A Case Study in the use of force by police.” Gadfly can see a great conversation around that video. As starkly horrible as that video can feel, Gadfly, having just come off reading the use of force directive, thought a case could be made that the officer was acting properly.

Whew! Well, there’s Gadfly’s shotgun blast of questions as the countdown toward posting time has expired.

What are you thinking? What would you like to ask the police?

Remember, good conversation builds community.

Imagining tomorrow’s City Council meeting

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Gadfly’s pretty excited about tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

And not about the resolution to upgrade the park bathrooms either.

About the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative resolution.

We’ve been talking about it for days here on The Gadfly.

Gadfly doesn’t know anything about anything but likes to think about the possibilities.

Have some fun. Think along with him.

Has this resolution already been talked through with Council (Sunshine permitting)? Could there be opposition on Council? Will there be discussion? Will there be SPEECHES? Will there be amendations? Or will this sail through clean as a whistle?

Whattaya think?

Could somebody want Council to initiate the CEI? Could somebody want a definite role for Council in the planning for the proposed CEI or in its membership? Could somebody want stronger roles for the CEI than suggested in the resolution, stronger than “assisting” and “discussing”? Could somebody want to include a time frame for the Mayor to indicate his willingness and then to return with a plan?

Will the Mayor talk tomorrow night? Might he have an alternative plan? Is there a possibility the Mayor will say no? One likes to think that the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith team has already discussed this with the Mayor and has his agreement, no? How does the CEI relate to the commitment with the NAACP to do somewhat of a similar thing, the commitment the Mayor spoke of last meeting and which Gadfly thought we were to hear more about already by this time?

And now how does this resolution relate to the talked about Public Safety Committee meeting? Are we still going to have that? There is still the discussion of the use-of-force directives to handle. And, frankly, Gadfly was hoping for the Public Safety Committee meeting first, so that the CEI could have some open discussion. Gadfly has some reservations about the current plan — how do you see it? — but the time for that conversation seems over.

Gadfly loves to exaggerate, so you won’t be surprised if he says he feels this is a big thing and you should be quite attentive to tomorrow’s meeting.

Nationwide, Latinos feel left out, wonder how they fit in to the conversation on systemic injustice

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This Times article in the Sunday paper caught my attention. Rough numbers. Bethlehem population 8% African American, 30% Hispanic. Bethlehem has an NAACP chapter and the legendary Esther Lee. Is there a similar and corresponding Hispanic organization?  Bethlehem does have Olga Negron. (Odd: the Mayor does have a Latino Advisory Committee but not an African American one.) Black Lives Matters seemed to be behind Bethlehem demonstrations — were Hispanics involved in co-organizing or as participants? Quantitatively in our town, if there is systemic racism, systemic injustice, you might think it would affect Hispanics more than African Americans here and that we would be hearing more in an organized fashion from that community.

from Jennifer Medina, “Latinos Back Black Lives Matter Protests. They Want Change for Themselves, Too; Many Latinos are pushing for an acknowledgment of the systemic racism they face, and a conversation about over-policing in their own communities.” New York Times, July 2, 2020. [Printed Morning Call July 5 with headline “Latinos question how they fit in.”]

Many Latinos are pushing for an acknowledgment of the systemic racism they face, and a conversation about over-policing in their own communities.

“Tu lucha es mi lucha,” several signs declared at a recent Black Lives Matter protest near the Arizona State Capitol. Your struggle is my struggle. . . . There was no doubt in these protesters’ minds: Their fights against racism are bound up together.

“Black and brown” has been a catchphrase in Democratic politics and progressive activist circles for years, envisioning the two minority groups as a coalition with both electoral power and an array of shared concerns about pay equity, criminal justice, access to health care and other issues. The ongoing protests about police violence and systemic racism encompass both communities as well — but the national focus has chiefly been about the impact on Black Americans and the ways white Americans are responding to it.

Many liberal Latino voters and activists, in turn, are trying to figure out where they fit in the national conversation about racial and ethnic discrimination. They have specific problems and histories that can be obscured by the broad “Black and brown” framework or overshadowed by the injustices facing Black Americans.

And while Latinos want people to understand how systemic racism in education, housing and wealth affects them, they are also grappling with an entrenched assumption that racism is a black-and-white issue, which can make it challenging to gain a foothold in the national conversation.

They often find themselves frustrated and implicitly left out.

For decades, Latinos have chafed over aggressive policing tactics, including at the hands of Latino officers. In the last several years, hundreds of Latinos, mostly men, have been killed by the police in California, Arizona and New Mexico, among other states, though national statistics are hard to come by. Now, activists are pushing for a more explicit conversation about over-policing in Latino communities.

“We’ve always known that police brutality is a Black and brown issue, a poor people’s issue,” said Marisa Franco, the executive director of Mijente, a Latino civil rights group.

“Right now it is imperative for non-Black Latino communities to both empathize with Black people and also recognize that it is in our material interest to fundamentally change policing in this country,” Ms. Franco said.

Immigrant rights activists routinely point to the fact that local police departments often carry out immigration enforcement, leaving many Latinos terrified to call the police out of fear of potential deportation.

The fear and anger has been especially acute in the era of President Trump, who five years ago announced his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. The suspect in the deadliest anti-Latino attack in modern American history, in El Paso last year, used similar language in his manifesto.

“There’s no doubt that the African-American community has borne the biggest brunt of police brutality, but it’s also clear that Latinos have suffered as well,” Mr. Castro said in an interview. “There’s a kinship of experience as a community.”

Yet illuminating and addressing discrimination faced by Latinos remains a challenge, Mr. Castro said. While many Americans at least learn the basic history of slavery and Jim Crow racism against Black people, there remains a lack of fundamental knowledge about Latino history, which can make it difficult to discuss how social policies have been harmful.

“Many Americans don’t know exactly where you fit in,” Mr. Castro said.

The opposite of a monolith, Latinos include undocumented immigrants and those whose families have been in the United States for centuries.

At a time when Mr. Trump has made his anti-immigrant language and policies a centerpiece of his administration, some Latinos — perhaps especially young ones — see themselves as part of a broader fight for racial equity.

But some activists have privately wondered whether the recent police killings of Latinos have received enough attention, and whether there is broad acknowledgment that they, too, suffer from police brutality and systemic racism.

“This is a huge moment to expand consciousness around our own community, to recognize the contradiction of what kind of power do we and don’t we have in this country, that despite our size, we don’t even have basic needs met,” Mr. Návar said. “This country does not eat without our community, yet the people doing the work can’t keep their own family safe. The lack of power has to make us ask: What kind of respect do we have? How do we organize to have dignity?”

Latinos hardly have the kind of deep political infrastructure that African-Americans have built up over decades, with many organizations working toward similar goals. Many liberal Latino activists view the Black Lives Matter movement, and the current wave of protests, as a model.

Ysenia Lechuga, 28, who brought a “tu lucha es mi lucha” sign to several recent demonstrations in Phoenix, said she found Black activism “inspiring.”

“I can come here and preach about immigrants and all the issues that we go through,” Ms. Lechuga said of attending the Black Lives Matter protests. “We get racially profiled, we get beat down.”

She thinks the current movement will have a “ripple effect” that will reach her community, too. “Everything is going to start to change,” she said.

Systemic racism does not only happen in the big cities

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from Becky Bradley, “Talking Business with Becky Bradley: We Must Face Our Race and Ethnic Disparities.” Morning Call, July 2, 2020.

Data Lehigh Valley

As the collective call for justice against police brutality washes across America, it’s important that the Lehigh Valley not fall into the trap of believing that systemic racism is only happening in big cities like Minneapolis, Seattle and Atlanta.

While racial disparities have diminished since the 1969 week-long walkout of Black students and the 1971 ‘Race Riot’ at Easton Area High School, there is still much work to be done in our community.

Despite strides made toward equity, recent protests in the Lehigh Valley recognize that the region is not exempt from institutional injustices against people of color.

This is not a matter of opinion or debate. It plays out clearly in the data from the LVPC’s latest Equity Analysis of the Lehigh Valley, which uses 14 key data points to measure a person’s access to the necessities that determine quality of life — housing, employment, education and transportation. The data shows that Non-White — and Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos in particular — make less money, are less likely to own a home and have far less access to education and transportation.

The data, available at lvpc.org, provides a detailed statistical snapshot of every community in the region and can be a useful tool for area leaders to understand the context and makeup of specific neighborhoods where change might be necessary.

Let’s start with the heart of this issue: The people who live here.

The Lehigh Valley’s population has become increasingly diverse, as the proportion of those identifying as White has decreased from 99% to 82% over the last half-century. The Non-White population overall has more than doubled since 1990, while the proportion of Hispanics or Latinos has been nearly doubling each decade since 1970. Today, those who identify as Hispanic or Latino make up 18.7% of the region’s residents, yet the data shows they have the least access to opportunity.

Non-White Lehigh Valley residents are three times more likely to not graduate from high school compared to White residents — severely limiting their employment opportunity. It’s likely the reason more than 11,000 Non-White households have an annual income below $35,000. Non-Whites are nearly three times more likely to be in poverty than Whites, and Hispanics or Latinos are four times as likely.

Limited income potential, caused by limited opportunities for higher educational attainment, also restricts the ability of Non-Whites to purchase a home and build wealth. Lehigh Valley Whites are twice as likely to own a home than Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos. Even where Non-Whites are financially able to consider homeownership, national statistics by Pew Research show the remnants of decades-old discriminatory lending and zoning practices cause them to be less likely to be approved for a loan, and then pay higher interest rates when they are approved.

These factors, in turn, further limit educational opportunities for future generations of Non-Whites, as many families use home equity as a mechanism to pay for higher education.

If you’re wondering how this lack of access looks in the real world, you need only look at the Allentown School District. The region’s largest district with nearly 17,000 students is 70% Hispanic or Latino and 15% Black. When the pandemic hit, as the rest of the Valley’s school districts transitioned students to online learning within a few weeks, Allentown was realizing that 43% of its students had no access to the internet. That’s 7,200 students who either had no computer or no adequate internet connection.

If the moral argument for increasing equity doesn’t do it for you, there are economic and productivity implications as well. Increasing equity has been found to reduce poverty and boost economic growth, by increasing incomes and thus increasing participation in and contribution to the local economy.

Just as we did to help locate the students without internet access, we can use this Equity Analysis data to inform decision-making at the municipal, county and regional levels to effect change. Our private and non-profit partners can use it to change the way they do business.

Inequity is not an easy topic to discuss, but the importance of facing this issue cannot be overstated. We have a unique opportunity to talk about this now. It’s not enough to simply not be racist. We must all be anti-racist.

The Lehigh Valley must come together to formulate changes, both big and small, to create a better tomorrow for our community.

Let’s see how another police department does it

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Because of what’s on the plate in front of us, Gadfly is trying to think about and get you to think about policing and our police department from as many angles as possible.

Last post Gadfly asked you to think about how the Bethlehem police represent themselves in a recruiting video.

Now let’s take a look at Allentown.  Compare the two recruiting videos.  What do you see?

Perhaps the most important thing to think about is how appropriate each video is in this period of intense national conversation following the murder of George Floyd.

What do these videos tell us about how each department sees its relation to the public and the kind of officer it wants to recruit?

This Allentown video below is pertinent too as we think about the nature of policing. It made me think of the “Building Trust” section of the Obama-era 21st Century Policing report that Alison Steele turned me on to in one of her Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist posts, that “Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.”

Police. Guardian rather than warrior. Food for thought.

Gadfly knows he’s loading this post with too much, but since we’re talking about Allentown here’s their use of force policy to compare with ours.

How does our police department see itself?

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“The police department is structured using a Community police philosophy and committed to community and police partnerships.”
City of Bethlehem 2020 Budget

One place to answer that question would be the face it wears at hiring time.

Here’s a 2018 police department recruitment video from their facebook page.

Let Gadfly give you several prompts as he might have done with his students in order to start a discussion.

  • View the video
  • When done, which 2-3 images do you recall most prominently?
  • List some images you liked.
  • List some you didn’t
  • What did you see that you didn’t expect to?
  • What didn’t you see, that you expected to?
  • What’s the “message” of the video, a message that may be different than that provided in the narration?
  • To what specific characteristics in potential recruits does the video appeal?
  • If you were asked to suggest changes in this video, if any, now after the George Floyd killing, what would you say?
  • Do you think a new video is needed now after the George Floyd killing? If so, why? What kind?
  • Does the video square with the description of the department given above?

Gadfly again trying to start a conversation in preparation for the bigger one coming before us as we review the use of force directives and consider a Community Engagement Initiative.

A case study in use of force by police

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David Ovalle and Charles Rabin, “Miami-Dade cop relieved of duty for hitting woman taunting him for ‘acting like you white’.” Miami Herald, July 2, 2020.

How could Gadfly see this video last night and not try to see it through the paradigm in the Bethlehem use of force directive that we posted about yesterday?

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Read the whole Miami Herald story above for details before and after the incident captured in the video recording here. The woman certainly seems to be acting as a knuckiehead, a delightful term coined by one of our grandsons about his own behavior.

The officer sees the woman as resisting his order, as an aggressor who touched him, “headbutted” him.

The officer sees the woman as an “active aggressor.”

The officer “said he ordered the woman to get her belongings so she could be escorted out. ‘That was when Ms. Anderson aggressively approached this officer violating this officer’s personal space, bumped [him] with her body and struck [him] with her head on his chin,’ he wrote in his report.”

In terms of the paradigm, the officer viewed the woman as resisting through “active aggression” and thus the “hard empty hand technique” of what looks like a “palm heel strike” was legitimately used to maintain control.

The officer struck the woman with an “open hand,” what a police union official called a “diversionary strike” against a “belligerent” subject who was right in the officer’s face.

Was the officer acting properly?

He got fired.

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Now it may be neither here nor there, but it’s worth noting that the woman is black, the officer is “a Black officer of Puerto Rican heritage,” and that she was accusing him of acting white. Jeez, what a racial gnarl.

Was this a proper use of force?

What would “defunding” our police look like, and how would it work?

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City of Bethlehem Final Budget 2020
Police Department pp. 133-48

City Council discussion of Police 2020 budget request November 2019
Part 1
Part 2

Gadfly’s previous post in this series was about national conversation concerning defunding police departments, so he has gathered here some basic budget information that we might want to think about.

Defunding means trimming police department responsibilities and reallocating funds into social programs.

The Police Department has 154 members, with a budget (c. $16m.) approximately 20% of the total City Budget.

Discussion at the Council budget hearing last year (links above) touched on subjects of manpower, overtime, body cameras, and so forth, and was cordial.

If there is interest now in cutting the police budget and reallocating the money, what would be cut? The size of the force? Overtime?

Further $$$$ figures necessary for this conversation would be 1) what we are spending now for desired social programs in comparison to what we are spending on police and 2) the cost of social programs that we would like to institute that we don’t have at all now.

Would, for instance, we take money from the police and transfer it to Community and Economic Development to enhance some programs already in operation and/or to initiate new programs?

Or would we cut elsewhere in the budget? Or see enhanced social programming as a justifiable reason to raise taxes?

Just trying to get a conversation started here.

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Selections from pp. 133-48 of 2020 budget (follow link above if too hard to read):

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