Christian Hall: the case for the prosecution

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Full Monroe County D.A. press conference

You know that Gadfly is compelled by such recognizable “first contact” situations between police and young people.

One of the things he’ll miss most when he folds his wings is talking these situations out with you.

And you also know he’s been wishin’ for a Public Safety meeting where we could have some discussion of police training for these situations.

First above is Adam Toledo. March 29. All of 13. He’s got a gun. The officer is chasing him down an alley for a decent distance shouting at him to drop his gun. All of a sudden Toledo turns around. Bam! The officer kills him. He doesn’t have the gun. But legitimate, right? Fraction of a second decision. No fault by the officer.

Then there’s Ma’Khia Bryan. April 20. All of 16. She’s got a knife. When the officer arrives on the scene, she’s winding up to deliver. Bam! The officer kills her. Legitimate, right? Time only to react not think. The officer may have saved a life. No fault by the officer.

But then there’s Christian Hall. December 30. All of 19. Classic “suicide by cop.” For all intents and purposes, he had a real gun. The officers could tell no differently. This is a 90 minute episode. At the end Hall slow walks toward the officers. He ignores dozens of commands to drop the gun. Holding the gun, he raises his arms in an “I surrender” (touchdown!) pose. Bam! The officers kill him. They felt threatened. No fault?

Gadfly clutches on this one, which is why he said he found it so discussable.

But the Monroe County D.A. had no trouble exonerating the officers from any criminal wrongdoing.

And he tries the case right in front of us on the video (begin min. 45:30) of his March 30 press conference.

Be the jury. Let’s outline his case:

  • by law, deadly force only justified when officer perceives threat of death or serious bodily
  • was it reasonable for the officers to believe there was such an imminent threat?
  • hindsight cannot be used
  • Hall’s actions presented such imminent threat
  • Hall’s fault: his mental state and his desire to end his life
  • he had what legitimately appeared to be a real gun
  • Hall’s intent to commit “suicide by cop” indicated by the fake gun (chosen to be realistic), his 911 call, his prior visit to the scene, the fact that he didn’t jump from the bridge, prior social media, and etc.
  • told to put the gun down over 100 times
  • realistic gun consciously chosen to provoke deadly force
  • clear intent to end his life by intermediary
  • said hardly anything but did say to officers “make it quick”
  • had a record in juvenile court, probation officer was trying to find him as this incident unfolded
  • Hall brushed aside all efforts to de-escalate
  • provoked the use of deadly force by moving closer and taking the gun out
  • doesn’t even stop when shot at by officers
  • testament to/commendable of the officers’ patience that they didn’t shoot sooner
  • threat was imminent as soon as Hall put his hand on the gun, even before he pulled it out
  • “the imminent threat would have been very apparent the moment he had his hand on the gun”
  • law wouldn’t require them to wait as long as they did
  • “In the circumstances they were faced with, there was only one outcome, and he made sure what that outcome was going to be”
  • Hall ignored dozens and dozens of calls to drop the gun
  • “persistent and well established” techniques to de-escalate were used by officers
  • Hall escalated the threat, coming closer, “brandishing” the weapon
  • initial rounds fired at him did not persuade him to relinquish his weapon
  • officers: “clearly articulated commands”
  • he was holding the gun in his hand when shot
  • must not use hindsight when judging
  • officer believe in imminent risk therefore reasonable
  • Hall had means, opportunity, and motive
  • “he was a muscle-movement away from opening fire on the troopers”
  • “not a lot of time to react” — “it is the blink of an eye”
  • employed de-escalation for 90 minutes: assurance of no trouble, offer of physical comforts, willingness to talk
  • “troopers displayed much professional ism and empathy”
  • “I’m astounded that they let him get so close”
  • “It was clearly the last thing they wanted to do, to open fire on him”
  • professionalism. well-regarded de-escalation techniques, calm demeanor, non-threatening behavior
  • arranged trucks under bridge to break his fall should he jump
  • desired a “peaceful resolution” to protect the public and get Hall the mental health help he needed
  • officers were highly qualified, highly trained, experienced
  • no requirement for an officer to wait till a firearm is pointed directly at him before responding
  • case law would support the application of deadly force when Hall has his hand on the gun in his waistband
  • too far away to use taser
  • officers stuck with a situation that Hall placed them in
  • “the law would support the use of force by threatening to go for a gun let alone having it pointed directly at you”
  • human muscle memory reaction time: Hall played with the gun in the air and at some point kind of  moved the muzzle over in the direction of the officers before he raised it upward
  • no adequate time for officers to respond if wait till he pointed to gun at them
  • pointing the gun at the officers is “not the measure”

Ok, so Gadfly has done it again. Beat an issue to death.

But this is how he characteristically operates, trying to slow down and get everything on the table.

So chew on the the D.A.’s presentation for a while.

to be continued . . .

————

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”
ref: The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event
ref: Getting back to Christian Hall

New institute looks at the criminal justice system in the Lehigh Valley through the lens of structural racism, crime, and justice

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

Gadfly shares his reading. What are you reading that you’d like to share?

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selections from Cecelia Khorrami, “Reimagining Justice in the Lehigh Valley.” Spring 2021 Sustainable L V.

The Lehigh Valley Justice Institute (LVJI) launched in December 2020 to develop a reimagined criminal justice system that is equitable and fair for all. The Institute was an outgrowth of the Color of Justice organization that has been working to bring attention to local criminal justice issues. Several Color of Justice members saw the need for an academic-level institute to conduct data-driven research on the various processes of the criminal justice complex and their effect on our communities.

As part of our long-range research collaborative, faculty members from Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, and Penn State University are taking a comprehensive look at the criminal justice system in the Lehigh Valley through the lens of structural racism, crime, and justice. Study of Lehigh and Northampton Counties affords our team the opportunity to take a “deep dive” into the intricacies of all aspects of the justice system, from policing, to the court processes, to jail conditions, to re-entry programs, to probation and parole. Since the Lehigh Valley is often seen as a microcosm of the nation, we believe the solutions we craft also could be implemented in other communities.

From the first point of contact to the aftermath of arrest and conviction, and every step in between, LVJI identifies aspects of the criminal justice system that have damaged our community rather than sustained it. LVJI especially considers those who are most pressed by structural inequity, making them the priority that drives the reimagined system. From its inception, the American criminal justice system has been rooted in racism and oppression — bolstered by the wording of the 13th Amendment and resultant Jim Crow laws. For example, black Americans are jailed at five times the rate of white Americans. This disproportionately targets people of color and people who lack resources to escape the cycle. We continue to endure the strain of this dark past. The U.S. holds the world’s highest incarceration rate per capita and the third-highest recidivism rate. By identifying the multilayered roots of each issue, and creating alternatives to a failed system, we can promote an equitable and community based justice system.

Although the criminal justice system is currently unsustainable, LVJI believes in the potential of creating a sustainable, restorative justice system that can promote sustainable communities — but the work still needs to be done. Progressive criminal justice policies oriented around safety and quality of life — like the ones present in Nordic countries — serve as an effective model for sustainability, by focusing heavily on rehabilitation and humane conditions. In addition, there is an emphasis on overall quality of life and equitable distribution of resources and social services.

Creating a reimagined system in the Valley is challenging, yet possible. Ideally, the criminal justice system would function through rehabilitation rather than punishment, as this would allow individuals to have a smooth, safe, and successful reentry into society. In this way, a reimagined system that serves the interests of the community leads to greater sustainability. Rehabilitation over penalization would promote sustainable living — both now and for the future.

Continue . . .

Police reform rally at Payrow yesterday

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

Note that City Council candidate Hillary Kwiatek was a speaker. And that we have covered the Christian Hall and Stephen Hughes incidents in these pages.

————

selections from Sarah M. Wojcik, “Dozens remember victims of police violence — and discuss what to do next — at Bethlehem rally.” Morning Call, May 2, 2021.

When the summer’s weekly Black Lives Matter rallies across the Lehigh Valley slowed to a stop in the fall and winter, racial justice organizers continued to work. Now they’re putting that work on display, and emphasizing what they want people to focus on next.

“This didn’t stop,” Annisa Amatul, 23, of Easton said at a rally Sunday in Bethlehem’s Payrow Plaza as she clutched a painted portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in March 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. “Activists have still been working very hard.”

An activist since high school who has begun working with the racial advocacy nonprofit Lehigh Valley Stands Up, Amatul hoped to demonstrate that — and the next chapter of the moment — during a Say Their Names: A Police Violence Memorial rally that attracted more than 70 people. Attendees stood in silence in remembrance of those killed by police, and heard from organization leaders about what they should focus on next: policy and politics.

Participants placed flowers in front of three photos of area men killed by police: Joseph Santos, who was shot by former South Whitehall officer Jonathan Roselle in July 2018; Christian Hall, who was shot by state police in December in East Stroudsburg; and Stephen Hughes, who was shot in March while wielding a knife in his Berks County home.

Jon Irons, who helped organize the rally, said Lehigh Valley Stands Up has been focusing on finding and supporting candidates aligned with the movement’s values, and encouraging residents to vote in local races. Proactive policy changes within local police departments are key, he said, but so is the push to divert police budget funds to other social programs.

“There’s no scarcity of funds here, it’s just going to the wrong place,” Irons said. “We need to come together as a community and show there are viable alternatives [to the status quo].”

Neil Ren, a 26-year-old from Macungie, said the serendipity of having major political races in the Lehigh Valley, including for Allentown and Bethlehem mayor, while the Black Lives Matter movement’s concerns remain prominent should not be ignored.

“What it boils down to is that the Lehigh Valley is in a position to be a leader on this issue,” Ren said.

The local candidates who spoke during the event and who were endorsed by the nonprofit include Lehigh County commissioner candidate Zachary Cole Borghi, Easton City Council candidate Taiba Sultana, Allentown City Council candidate Justan Parker Fields, Bethlehem City Council candidate Hilary Kwiatek and Allentown mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach.

Kwiatek, who is white, said that knocking on doors across Bethlehem made her realize how hungry her fellow residents are for change and racial justice. The movement, she said she’s learned, should not only be championed by people of color.

“And to my fellow white community members I say: This work is our work,” Kwiatek said.

Rick Dow, 73, of Bethlehem, agreed with Kwiatek’s belief that the activism has to extend beyond people of color. Dow described himself as a “white guy with privilege” and said that educating himself on this point has helped him learn about where and how he can be an ally for people of color.

Dow, a member of the Lehigh Valley Quakers, has been a part of a group that stands with Black Lives Matter signs every Friday outside the Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting House on Route 512. Dow said the group gets honks of approval from some drivers but no shortage of angry shouts from others.

Wesley, who is Black, noticed a few Bethlehem officers on bicycles watching the rally from afar and the occasional presence of some of the city’s mounted unit.

Officers stand by to assist such rallies, but try to keep a low profile to prevent escalation, Bethlehem police Chief Michelle Kott said last month.

Wesley said that while he understands that, he also wishes it didn’t make it feel like there was an enormous divide between his community and law enforcement.“When they’re way over there, it keeps this feeling of them and us,” Wesley said. “How do you change that?”

Bethlehem’s Year of Floyd (2): Council deploys

Latest in a series of posts regarding the George Floyd anniversary

Gadfly is modestly proposing that City Council mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s death at a Public Safety meeting on May 25, 2021. A year gives us some distance on our efforts to act on the significance of his death and a perspective on the challenges it presented to the City. Gadfly continues here a quasi-history of the “Year of Floyd” as seen through his eyes and the pages of the blog. One man’s version. As always, Gadfly invites you to join in.

————–

The June 2 City Council meeting at which Chief Diluzio made his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” presentation was 8 days after the murder of George Floyd. Bethlehem had seen a peaceful demonstration 3 days before. Peaceful but certainly angry.

Several Council members were there on May 30 to witness and no doubt to participate in the anger, and all members shared such messages addressed to Council calling for local action as “During the next budgetary assessment, the City of Bethlehem needs to defund policing and allocate this funding to Health services, Public Housing, and Education,” “We are contacting you again to demand immediate action,” “I am emailing to demand the restructuring of the Bethlehem city budget in a way that prioritizes social services for communities and drastically minimizes spending on police,” and “WILL YOU ask the “affected” what THEY need?”

The Mayor and the Chief had stated their relatively inactive positions, now what would Council do?

Would they, in Gadfly’s view, rise to the occasion, respond in kind to the uncoiling significance of Floyd’s murder and the demand for meaningful action?

Each Council member spoke at that June 2 meeting.

President Waldron’s focus was solely on the model non-escalating behavior by our police department in ensuring a peaceful protest and ensuring the First Amendment rights of the protestors. The police acted with such  “restraint” and “respect,” said President Waldron, that “not a single incident . . . happened within that large rally last Saturday.”

Councilman Callahan likewise echoed praise for the police doing “a heckuva job” but moved a bit beyond that to action, by which, however, he meant only sending “some type of resolution to the state . . . our state senators, our United States senators,” and by “going out and voting.”

Frankly, Gadfly was most surprised, most disappointed by Councilman Colon — from a diverse Puerto Rican/African American family with a life experience no doubt different from almost every one else on Council — who was satisfied hearing that the police department was up to snuff, who’s “using this time to listen” (a term he repeats 4 times) and keeping “the dialog going” (what new in regard to racism could he expect to hear at this point in our history?), who sees change as “incremental,” and who seemingly sees very little role for Bethlehem in taking the lead in fostering change. Councilman Colon’s response simply seemed too low energy for Gadfly given the rather tumultuous events spreading around the country and, indeed, the world. (Councilman Colon is chair of the Public Safety Committee, and Gadfly will have occasion later to link this low key attitude to the operation of that committee.)

Thankfully, in Gadfly’s opinion, the remaining four Councilpeople significantly raised the level of conversation.

Councilwoman Van Wirt immediately smoked the Mayor and Chief for failing to indict systemic racism not only in Minneapolis but also here in Bethlehem as well. The Councilwoman charges them “to do something,” that is, “to look at our own city and address economic and social racism where it exists.” Bingo! Councilwoman Van Wirt reads a letter originally posted on Gadfly from resident Breena Holland — the hard-edged, no nonsense kind of letter we’re used to from her –in which she calls out the Mayor and Chief for words that “are not that meaningful unless they get turned into action.” If the Mayor and Chief “can pretend [racism] does not exist locally” and only “condemn what happened to George Floyd for the brutal inhumanity it displayed, . . . then they are part of the problem.”

Now we’re cookin’, feels the Gadfly.

If we — the imperial white “we” — are going to help the “other,” are going to actively help the other, what do we most need? Perhaps empathy is the key trait. The ever heart-felt Councilwoman Crampsie Smith does a clinic on empathy: “it is really important for us to reconcile with the fact that people of color are deeply and profoundly hurt and that hurt is manifesting itself as anger. Can we blame them? Absolutely not. I would not be in this position of councilmember if it were not for my dear friends of color. I am blessed every day to see the gifts, talents, and dignity of my wonderful students of color. My heart is broken for them and for our country. As a mother you live with many fears regarding your children’s well being. I thank God my twenty-year-old son is white, for his safety is greater than his friends of color. And that is truly wrong. My heart breaks for the parents of children of color, for I cannot fathom the fear they live with each and every day. Their fears are above and beyond what any parents’ fears ever should be.” So personal, so powerful. And where does the Councilwoman end up? With the magic words. Anti-racism. “We must insure that we are not not just against racism, but that we are anti-racist, we are inclusive, and we always strive to insure justice for all.”

Anti-racism. Bethlehem as an anti-racist city. Now we’re talkin’.

Gadfly remembers remarking during public comment one meeting that Councilman Reynolds is the loudest of the Councilmembers. With his commanding voice and machine-gun delivery, he can make you sweat. Councilman Reynolds picks up on the need for empathy, describing what he has learned from his students. He picks up on the need for anti-racism: “there’s also a difference between not doing something wrong and doing what’s right. And I think that’s part of the conversation we need to have in the city. . . . It is not even enough just to say that we can have peaceful demonstrations here. It’s gonna be enough when people that are in marginalized communities are able to look at us as our elected officials and look at things we’ve done and say, you know what, they made things better, they made things more inclusive, they gave power to people that didn’t have power before.” With the statements by the Mayor and the Chief as the implied point of reference, the Councilman says, “it’s just not enough to be against racism, but we need to pro-actively be anti-racist. ”

Anti-racism again. For most individuals and institutions, that means a complete 180-degree re-orientation in attitude and behavior. And a risky re-orientation at that.

We end our survey of Council responses at this June 2, 2020, meeting with a dose of reality. We end with Councilwoman Negron. We don’t need a resolution, she says. We don’t need a “magic pill.” We know the problem, we just ignore it. It’s simple. Simply do justice, something we all know. Simply do justice. Here’s the bitter truth. Here’s speaking truth to power. “Your brown and black constituents are being right now, every day treated in an unjust way. . . . the injustice exists. And there’s no way for anybody to say otherwise.” The Councilwoman herself feels at times “intimidated, afraid.” Then come the words “we” don’t want to hear: “Liberty and justice for all. Really? Justice for all. Justice for all as long as you have light skin, gold hair, and blue eyes. Because if you don’t, there’s no such a thing in here as justice for all.”

Words far from those of the Mayor and the Chief. Words that should move us to action.

Will they?

to be continued . . .

Getting back to Christian Hall

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Full Monroe County D.A. press conference

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”
ref: The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event

Gadfly periodically amazes himself, amazes himself at the way he can beat a subject to death.

Take a look at his performance Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police.

Nothing like it in the annals of gadfly sleuthdom.

And the upshot was that even his slow-mo of slow-mo presentation couldn’t figure out The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event.

Those posts must have blown his gasket, for he left the investigation of the Christian Hall incident completely up in the air a good three weeks ago.

In the meantime we have the shootings of Adam Toledo in Chicago, Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City, Duante Wright in Brooklyn Center, and maybe I have missed some.

More on those other cases later, perhaps, but Gadfly wants to complete his walk-through on Christian Hall.

It’s been so long, those of you who want to think along with him may need to go back and review those past posts.

His is the “suicide by cop” case on Rt. 80 just north of us in Monroe County.

But Gadfly’d like to give you some more homework.

We have a video of the 73 min. D.A. press conference on March 30.

That 73 min. video breaks down in this way:

1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. incident video that has been published separately and that we looked at)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

For homework, Gadfly would like you to listen to the D.A. state his credential in this kind of case (approx mins 6-9) and his concluding presentation and Q&A (mins.45:30-1:13:46).

Do that, wouldya?, and we’ll come back and talk.

Bethlehem’s Year of Floyd (1): The Mayor and Chief get out in front

Latest in a series of posts regarding the George Floyd anniversary

ref: Let’s meaningfully remember George Floyd on the anniversary of his death
ref: Mayor Donchez: “We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred”
ref: Chief DiLuzio: “We as police officers condemn what happened to Mr. Floyd”

Gadfly is modestly proposing that City Council mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s death at a Public Safety meeting on May 25, 2021. A year gives us some distance on our efforts to act on the significance of his death and a perspective on the challenges it presented to the City. Gadfly herewith begins a quasi-history of the “Year of Floyd” as seen through the pages of the blog. One man’s version. Join in.

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George Floyd died Monday, May 25, 2020. Turmoil started virtually immediately and spread throughout the country. There was a large peaceful demonstration here radiating from the Rose Garden to Payrow Plaza on Saturday May 30. Mayor Donchez’s statement appeared on the City web site Sunday May 31 (it is no longer there) and in the Morning Call Wednesday June 3. Chief DiLuzio delivered his statement at the City Council meeting Tuesday June 2.

We begin our quasi-history with the statements by Mayor Donchez and Police Chief DiLuzio representing the City’s official response to the tragedy of Floyd’s death and the ongoing societal disruption that followed.

The Mayor and the Chief are clearly and understandably worried about the spread of disruption to Bethlehem.

They are also concerned with distancing themselves and our City from the blatant evil of the murder and its racial dimension.

A pantheon of Jefferson, Jesus, King, Kennedy, Ben Franklin, and Edmund Burke are invoked.

Horror, condemnation, outrage, sadness, shock, disgust, repulsion, pain, and righteousness are expressed.

Both men protest that their hands and the hands of their City are clean.

The Mayor remembers the “melting pot” utopia in the South Bethlehem of his youth “where there was no room for racism, bigotry, and intolerance.” He replicated that utopia in the classroom during his career at Allen High School “where he made sure [his] students were tolerant of all who attended . . . Black and White, Latino and Asian, Gay and Straight, Male, Female and Transgender [?], Rich and Poor, and all who made up the city, the Lehigh Valley and the country.” In present-day Bethlehem, the Mayor says, “we are one.”

The Chief is personally horrified and outraged at what he sees. And there is no blue wall in his department: “We as police officers condemn what happened to Mr. Floyd. . . . What the four Officers did was wrong. What Officer Derek Chauvin did was criminal.” The Chief and his officers ensured peaceful protest in our town, felt unity with the protestors. And he runs a diverse department accredited both by the state and nationally (a dual accreditation that only 4% of departments have), in which training is continuous, in which everyone agrees “that a properly trained officer would never use this type of force under the circumstances.”

The Chief oversees a departmental micro-utopia analogous to the Mayor’s urban macro-one.

Gadfly called these statements by the Mayor and the Chief powerful statements at the time, for which he received some significant push-back.

He was glad the Mayor and Chief recognized the need to speak up, to get out in front.

But the limitation in their words becomes even more obvious from the distance of almost a year.

Ironically, that limitation is pellucid in the Chief’s choice of words from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Neither the Mayor nor the Chief point to anything specific to do, point to anything that needs to be done locally, articulate any action that we good people (or they) in Bethlehem should take.

Again, “We are one,” says the Mayor, triumphantly but perhaps complacently.

As if nothing of the Floyd sort and its aftermath would/could happen here.

As if we had no “work” to do in “reckoning with race.”

There is a sense of self-satisfaction in their words, a sense that they speak from a kind of moral elevation or eminence.

Gadfly is a generation older than the Mayor, but it looks like we were both raised on the same mythic conception of America as a melting pot. However, there are few American literature and history courses these days that would frame our country that way without also posing a powerful counter-narrative. We have come to understand that the myth of the melting pot is a myth that serves white privilege and also is a way to blame minorities who don’t succeed. Likewise, proclaiming, as he does in his recent state of the city address, that the “American Dream,” another American cultural myth, is “thriving here” is tricky. Gadfly remembers statistics about low incomes on the Southside and low rates of home ownership on the Southside (home ownership traditionally seen as a stepping stone to achievement of the American Dream) discussed right here on this blog lately and wonders if this would be the kind of thing the Mayor could say if he gave his address in the auditorium at Donegan. Gadfly also remembers the oft-repeated words of our younger Allen High School Councilman about the need to see ourselves and our city through the eyes of the cultural “other.” That “Canary” has indicated that the view would be disillusioning.

So, as understandable as these statements by the Mayor and Chief and their purposes might be, Gadfly feels our “Year of Floyd” didn’t get off to the best possible start.

to be continued . . .

Let’s meaningfully remember George Floyd on the anniversary of his death

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

“No one should be above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message. . . . But it’s not enough. It can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again. . . . We can’t leave this moment or look away thinking our work is done. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.”
President Biden

“We are at the beginning of the Ice Age, if you will, and unless policing is prepared to evolve, it will become extinct. Unless policing is prepared to move toward a more restorative, transformative justice model, it will be replaced. They have to be fully prepared to start walking back from what was the policing model of the 20th and the 19th century to a public safety model, and to move toward a holistic model, a more comprehensive public safety model that respects the sanctity of human life.”
Marq Claxton, Black Law Enforcement Alliance

Gadfly would like to make a modest proposal, a modest suggestion.

Gadfly would like to propose that the City mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Such marking could take place at the City Council meeting on May 19 or June 2.

But better yet would be a special meeting devoted solely to marking Floyd’s death, such as, perhaps, a meeting of the Public Safety Committee on May 25.

We need a meeting where we have enough time and space to breathe.

Derek Chauvin is guilty in the death of George Floyd. Guilty three times over.

But we can’t think of that verdict as the end to the GeorgeFloyd chapter of American racial history. We still have work to do.

George Floyd’s death plunged the country into (yet another) national reckoning with race.

George Floyd’s murder challenged us as individuals and institutions 1) to be anti-racist (a new term for many of us), and 2) to reimagine how we do public safety.

George Floyd’s fate challenged us to work seriously on some of the most deeply rooted problems in our society.

May 25, 2021, will be a ceremonial day across the nation. People and entities are announcing gatherings of various sorts. We need to be among them.

We need to mark the GeorgeFloyd anniversary in two ways: 1) we need to take stock of how we have met those challenges, we need to gauge how productively we have spent the year in this regard, and we need to give ourselves a candid report card, and 2) we need to set some plans and goals for the future.

What do we have to show for the year?

Frankly, if Gadfly were to give a grade for how we have spent the year in this area, it would not be a good one.

He recognizes that there has been a transition in Police Department leadership. He is aware of the argument that there are good intentions in the police department and that we need to wait for the department to establish a new direction under a new leader. He understands that argument, has seen a reorganization plan, and recognizes through social media the department moving in positive directions. But Blacks have been waiting for justice for six centuries, have been waiting since Gomes Eanes de Zurara inaugurated racial ideas in Western Culture in his 1453 defense of African slave-trading, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea.***

The waiting argument falls on deaf ears.

Women have been asked to wait — for the right to vote, for reproductive autonomy, for equal pay. How has that worked out for them?

Blacks, all people of color have been asked to wait. Be patient. The arc of the universe bends toward justice. We’re working on it.

Sorry, we have to do better than that. We have to get our butts movin’.

Now during the past year there was for a while a pocket of political resistance to any change in policing. Gadfly wonders if that has had impact on our willingness to act, especially in an election year. He hopes not, for echoing the quote above by a Black law enforcement spokesman, Gadfly believes that those voices are more and more clearly on the wrong side of history.

Gadfly believes public safety is going to change substantially.

And he would like to see Bethlehem in the forefront of that change.

Let’s use the Floyd anniversary to re-energize.

(Over the next few days, Gadfly will review local Floyd doings over the year.)

———-

***Knowledge of the history of racism thanks to a powerful anti-racism program sponsored by the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly mayoral forum #6: The George Floyd anniversary

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

(Note: these essays were done and posted before the Chauvin verdict.)

The prompts don’t get any easier as the finish line approaches.

The prompt:

The Chauvin jury has just started to deliberate as I write this. We look for an “end” soon. Maybe even before all the candidate responses get published.

We look for an end, but whatever the outcome, there will not be “closure.”

Floyd’s death is of too great significance for that. The waves will ripple out for years.

Gadfly gave the candidates, mayoral and council candidates alike, a scenario.

George Floyd died May 25, 2020. The one-year anniversary is approaching. An anniversary that will be marked around the country. One can imagine it a day of speeches and ceremonies.

My basic prompt question was should there be an anniversary response at the City Council meeting of May 19 or June 2?

If so, what; if not, why not?

The Floyd death triggered a national reckoning with race and a reimagining of the way we do public safety.

The Floyd death challenged us to be anti-racist.

What have we done? Have we done enough?

The mayor and Police Chief made speeches on the heels of the Floyd murder. A City Council meeting overflowed with heated resident commentators brimming with ideas. A sensitive political climate caused the Police Chief to bite the dust. We resolved to initiate community engagement. We partnered with the NAACP on a Community Advisory Board. We piloted a program with the Health Bureau. We reorganized the police department.

How has what we have done gone? Have we done enough? Do we plan to do more?

Should we pause and take stock of our response to Floyd’s death or not?

Do we owe residents some sense of how we have used that year in which we have all been challenged to work seriously on some of the most deeply rooted problems in our society?

Have we done enough?

Or will we simply let the anniversary slide by in silence?

Big open field again for the candidates to play in.

But looking for big ideas.

If you want to listen to my full prompt, click here.

————

J. William Reynolds

Gadfly,

The most appropriate way to start this prompt isn’t by laying out what should be done to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the

murder of George Floyd. It is rather to lay out what should be done period.

The collective national response to the George Floyd murder reflected a truth that many have known, lived, and talked about for a long, long time. Our experience in this country is fundamentally influenced by our race. Black Lives Matter. The words that so many are afraid to say. Black Lives Matter is partly about the idea that one’s experience in this country is based on their race.  This is not an opinion statement. It is sad, tragic, and unacceptable, however, that many in our community won’t say those words or don’t believe your experience in America is influenced by race. In fact, many people have zero interest in having any conversations about anything involving race. Conversations, however, need to be had and systemic action needs to be taken.

Part of the American and local response to the George Floyd murder was influenced and motivated by the systemic racism that our country has been experiencing for hundreds of years.  We talked last week about the idea of “two cities,” and it is a reality that has historically played out throughout America. Your economic and educational opportunities are often dictated by your zip code. Access to jobs, transportation, health care, and well-funded public schools are just a few areas where historically the government has failed to create equitable systems. In fact, policy has intentionally been designed throughout American history to direct resources and opportunity to white Americans at the expense of black and brown citizens. Similar to even saying the words “Black Lives Matters,” many people do not believe that systemic racism is a real thing. It is therefore vital that we point out systemic racism where it exists, eliminate it, and build more equitable systems for our future.

Following the national and local conversations last year, Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and I created the Community Engagement Initiative. It was built on the idea that local action should grow out of conversations, experiences, and historically underrepresented perspectives. We know mental health, homelessness, issues of structural poverty, and even areas like equitable school funding play a direct and indirect role in many citizen encounters with our police department. As we have seen tragedies play out across the country, we wanted to bring citizens, police officers, social service providers, non-profits, and advocates for our homeless population together. One of the goals was to better understand the intersection of the aforementioned issues and start to collectively discuss how we could design more effective systems to tackle these community-wide problems.

There have been some great community conversations led by the Bethlehem Area Public Library, the YWCA, the Hispanic Center, the Bethlehem Area School District, and many others.  I know I, and many Councilmembers, have participated and listened to our residents share their feelings on race in America and in our community during these conversations. The City, however, needs to take much more of a leadership role in this area. We should have an employee dedicated to organizing and leading our Community Engagement Initiative. Chief Kott has made progress in increasing the number of officers who are part of these events, but we need to expand that involvement to include every officer. Our officers need to hear from the community about the depth of the structural issues that lead to police involvement. Our community also needs to hear from our officers about the difficult decisions that they must make on a regular basis when responding to calls. As I have mentioned before, the analogy of counting to ten is apt. Someone calls the cops at 10 because 1-9 (equitable school funding, mental health services, economic opportunities) have all failed. By bringing the people together who are involved, the organizations dedicated to 1-10, we are able to collectively work to cut down on how often our community ever gets to 10.

The Bethlehem Area School District has been a leader in the area of anti-racism. Curriculum changes, investments in employee training, and restorative justice have all been priorities for the district. It is also almost impossible to attend a district event without hearing their latest in developing an anti-racist school district. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the George Floyd murder, the City of Bethlehem and the next Mayor needs to take a similar approach (and a much stronger one than City Hall has in the past year).

  • Invest in our Community Engagement Initiative with a fulltime employee
  • Study the intersection and improve the relationship between our social service providers and our police department
  • Create accountability metrics for measuring progress
  • Be clear – we aren’t just going to be against racism, we are going to be an anti-racist city.

Many of us go through our days believing that our life experience is similar to everyone else.  Over the years, between my years as a student in the Bethlehem Area School District, working for State Rep. Steve Samuelson, and my time on City Council, I have learned that my experience is just that – only my experience. My students at William Allen High School have taught me more about this subject than I could ever teach them about government or history. I trust our educational, healthcare, and justice systems, the process of democracy, and most of all, the institutions that make up our community. Many of them do not. Over the years, I have heard story after story after story about how institutions have let them down, left them behind, or simply weren’t designed for their families.  That collective frustration and anger came to the forefront of America when the murder of George Floyd occurred. Make no mistake, however, it had been building for a long, long time.

We didn’t create the systemic racism that exists in America. It is our responsibility, however, to eliminate it. Every day that we don’t take stronger action makes us more responsible for the systemic issues that are part of our community. That comment will make a lot of people uncomfortable. Good. That is where change comes from.

————–

Dana Grubb

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the COVID pandemic, systemic American racism spotlighted, a national election fraught with dissension, and an insurrection against our Congress and the Capitol Building in Washington. The murder of George Floyd stood out, however, as an example of the many issues, decisions and dilemmas facing members of the black and brown communities and members of law enforcement. The trial of Derek Chauvin for killing Mr. Floyd exacerbated the pain and suffering that murder brought and proved how widespread the vicious tentacles of systemic racism really are in a country that is supposed to be the “land of the free.” Even as that trial was going on, other killings were taking place across the country: a map issued by the Gun Violence Archive places a red marker at the site of every shooting death in the US. The map is awash in red.

The national discourse brought to a head by Mr. Floyd’s murder has raised feelings of loss, resentment, and anger, as well as demands for change. Peaceful public protests and marches following Mr. Floyd’s murder began a healing process, but anger is still evident across the nation and in our city in the discourse on both sides of the community and policing relationship. The term “defund the police” was coined in reaction to a series of police and minority interactions over time, and it is a term that is frightening to many.

In reaction to Bethlehem public officials’ statements on the matter, labels like “Marxist” were mentioned. The use of words like “defund” and “Marxist” are counterproductive and only add to the distrust, unrest, and misunderstanding. They are words of fear and reaction, not words of acceptance and reason. Bethlehem’s community leaders searched for ways to address the growing pressures of this national issue. The Mayor formed a community advisory board, and Council advanced a community engagement initiative. So far, although well intentioned, neither body has provided city residents with any concrete results or plans.

The Bethlehem Police Department transitioned to a new Chief recently, and people expressed hope that this would lead to better relationships between the community served and law enforcement, and thus more effective policing. Positive steps have been taken: the department has been reorganized, and a commitment has been made to training officers on implicit bias, through a Northampton County program.

Immediately after the murder of Mr. Floyd, I had the privilege of interviewing a long time Black friend for a newspaper column I was writing. He told me that he didn’t have any issues directly with Bethlehem’s Police Department but that he did feel that the current day force did not really know the community that it serves, unlike Bethlehem’s officers did in the past. A close friend who died many years ago was a popular Black community police officer in Allentown. Lately, I’ve thought about him a lot, because although I always sensed that he felt very accepted by the community he policed, I also felt that at times he was unsure just how deep that acceptance really went. I wish I could speak with him now in light of the current events.

In conversations with some of my neighbors who are Black or Brown, they stressed the need for acceptance and respect among all people. That cuts to the core of racism: if all people are not accepted and respected as being on an equal footing, prejudice is the result. And prejudice of all types stems from a fear of those who appear to be different from ourselves.

I’ve also listened to many white people tell me that they’re not racist or discriminatory; yet in some of their qualifying comments it’s apparent that they do struggle with these issues. It may more properly be said that they do not wish to be racist or discriminatory but that prejudice is so ingrained, it is extremely difficult to surmount.

I recognize each day that I, personally, must work to better accept others, no matter their background. So, what do I think we should be doing roughly one year after George Floyd’s murder?

I’d start with a call to every individual for a personal commitment to working for racial justice by actively opposing racism. It is not enough to consider oneself unprejudiced or say one is against racism: action must be taken directly to combat the issue. The fear of those who seem different and the concurrent emphasis on protecting oneself and others “like us” must be overcome, and systems that sideline, subvert, and dismiss those whom we have deemed different must be destroyed.

Dialogue with others is an important step, as it allows people to comprehend others’ perspectives. If we really listen when people of color speak, we can perhaps begin to understand.

“Just walk a mile in their moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through their eyes, instead of your own.”

–Mary T. Lathrap, 1895*

I’d have no problem if elected officials chose to pass a resolution remembering Mr Floyd’s murder, recognizing failings in our governmental and societal systems, and offering concrete solutions for addressing these issues. But public officials should also commit to a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory, racist, and bullying behavior in our local government, and have the courage to enforce that policy. I have committed to this throughout my campaign for Mayor.

Change won’t come overnight; however, it can happen if everyone recognizes and accepts the need for change, overcomes their fear of that change, and commits to active engagement to fight against the prejudices and stigmas that only serve, ultimately, to hold us all back.

*Edited; complete text online.

————

Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

Community Outreach Unit in the Allentown Police Department

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

“We’ve been expanding our community engagement unit. We’re looking to get back to some of the things we did in the past with some of our bicycle patrol units. With the reorganization of our department, we’ve put a really strong emphasis
on the community policing philosophy.”

Bethlehem police Capt. Tim Cooper

The post-GeorgeFloyd activities by the Allentown Police are getting a lot of news coverage as you can see from recent Gadfly posts. We don’t get as much. Here Allentown’s Community Outreach Unit is profiled. We have a new Community Services Division, though Gadfly doesn’t believe we know much in the way of its specific activities yet.

The debate noted in the article over whether the police should be doing what the Allentown COU is doing or “someone else” is interesting and one that we should be having.

In any event, Gadfly hopes that we can soon start being the lead instead of the tail in articles like this about the interesting ways public safety is being reimagined.

———–

selections from Andrew Scott, “Allentown police outreach unit reassures neighborhoods traumatized by shootings, other crimes.” Morning Call, April 19, 2021.

In the early morning hours March 27, “I was in bed, but awake, when I heard gunshots,” [Erlinda Aguiar] said. That was a 23-year-old man being killed in that same block. Police are still investigating and have made no arrests. Aguiar and her neighbors were shocked.

Incidents like that shooting can traumatize not just victims and their loved ones, but others in the neighborhood where they happen. That is where the Allentown police Community Outreach Unit comes in. Begun Jan. 1, the unit has eight main officers and a crisis intervention specialist, who work on building a better relationship between police and the community. One of the ways they do that is by visiting residents near the sites of potentially traumatic crimes, but not just in an investigative capacity. “We want to provide the community with an opportunity to heal from what’s happened,” said Sgt. John Leonard, who helps coordinate the COU. In the days following the March shooting, COU members went door to door in the area. Officers spoke with neighbors and addressed any questions and concerns about the shooting and neighborhood quality of life in general.

“We answer as many questions and share as many details as we can about the incident, such as whether the crime was random or targeted and whether the suspect had any ties to the victim, provided those details won’t jeopardize our investigation in any way,” Leonard said. “We reassure residents that we’re there, maintaining a presence to keep them safe. Equally as important, we offer them a way to gauge how much the incident has negatively impacted their mental peace, and we offer information on how to restore that peace.” COU members hand out a questionnaire to see if residents are experiencing any post-traumatic stress or anxiety. Officers also refer neighbors to a crisis intervention specialist, who follows up with anyone experiencing PTSD and refers them to agencies providing mental wellness services. Pinebrook Family Answers in Allentown, an agency whose services include working with traumatized people, has two community intervention specialists. One is assigned to Allentown police while the second is available to other Lehigh Valley police departments.

The idea for these post-incident follow-ups with neighbors is “based out of restorative and trauma-informed care practices,” Allentown police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said. “I began doing these door-to-door walks and follow-ups years ago by myself as a captain,” Granitz said. “I see great value in this. Our officers do, as well, and have been remarkable in following up on significant incidents and quality-of-life concerns. We’ve been doing these follow-ups in other capacities, but have found that returning to the neighborhood with our COU members, patrol officers and crisis intervention specialist is often the most effective.”

Aguiar hopes others will share her appreciation for the police’s efforts, calling the COU’s visit to her home “so refreshing.” “Imagine seeing a police officer when there’s nothing bad going on and they’re visiting our homes to share helpful information,” she said. “They’re not breaking up a fight or arresting anyone. They’re stopping by to say hello and tell us we can call them about community events and block parties so we can meet them.”

But not every is as appreciative. Ashleigh Strange of Allentown, regional director of Lehigh Valley Stands Up, believes police should be more limited in their role in the community. Lehigh Valley Stands Up and other organizations took part in last year’s protests for racial justice after incidents involving police officers killing or violently restraining people of color. “I haven’t seen the type of police response to incidents in my neighborhood that was seen on North Fourth Street and, honestly, I don’t want to,” said Strange, a Black resident of South Street. “Because of the historically racist and negative relationship between police and people of color in this country, the reaction I and many others have when we see a police officer at someone’s door is not, ‘Oh good, the police are here, I feel safe.’ It’s, ‘Oh no, the police are here, something’s wrong.’ ” Strange and others are part of the defund the police movement calling for money to be reallocated from police departments toward community social services. “I don’t need a police officer coming to my door to check if I’m OK after a crime in the neighborhood,” she said. “I’d rather someone else do that instead or just call me on the phone. We can train other people to do some of the things police do, such as responding to mental health crises. We say we want officers to be part of the community they serve, but we don’t have a residency requirement as part of the police hiring process. The best way to have police officers be part of the community is to hire from among residents who know the community.”

Keiser agrees with hiring qualified residents, but not with limiting police involvement. More community policing is what’s needed, he said. The concept began with the traditional image of the police officer walking the beat, knowing everyone in the neighborhood by name. “When I joined the Allentown Police Department in ‘97, we had officers stationed in offices throughout the community,” Keiser said. “They would go out and interact with people, find out their concerns and have those issues looked into. We had things like the quality of life patrol to develop and implement solutions to neighborhood concerns. We’ve always been a community-oriented department, from the newest patrol officer right up to the chief.” What’s changed over time is the method of getting the word out about what police do in the community. “Now, we have social media, where we can post news about our department’s community activities and events like the Police Athletic League, our youth-mentoring programs and our neighborhood-oriented holiday celebrations throughout the year,” Leonard said. “But, nothing takes the place of that face-to-face interaction with fellow human beings, which I think is even more important in this digital age.”

“Trust” is the key motivation behind community policing/outreach efforts, Keiser said. Now more than ever, residents need to know they can trust their local police. “People think the negative actions of a few police officers are the actions of all police officers, which is not the case, and that perception causes a lack of trust,” Keiser said. “We want to destroy the negative stereotypes of police as being racist or just being there to arrest people. We’re not here to be adversarial, but to serve and help our communities.”

Police departments in the Lehigh Valley’s other major cities are trying to build trust with their own outreach efforts. “We’re encouraging a lot of our officers to actually get out of the cars and get to know not just victims, but also complainants,” Bethlehem police Capt. Tim Cooper said. “We’ve been expanding our community engagement unit. We’re looking to get back to some of the things we did in the past with some of our bicycle patrol units. With the reorganization of our department, we’ve put a really strong emphasis on the community policing philosophy.”

Chief Kott demonstrates commitment to building trust

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

ref: Candidate Grubb and Chief Shiffer on community policing
ref: Interactions with police: the good times

Gadfly’s been bringing you parts of the Hispanic Center’s timely April 12 Community Conversation on “Trust Building with Law Enforcement.”

Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay for the whole meeting. After about an hour, he had to buzz off to the long awaited launch of the Climate Action Plan.

The part of the meeting Gadfly missed was a break-out session with Chief Kott and the Bethlehem residents. He bets that was a good session. And if there are followers who attended that session and could fill us in, that would be greatly appreciated.

But Gadfly can present to you here three spliced together sections of comments by our Chief Kott that you will want to hear.

Gadfly followers will know that he has been whiney about City response to the post-GeorgeFloyd moment, but there can be no doubt of Chief Kott’s commitment to building trust with the community.

And at the core of her comments is the description of a moment of unity — almost a religious experience — taking a knee with people demonstrating against the murder of Floyd.

  • The community wants us to be members of the community. They don’t want us to appear to be this separate occupying force.
  • The little things matter . . . it goes a long way in creating that trust and those relationships in the community .
  • I remember asking a member of the administration if I could go up and just try to talk with the group [Black Lives Matter demonstrators] and explain kind of what the danger was.
  • When I got up there it was a very tense situation.
  • Not only the officers that were at the intersection but members of the group really didn’t know what to do, what to expect.
  • I think I threw everybody off guard when I just explained that I was just there to talk.
  • The cooperation and understanding and trust the demonstrators gave to me was amazing.
  • I almost want to describe it as a religious experience.
  • I was able to listen to a lot of their concerns and their questions and fears not only what happened in Minnesota but what could happen here in Pennsylvania.
  • It as so important, it meant the world to me to have that conversation, to take a knee with those demonstrators and have trust in me.
  • We had that peaceful existence in the City between demonstrators and law enforcement.
  • Before something bad happens is the time to get out and start building those relationships and really showing the community who you are not only as a police department but as people.
  • It’s so disingenuous after something happens to be out there trying to build these relationships and asking people to trust you.

Meeting attendee Scott (Slingerland?), witness to the Chief’s action, remarks on the value of what she did.

 

Also worthy of note, mayoral candidate Dana Grubb spoke of the value of police officers actually living in the community as a way of establishing trust, a plan with problems, for sure, but worthy of more discussion.

A valuable and profitable meeting, says the Gadfly.

Tip o’ the hat to the Hispanic Center.

Candidate Grubb and Chief Schiffer on community policing

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

ref: Interactions with the police: the good times

Gadfly looking back on important sections of the Hispanic Center’s timely April 12 Community Conversation on “Trust Building with Law Enforcement.”

Toward the beginning of the meeting participants were asked to reflect on what they wanted to get out of it.

The responses by mayoral candidate Dana Grubb (who has public safety as one of his platform issues) and our former police chief Jason Schiffer (now Chief at Lehigh University) reminiscing about a prior form of community policing here was quite interesting.

Grubb:

  • the police don’t really know the people now
  • has seen a couple different versions of community policing while he worked for the City
  • the relationships between officers and people in the neighborhoods created an opportunity for communication
  • but also a sense of trust
  • repairing or restoring those kinds of relationships is very, very important
  • hoping the meeting moves in the direction of restoring reciprocal knowledge of officers and community

Schiffer:

  • talked fondly of community policing he worked in here for 7 years in the late 90s
  • the City rented houses in the various neighborhoods
  • he worked out of a house right off Broadway in the southside
  • spent more waking hours there than at his home
  • blessing to be really a part of the neighborhood and see how that played out in interactions
  • looked at strangely by other officers
  • helped little girl with math homework at kitchen table
  • not “law enforcement” but played out when trust dealing with crime was important
  • mutual trust directly based on the time he spent “in” the community

Interactions with police: the good times

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

Monday April 12 was not a day like all days for the Gadfly.

Was kinda weird.

His morning was filled with news stories and graphic footage of the death at the hands of police of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Mn, and news stories and graphic footage of the harassing by police of Carmen Nazario in Windsor, Va.

Then in the late afternoon he attended the Hispanic Center’s timely Community Conversation on “Trust Building with Law Enforcement.”

The conversation included law enforcement — the Police Chiefs from Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and Lehigh U. — and members of the community.

Gadfly was not thinking good thoughts about law enforcement.

But toward the beginning of the meeting, community members were given the floor and asked to talk about “times when your engagement with the police was really positive and helped generate trust. Imagine that law enforcement was seeking your advice about building trust in the community, what would you say to them, what tips would you have? Reflect on times when your engagement was positive. When you think about advising law enforcement on how to build trust in the community, what would you say to them?”

A provocative prompt.

That elicited a cluster of positive vignettes.

Gadfly needed that.

Listen in, they are only 1-2 minutes long.

An officer Good Samaritan during car trouble:

Support for the Hispanic community at the regular Friday food pantry:

Making a 7-yr-old’s day:

Providing food treats and camaraderie at the Great Southside Sale:

Remembering the good times.

Chasing the morning’s demons.

Arguing for a co-responder model and an alternative dispatch system in Allentown

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

“What is often needed is a mental health professional or social worker, not two armed police officers, however well meaning.”

Congresswoman Susan Wild kicked off the Hispanic Center’s Community Conversation on “Trust Building with Law Enforcement” yesterday with a brief talk that highlighted reforms undertaken by the Allentown Police Department, most of which we have noted with interest (and envy) in these pages, and in which she remarked that many police departments want “to expand the number of mental health professionals working with them to respond to calls, and I will tell you that this has become a very big priority for me in Congress.” Are we one of those departments, one that might benefit from her work to secure funding for crisis response services such as described below? Or are we at least going to have the discussion? What are we waiting for?

————

selections from Julie Thomases, “Why mental health providers or social workers should help with many 911 calls.” Morning Call, April 11, 2021.

According to Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz, in 2019, city police received over 100,000 calls for service. Of those, up to 10% were related to mental health.

The number 911 is the most frequently called number in response to an emergency. Allentown’s 911 response system sends police to all 911 emergency calls, whether the calls involve violence or criminal activity or nonviolent, noncriminal issues such as mental health, homelessness, intoxication or substance abuse.

As a result, too often our police are in a position where they must deal with these issues for which they may not have professional mental/behavioral health or social work training.

In Lehigh County, 5,250 people were committed to jail, according to the Lehigh County Criminal Justice Advisory Board Data Committee Report Year End 2019. Of those people, 1,245 required a mental health evaluation and 1,154 underwent medically supervised detoxification.

Incarceration not only fails to correct these problems but instead often exacerbates them. We can reduce the number of mentally ill people going into prison, admitted to the emergency room against their will, and the trauma experienced by those in a behavioral health crisis by modifying our 911 dispatch system.

I’ve researched many alternative 911 programs that work in collaboration with local police, community service organizations or mental health services, through my work with local organizations involved with criminal justice reform.

What they all have in common is they try to respond to nonviolent, noncriminal emergency calls in a way that will reduce or even eliminate death, injury, trauma, or incarceration and provide follow-up case management to reduce repeat calls from the same person.

An increasing number of programs avoid sending police whenever possible. Many are started as pilot programs. Some are referred to as “co-responder” models, in which a crisis intervention team includes a police officer and an EMT or mental health worker who go to the scene.

Once the situation is made safe, officers can move to other incidents requiring their attention while a mental health professional or social worker stays behind with the individual. Some cities have a combination of both a co-responder model as well as an unarmed dispatch of a trained mental health professional, social worker or EMT.

I recently participated in a virtual stakeholders meeting, hosted by The Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, to introduce nearly three dozen Allentown and Lehigh county officials, policy makers, possible funders and those involved with the logistics of our 911 system to two alternative emergency response programs: CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) of Eugene, Oregon and the newly formed Bensalem/Bucks County’s co-responder model.

While a stated duty of our police is to remain alert to the emergency needs of our citizens, what is often needed is a mental health professional or social worker, not two armed police officers, however well meaning. Programs such as CAHOOTS and co-responder programs free up police to deal with crime and crime prevention.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, popularly known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, reportedly will allocate $72 million to Lehigh County and $57 million to Allentown this year. Our county and city officials need to make sure a portion of these funds pay for hiring, salary and benefits for mental health provider first responder units.

In addition, input from the community needs to be part of the choice of an alternative 911 response program.

ALERT! Starting now! 2:30 Monday!

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

SESSION 4

APRIL 12, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Trust Building with Law Enforcement

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

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

REGISTER HERE

ALERT! Given today’s police/community bad news! “Trust Building with Law Enforcement” — 3PM today Monday

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

SESSION 4

APRIL 12, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Trust Building with Law Enforcement

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

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

REGISTER HERE

The re-imagining of public safety going on around us

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

Gadfly’s back on his “re-imagining” soapbox.

Is it any wonder as we watch the news of two troubling police events this morning?

Granted the Minnesota event details are not known yet, but it doesn’t look good.

Note what Allentown is doing. Working to build a co-responder system. Gadfly has done several posts on the CAHOOTS and similar programs. Click here and here, for example.

Councilman Colon has recommended we look at the Upper Macungie HUB program.

Gadfly knows there is a pilot project with the Health Bureau, and we’ve just seen evidence that some officers are getting crisis training.

But it doesn’t seem like much going on.

At least one of our Council candidates has ideas in the re-imagining direction.

———–

selections from Peter Hall and Sarah M. Wojcik, “Following two fatal police shootings in Lehigh Valley region, officials weigh crisis programs to avert tragedy.” Morning Call, April 11, 2021.

When Catasauqua police responded to a domestic disturbance at the Shirey home in February, it was the eighth time in six years law enforcement had been called to the address.

On four prior visits, officers were called to help emergency medical services when Ryan Shirey suffered seizures. On another, it was to assist EMS when Shirey’s arm became trapped in a recliner during what his father described as a mental health episode. Police also were called when the family dog twice escaped.

When three officers arrived Feb. 19, the situation quickly turned tragic, as Shirey barricaded himself inside the house and retreated to a basement bedroom. As the police entered the bedroom, Shirey charged with a revolver and one of the officers opened fire, fatally wounding him.

The circumstances of Shirey’s death are similar to scenarios that play out across the country with distressing regularity. People suffering mental health crises, sometimes threatening suicide with a deadly weapon, end up in a standoff with police. Officers, fearing for their lives if the weapon is trained on them, respond with deadly force.

In some communities, law enforcement and social service agencies are starting to work together to respond to mental health emergencies and other social issues with the goal of connecting people with the services they need before they suffer a potentially violent crisis.

Ben Brubaker, co-director of the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon, said the co-responder model is a crucial part of the solution to avoiding tragic outcomes like Shirey’s. For more than 30 years, White Bird Clinic has operated Crisis Assistance Helping out on the Streets, or CAHOOTS, which provides police-funded 24/7 coverage for social workers to respond to behavioral health emergencies in Eugene and the neighboring city of Springfield, Oregon.

CAHOOTS has become a model other communities have adopted for their own programs.

The social workers are dispatched by the cities’ 911 centers but unarmed and can’t force anyone to do anything. They approach potentially volatile situations with the goal of preventing harm to the person in crisis and those who are trying to help.

“Personally, every shift I was on I was able to help somebody stay out of jail and get better connected to services,” Brubaker said. “I know that those things are helping prevent what could be tragic outcomes.”

Between the cities of Eugene and Springfield, CAHOOTS receives about $2 million in funding, accounting for about 2% of the police budgets. Although Brubaker said CAHOOTS doesn’t track jail diversion statistics, the vast majority of incidents were resolved without police. Out of about 24,000 calls CAHOOTS responded to in 2019, only 311 required police backup and the teams resolved nearly 20% of calls to the city’s public safety dispatch center, according to the Vera Institute for Justice.

Joe Welsh, director of the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, is leading an effort to implement a co-responder program in Lehigh County and Allentown similar to those in Oregon and closer to home in Bucks County. Welsh said the practice achieves not only harm reduction, but it also helps local governments and economies by diverting people from the criminal justice system and avoiding the societal costs of incarceration.

“You’re taking all of these down-the-road costs out of the equation by treating mental illness as an illness instead of criminalizing it,” Welsh said.

The Allentown Police Department is already working to build a co-responder system by expanding crisis training for officers in cooperation with Lehigh County Mental Health and Cedar Crest College. It is also hiring a second crisis intervention specialist to assist patrol officers with mental health-related issues. It also works with an Allentown-based addiction treatment center to partner a certified recovery specialist with officers following up on drug and alcohol abuse issues, Chief Glenn E. Granitz Jr. said.

Upper Macungie Township police also have been working with social service organizations in Lehigh County to identify individuals who are at risk and take steps to candidly discuss their problems and put them and their families in touch with social service providers who can help, Lt. Peter Nickischer said.

“If we see 20 fewer people incarcerated each year, you’re talking about a couple hundred thousand dollars in savings,” Brace said. “I’m of the mind that every dollar that we save in incarceration costs we put into some kind of mental health or community-based preventative activity.”

While a successful program could save taxpayers money, the most important saving, Brace said, is “something we can’t put a dollar sign on — a human life.”

Brubaker, of the CAHOOTS program, said that co-responder programs won’t prevent every tragedy and that police must respond when there’s a threat. But in some situations, social workers can defuse situations that police might not. Brubaker recalled one instance where he spoke with a man having a violent episode inside his mother’s house, and got the man’s commitment that Brubaker would be safe if he went in without police.

“It shows how there is room for a different response where a uniformed officer just by his or her presence could retraumatize or escalate the situation,” Brubaker said.

In Shirey’s case, Martin said, police were responding to a call about domestic violence, and he doesn’t believe a social worker would be able to safely respond to such a call right away. Most of the facts about Shirey’s mental health issues were tied up in medical documents Martin said he had to subpoena to access after the shooting.

Shirey’s father, Karl, and his ex-girlfriend, Alyssa Adams, did not provide police with a clear enough picture of the gravity of Ryan Shirey’s mental health issues, including a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Martin said. No one mentioned that there was a revolver in the house.

“They had no knowledge that they were going into a situation like that,” he said. “If Catasauqua police officers knew he had a gun in the basement, they would not have gone into the basement. They would have called the Municipal Emergency Response Team with trained negotiators.”

In Upper Macungie’s HUB program, the goal is early intervention in situations that have the potential to become more serious. Police officers and social service providers identify residents who may be in need of help and visit them.

Bucks County launched a program last year to embed social workers in the Bensalem Township police department. The community of 60,000 people on the border of Philadelphia had more than 3,300 calls in 2019 when police responded for welfare checks, mental health issues, psychiatric emergencies, suicide attempts, overdoses and domestic disturbances.

“Not too long after the George Floyd incident, I listened to everybody saying police shouldn’t be responding on every type of call,” said Public Safety Director Fred Harran. “We are the only game in town. We’re free, we respond immediately and we don’t ask questions. In these specialized cases, it’s not necessarily the kinds of things we should be responding to.”

Harran said he began researching co-responder programs elsewhere and reached out to social service agencies in Bucks County to float the idea of social workers working with police on calls involving mental health crises, homelessness, child welfare and more complicated issues such as hoarding.

The proposal received support, and county and township officials began developing a framework for two social workers employed by the county to be stationed at police headquarters to respond when officers need them. The program went live in January, and Harran said the department has already seen a reduction in the number of chronic 911 callers who repeatedly summon police for non-law enforcement issues.

In many cases, officers clear the scene as soon as they’re certain there’s no threat and the social workers stay to assess the situation and help the individual connect with services. They also come back to ensure that the person is following through on seeking help and that their needs are being addressed, Harran said.

“Police put a bandage on a bleeding artery,” he said. “With the co-responder, it’s the next level, moving the patient off the battlefield, so to speak, and give them more time.”

Bethlehem Police to participate in implicit bias training

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

“At the end of the day, we all have a common goal, and that is to make
sure everyone gets home safely,”

selections from Tom Shortell, “New Northampton County training program will help police officers recognize and address implicit bias.” Morning Call, April 6, 2021.

While a Minnesota courtroom heard testimony Tuesday morning in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd, Northampton County officials unveiled an implicit bias training program for local police departments they hope can help prevent similar tragedies.

The training, which is becoming more common in corporate America as well as in law enforcement, is intended to make people aware of the unconscious, learned stereotypes that inform their behaviors and thinking. For police responding to sometimes tense situations, these biases can carry drastic consequences.

“I think everyone can benefit from this kind of training, and we want to fund it because we have the money and we know municipal budgets are stretched,” County Executive Lamont McClure said while announcing the $20,000 program.

The county already provides the training to corrections officers at the Northampton County Jail through consultant Guillermo Lopez of Intersekt Alliance. Lopez will now lead 20 three-hour sessions with up to 20 police officers at each. Northampton County Director of Human Services Susan Wandalowski said police chiefs at the Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Colonial Regional, Nazareth and Palmer Township departments expressed interest in the program.

The county normally has no direct role in police training, but is making money available through its Human Services Department, which typically handles social work. McClure and Wandalowski said they felt it was an appropriate use of the money, comparing it with the crisis intervention training it already offers local police to emphasize de-escalation techniques.\

“At the end of the day, we all have a common goal, and that is to make sure everyone gets home safely,” Wandalowski said.

Lopez, who has offered similar training sessions to police in Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown over the past decade, said the training tasks officers with considering how they perceive the people they serve, how those people see them and how differences in those perceptions arise in diverse communities. Police are already drilled on how to protect themselves, but sometimes more training is needed to identify actual threats from perceived threats.

“We work to help them understand there is a difference between being unsafe and being uncomfortable,” Lopez said.

In an interview Tuesday, Bethlehem police Chief Michelle Kott said she will require her officers to attend the training. The department had Lopez’s training 13 years ago with periodic refreshers from the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission since then. But communities across the country, including Bethlehem, have demanded police show more empathy and awareness since Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than 9 minutes last summer.

“I just don’t feel it was given the attention it deserved in the past across the board,” Kott said. “That’s something that on a year-to-year basis can be hampered by training budgets, be hampered by the availability of officers. We’re incredibly grateful the county is investing in the training.”

Bravo, Chief Kott!

“Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?”

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

“The solution that would have the most impact on the problem is to prevent people with mental illness from encountering law enforcement in the first place,”

selections from Farnoush Amiri [AP], “States seek more mental health training for police.” Morning Call, April 5, 2021.

The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son’s neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown.

“I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”

Angelo Quinto’s sister had called 911 for help calming him down during an episode of paranoia on Dec. 23. His family says Quinto did not resist the Antioch, California, officers — one who pushed his knee on the back of his neck, and another who restrained his legs — and the only noise he made was when he twice cried out, “Please don’t kill me.”

The officers replied, “We’re not going to kill you,” the family said. Police deny putting pressure on his neck. Three days later, the 30-year-old Navy veteran and Filipino immigrant died at a hospital.

It is the latest stark example of the perils of policing people with mental health issues. In response to several high-profile deaths of people with mental health issues in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states are introducing legislation to change how law enforcement agencies respond to those in crisis.

The proposals lean heavily on additional training for officers on how to interact with people with mental health problems. It is a common response when lawmakers face widespread outcry over police brutality like the U.S. saw last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But none of the proposals appear to address the root question: Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?

In California, lawmakers introduced legislation on Feb. 11 that, among other things, would require prospective officers to complete college courses that address mental health, social services and psychology, without requiring a degree.

In New York, lawmakers in January proposed an effort to require law enforcement to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours of training that would include techniques on de-escalation and interacting with people who have mental health issues.

“The training that police have received for the past I’d say 25 years has not changed significantly, and it’s out of date, and it doesn’t meet today’s realities,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “I mean the last thing a mother wants when they call the police is for an officer to use force. Especially in a situation that didn’t call for it because the officers weren’t trained in how to recognize a crisis.”

The Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to getting treatment for the mentally ill, concluded in a 2015 report those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than others.

“The solution that would have the most impact on the problem is to prevent people with mental illness from encountering law enforcement in the first place,” said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, co-author of the report.

Since that is not always possible, she said, another solution is to create co-responder programs where a social worker or other mental health professional assists officers on such calls.

For families of victims, who now say they regret calling 911 for help, required training and legislative reform are long overdue.

“In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest idea to call the police,” said Isabella Collins, the 18-year-old sister of Quinto, who died in California. “But I just wanted him to be able to calm down, and I thought that they could help with that.”

Quinto’s family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city in February, claiming he “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”

“I guess it was really naive of me to think that he wouldn’t get hurt,” Collins said.

Looks like it’s re-imagining public safety morning on The Gadfly.

“Guns only escalate situations”

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

“Guns only escalate situations. If walking gun-first into a tense situation with an obviously troubled person is by the books, the books need to be rewritten.”
Family spokesman

ref: “Unfortunately, he is deceased,” D.A. says of Catasauqua man”

There’s a favorite saying in Gadfly house.

It’s borrowed from that classic work of American popular culture “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

It’s usually employed after some major bleep-up in the household.

“Well, Squidward, what have we learned today?”

It usually cracks us up. It usually softens the domestic post-mortem.

And then we can go about learning something from the dumb or well meaning but misguided things that one or more of us did.

Ok, ok, the D.A. ruled the police officer justified in killing Ryan Shirey. The officer feared for his life.

God love the officer. He knows what it’s like to look into the barrel of a gun. And he knows that he killed a mentally ill person he knew had seizures and who was holding a gun that was not loaded.

Gadfly can well imagine sleepless nights, lots of them.

So let’s put the actions of that officer on February 19 aside. He was justified in the eyes of the law.

But did thinking about that event at 90 Bridge St., Catasauqua, stop on February 20 when the Chief hit save on his computer, sending his report into Dataville where it will emerge at the end of the year in a cold litany like this:

  • 142 criminal arrests
  • 19 DUI arrests
  • 45 Juvenile arrests
  • 732 Citations issued
  • 117 Violation Warnings
  • 808 Parking tickets
  • 85 Abandoned vehicles tagged
  • 1 killing

Will thinking about that February 19 event stop on April 6 after the D.A.’s press conference?

Can we not hope that there was or that there will be a meeting convened in the back room at 90 Bridge St. where the question of what we learned today is asked?

Do we ever hear of such an aftermath after this kind of event?

What happened on February 19 was justified, but, arguably, it was not smart.

What “de-escalation” training or range of de-escalation techniques do we see in operation?***

Gadfly has been watching the Chauvin trial. Have you? The other day the subject of the testimony was de-escalation.

The purpose of de-escalation was memorably described in a soundbite by one of the testifiers as to enable the officer to go home and the subject to go home.

The saving of life. All life. A noble purpose.

Was it the best thing to do for the three officers to, in effect, corner a man who perhaps had access to a rifle and bow in a basement described as dark enough so that officers had to use flashlights to maneuver, that was divided into rooms, where vision was obstructed by the layout?

What if the officers had waited, had not gone into the cellar, had bought time to contact headquarters and be made “fully aware” of the subject’s history of seizures and bought time for an agitated man to calm down, time to talk to his father as he wanted?

Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been different. Gadfly knows that.

But he agrees with the family member: “Guns only escalate situations. If walking gun-first into a tense situation with an obviously troubled person is by the books, the books need to be rewritten.”

That sound like common sense.

Gadfly has to hope that the Catasauqua police department doesn’t close the book on this incident without asking whether there was something else they could have done to provide “protection to any and all residents,” in the words of their mission statement.

And Gadfly hopes for a more vigorous and more visible discussion about re-imagining public safety here in Bethlehem.

*** Followers will recognize that this is the question Gadfly is exploring in the Christian Hall case.

————

selections from Sarah M. Wojcik, “Fatal police shooting of armed Catasauqua man with mental health issues was justified, DA rules.” Morning Call, August 6, 2021.

The Lehigh County district attorney determined that the Feb. 19 shooting death of an armed 27-year-old Catasauqua man at the hands of police was justified.

Ryan Shirey was killed in his home at 133 S. 14th St. after his ex-girlfriend called authorities during a “heated” argument. Police said that when three borough officers arrived at the home, Shirey fled to the basement. He was found there holding a .38-caliber handgun that he refused to drop and then pointed at a borough officer, police said.

Authorities identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as Joelle Mota and indicated he was in fear for his life when he did so.

Authorities later learned the handgun Shirey was holding was not loaded, but officers had no way of knowing that, according to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. He said there was nothing to suggest that Shirey knew the gun was unloaded.

Martin made a ruling in the case Tuesday, after a probe that included witness statements, investigative reports and the review of body cameras from the three officers.

Martin said Mota gave Shirey six orders to drop the gun during the 36 seconds that elapsed between Shirey’s being found in the basement and Mota’s opening fire.

Martin learned that Catasauqua police had responded to the Shirey home seven times in the past, but never for a law enforcement matter. He said that on five of those occasions police arrived to help Shirey during medical calls when he was having seizures and once when his arm was lodged in a chair during what Shirey’s father, Karl Shirey, described as a “mental episode.”

Martin said none of the three officers who responded was fully aware of these incidents, though Mota was at the home in July 2019 to help Shirey during a seizure. The DA also noted that the officers were unaware of Shirey’s mental health issues, which included a diagnosis of schizophrenia when he was a teen and an extended involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.

“When reading the full account of what happened when Ryan was shot dead in his home, one can only imagine how he felt, surrounded by police, weapons drawn,” Shirey’s family said in a statement Tuesday. “He must have been terrified and felt his life was in danger. And, in fact, reality bore that suspicion out. In a mere 36 seconds he was gone.”

At 1:48 p.m. Feb. 19, police officers Mota, Patrick Best and Jenna Dumansky-Potak responded to the South 14th Street home after Shirey’s ex-girlfriend and his mother’s health care aide, Alyssa Nicole Adams, said she was assaulted and locked out of the home. Police said Shirey refused to come outside to talk to officers and eventually retreated to the basement.

Karl Shirey tried unsuccessfully to persuade his son to speak with police and leave the basement. Karl Shirey told police there was a rifle and a bow in the basement but he didn’t think either was accessible to Shirey, and Adams agreed. Martin said no one in the home mentioned there was a pistol in the basement, which belonged to Karl Shirey’s father, from his time as a police officer.

Best led the way into the basement, followed by the two other officers and Shirey’s father. The stairway was dark and narrow, and officers used their flashlights to look around. They had unholstered their weapons because of the possibility of Shirey’s using the rifle or bow.

The basement was divided into rooms, and the officers split up to look for Shirey. Body camera footage showed that when officers reached Shirey, he said he wanted to talk to his father.

“I want to talk to my dad,” he said, according to body cam footage. “I want to talk to my [expletive] dad.”

Mota asked Shirey to show his hands and saw he was holding a handgun.

“Put the gun down,” Mota said, according to the report. “He has a gun. Put the gun down. Put the [expletive] gun down. Go back. Put the [expletive] gun down, Ryan. Put the gun down. He has a gun, move back. Ryan move back. Pat, get out of the door. Put the gun down. County 26, we got an armed male.”

The body camera footage records Mota abruptly moving to his right.

“He has it pointed, yo move back.”

Mota then fires five rounds while moving to his right and calling out,

“Shots fired! Put the gun down.”

When interviewed after the shooting, Mota said Ryan told him, “I told you not to [expletive] with me” and pointed the gun in the direction of the officers.

Best’s body camera footage captured Shirey saying, “[Expletive] you think I’m kidding.”

Mota said he was trying to retreat when he saw Shirey move toward him with the gun raised and pointed. Mota said he fired out of fear for his own life. Shirey was hit five times in his head and abdomen.

Body camera footage shows the gun on the floor at Shirey’s feet after the gunshots rang out. Mota, Dumansky-Potak and Best then called for EMS and tried to render aid to Shirey.

Dumansky-Potak and Best were behind a closed door and did not witness firsthand Mota’s encounter with Shirey. Karl Shirey’s view was also blocked by a furnace and chimney.

Shortly after the shooting, Jeff Purdon, a spokesperson for the Shirey family, said the family was devastated by the loss and did not believe Shirey was intent on hurting anyone. Purdon said the 27-year-old could become paranoid by the presence of law enforcement and the family wished police had not cornered Shirey in the basement.

In a Tuesday statement in response to Martin’s findings, the family said, “Guns only escalate situations. If walking gun-first into a tense situation with an obviously troubled person is by the books, the books need to be rewritten.”

“In this time of great loss, the outpouring of support from not only our friends and family, but also the surrounding community has touched us deeper than words can express,” the statement said.

Coming up Monday “Trust Building with Law Enforcement” — Don’t Miss

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

SESSION 4

APRIL 12, 2021

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Trust Building with Law Enforcement

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

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

REGISTER HERE

The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

The Monroe Co. video of the Christian Hall event

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”

Gadfly has said that the Christian Hall shooting is a case study ripe for discussion.

You can see from the post of Bob Davenport and the comments (especially by Michele Downing) to Bob’s and Gadfly’s previous posts on Hall that we go quickly to the politics and the ethics of this case.

But Gadfly would like to hold off as much as possible (it’s hard) on that discussion for a short while.

Right now his primary interest is “academic,” that is, he seeks to know something about de-escalation strategy and training from seeing it applied and in action here.

Apropos of our previous post on trends in policing around the country and many previous posts here on Gadfly about reimagining public safety, Gadfly wants to look closely at the de-escalation techniques employed here in as much an objective manner as possible (it’s hard).

In his video of the event, the Monroe Co. District Attorney obviously is aware of the national conversation about more mental health and related training for police and about police collaboration with mental health professionals by the way he foregrounds the credentials of the two negotiators in the Hall event.

Hall was met initially by two first responders whose basic training for such a call is not commented on. Then the interaction is turned over to two negotiators, one for about 15 minutes, the other for about an hour. The video highlights the apposite training of both these negotiators. These are the right men for the job at hand. Here’s what the video says about negotiator #2 (called in the video Trooper #4):

Now the video is 30 mins. long. The event spanned 90 mins. We do not have the full video record.

But what can we learn about de-escalation strategy from what we have?

To prepare, Gadfly broke the video down into its parts several days ago.

He did another run-through over the weekend, however, adding more detail (so anybody who read the previous post should do it again), and, most importantly, he numbered what he thought he could see as verbal strategies for de-escalating the Hall event.

Gadfly identified 18 verbal strategies aimed at de-escalating a potential suicide.

Here they are:

1) come off the bridge, and then we can talk
2) you are not in any trouble
3) we will do you no harm
4) tell us what your problem is
5) we will find someone to help you
6) we the police are here to help you
7) we can say with confidence our help will produce a positive outcome
8) calls Hall “CJ,” establishing personal connection (not clear if the negotiators gave their names)
9) we’re concerned about your physical comfort/state/welfare (cold? hungry? tired?)
10) we see your pain (empathy)
11) I’ll come out into the open from behind the safety of the police car to talk with you
12) advances on Hall behind ballistic shield
13) I’m asking you to put the gun down
14) what I’m asking you to do is easy to do
15) name something you need, and we’ll get it for you
16) whatever is bothering you is really not as big as you think it is
17) let me remind you of the impact of your death on people who love you
18) you really don’t want to commit suicide

Now go back to the break down post.

To Gadfly these verbal strategies are applied scattershot. He sees no purpose, pattern, coherence in their application. Should there be?

What are the strategies most applied? Seems like #2, #3, #13. Why these?

Are there any strategies that don’t seem appropriate? #16, #18? Should the officer be suggesting that the reason Hall contemplates suicide is no big deal? Will it be effective with a teen who employed elaborate planning (as was learned later) to suggest he really doesn’t want to do this?

Is the approach here keyed to research and experience with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen in mental crisis/distress contemplating suicide by cop?

Here’s what the video stresses as the key strategy:


We have seen this so many times in these cases. The subject is at fault for disobeying a police order.

But what does research and experience tell us about the efficacy of such a full-frontal strategy with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen contemplating suicide by cop?

40 times. 40 unsuccessful times.

All Gadfly can hear is Dr. Phil, his favorite philosopher, saying, “And how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Gadfly must admit that he is troubled by what he has been told is expert police action in this case.

Now with all self-conscious humility, Gadfly recognizes that “academics” are guilty of over-thinking sometimes.

But till better instructed, he is profoundly disappointed if this is an example of the best that training has to offer.

It’s not just that the attempt at de-escalation failed here and a teen was killed. That will happen. Can’t win them all. And Hall was determined to die.

But Gadfly doesn’t understand what the de-escalation approach was here and on what it was based.

As always, he invites enlightenment.

“CJ is responsible for his own death”

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Bob Davenport is PA born and raised for 25 years. Now a retired railroad (but not the man at the throttle) Engineer, a CE graduate of Lehigh U,  a Catholic attending daily mass and praying for a better world without apparent success. An optimist.

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police

Gadfly:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; in this case the cure was lead.  I don’t blame the officers.  They have a right to protect themselves, and they were backed into a corner. The outcome was predictable once CJ selfishly made the decision to die. The ones who protest this action should sign up to be on call when the next incident occurs and give it a try to do better. Fortunately, CJ took nobody else with him, but the officers who shot will undoubtedly be affected.

What we need is cowboys as portrayed in the fifties who could shoot quickly and always manage to shoot a gun out of someone’s hands, unless the guy was evil, and then he died instantly. Those bullets must have been “smart” bullets.  Alas, this was real not scripted. CJ is responsible for his own death; he chose others to do it for him.

A prayer for all involved.

A similar incident occurred in Atlanta. The film clip is shorter but more intense: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/georgia-tech-student-activist-shot-dead-campus-police-n802146

An alternative solution may be to start shooting before police think they are in mortal danger, so they can aim for extremities rather than the core. Can you see a problem with that?

These situations are similar to those faced by the military under rules of engagement which were in effect during my time and place in Viet Nam. There were rules that were to be followed before you could use your weapon, which in my situation was kept in an arms room until I might need it. I remember my thoughts that one with a knife had to get very close before you “could” take an action. Indeed when do you get to make a him or me decision?

Drugs being involved is also a common situation. Who knows what impaired people are going to do. There was a situation that was called police brutality because an officer emptied his pistol into someone who attacked him. The answer was “he kept coming.” I heard the .45 cal pistol was used in the military because of the drug-fueled combatants in the Philippines. The round would stop an attacker even if his brain did not get the message that he was hurt. Who wants to be a police officer?

Spiderman and his web may be effective in certain situations, but reality usually precludes anything but a difficult life-and-death decision by a cop, often complicated by the desire of police to protect one another, which may initiate the trigger response even earlier.

If we could turn machine operators into mental health professionals and pay for their services, unemployment would disappear.

Bob

Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

There’s the sacred and the profane.

Gadfly has spent most of his Good Friday in profane activity.

The Monroe County D.A.’s office has provided us with the ability to just about witness the entire episode that ended with suicidal Christian Hall shot to death by the Pa. State police.

“Suicide by cop.”

You have seen Gadfly complain about our lack of knowledge of exactly what kind and how much training our police officers receive.

We are told they receive ample “de-escalation” training. But exactly what is de-escalation training? Don’t know.

Well, here’s a situation in which perhaps the best trained officer that we could expect on our State Police force was in charge of an event that needed to be de-escalated.

The officer is described as a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who in this instance used “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.”

Now de-escalation failed in this instance. We will want to talk about that, yes. That happens. Can’t win ’em all. We live in a fallen world.

But Gadfly’s first goal was to see if a close look at the D.A.’s video would enable him to determine precisely what de-escalation strategy is.

So he broke down the video into its parts.

Gadfly doesn’t expect any of you to follow his lead here (well, he hopes for Michele and Bud). But this was a necessary first step in forming his thoughts. Going to the primary source as he always says.

Maybe the next post, after he has gathered his thoughts, will be more user-friendly.

Two officers: the first five minutes of contact with Hall. Hall is standing on top of a safety barrier on an entrance bridge over a major highway. Officers move slowly, arms raised non-threateningly, talking constantly, gradually moving closer and closer to Hall. The officers repeat and repeat requests 1) to come off the bridge to talk and 2) repeat and repeat assurance he’s not in trouble. Also briefly offered by the officers are 3) assurance they will do him no harm, 4) an inquiry into what his problem is, and 5) an offer to find someone to help with his problem. When it’s noticed he’s carrying something, the officers repeat requests he tell them what it is, and when the thing is identified as a gun, they request he put it down. Finally, the officers take cover.

[First two officers, from a distance, slowly moving closer, officers separated, arms in air stretched out] [Hall is on safety barrier.] How ya doin’, Sir? How ya doin’? Can you come here? Can you come here? Can you come here? Just come off. Come off. We can talk. Come off. We can talk. We can talk. Hey sir, we can talk. Come off the bridge. C’mon, man. Sir, we can talk. We can talk, c’mon. What’s goin’ on? C’mon, what’s goin’ on? Can you step down and talk to us? You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. You’re ok. C’mon, man, you’re not in any trouble. Can you get off? It’s ok, let’s just talk. Just step off for us, man, c’mon. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. It’s ok. It’s ok. C’mon man, we don’t have to . . . just . . . Can you step off? Step off. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble, sir. Let’s talk, c’mon. C’mon, you’re ok. We’re not here to harm you. We’re not here to harm you, sir. Can you step off? Just relax. C’mon. Take a seat. C’mon. We’ll sit with you. We’ll talk to ya. Come sit down, man. Take a seat. Sir, we’ll talk to ya. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. (You got your mic on?) Sir, just have a seat. You’re not in trouble. What’s goin’ on, dude? C’mon, man. You’re not in any trouble. We’ll talk to you. (Just watch his left hand. Watch his left hand.) If you’re goin’ though a lot, we can have someone talk to ya. (Watch his left hand.)  [Hall starts moving away from the officers, smoking marijuana, unidentified object in left hand.] [Hall stumbles off safety barrier, then gets back on.] [Object in left hand is identified as a gun.] Lift your hands up for me. (Watch his left hand.) What’s in your . . . What’s got in your hands, man? What’s in your hand? Whatta ya got in your hands, man? C’mon, put your hands up. Hands up, dude. [Officers put their hands up as example.] Whatta ya got in your hands? (Get back, get back, get back.) [Officers retreating to safety.] (He’s got something in his hand. He’s got something in his left hand.) He’s got something tucked in his pants, in his left hand. C’mon, man, we can talk to ya. What’s goin on? (Seems like he has something in his left hand maybe.)  (Were you guys in the same car. No?)  (No, he’s, it looks like he may have something in his hand, did you see anything, I saw black in his left hand. I don’t know what’s he’s doing. Yeah, he’s got something. Back up. Back up. He may have some thing on his . . . Something could be in his left hand, Corp.) (We’ve got an audience down below.) (We think he has a phone.) (Could be something in his hand. I don’t want to rush at him then . . . ) [Hall backs off the barrier then gets right back up on it] (Hey, hey, hey, he’s got a gun. Gun! Gun! Gun! I’ve got a rifle.) [Hall is still on the safety barrier.] C’mon, man, drop the gun.

Negotiator #1 arrives (start min. 10 of video) 5 minutes after the first contact by the two other officers and maintains contact with Hall via a PA from behind police vehicles. This officer has a BA in psych, an  MA in clinical health psych, and has previously worked in the mental health field  for 5 years. He is said to use “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” He repeats 1) the previous requests to come off the bridge to talk and repeats 2) assurance Hall is not in trouble. He adds 6) that the police are there to help 3) not to harm, but that their help depends on him talking with the police about what’s bothering him, and 7) confidence that their help will definitely have a positive outcome. The desire to help is manifest in 9) concern for his physical state/welfare at the time. The repeated offers to help are a pronounced difference in this interaction. This negotiator 8) addresses Hall by name, 4) asks what his problem is, and succeeds in convincing Hall to sit on the barrier and then to sit on the roadway, but it is not clear when in this interaction this happens, and we don’t hear the verbal interaction that successfully gains Hall’s consent and compliance. Hall faces the officer for a time, as if listening. When #1 is replaced by negotiator #2, Hall is sitting in the roadway. This negotiator #1 is replaced after about 13 minutes of interacting with Hall. Negotiator #1 doesn’t mention the gun at all.

You’re not in any trouble right now. Just step off that over pass and come talk to us. C’mon, man, let’s just talk this out. You are not in trouble. What’s your name? You are going to have to say it real loud. CJ, is that your name? CJ, let’s let’s talk this out. But it’s hard to do that when I’m on a PA and you’re all the way over there. C’mon, CJ, take a step back. We’re here to help you, man. We want to help you, but you gotta tell us what we can do to help you and get you down from there and get you feelin’ better. CJ, nobody wants to hurt you here. You are not in any sort of trouble. We are here to help you. You gotta let us know what we can do to help you. CJ, what’s goin’ on today, what happened, man? You gotta, you gotta fill us in. But it’s hard to do that with you standing up there. We want to help you, man. We don’t want to see this go down like this. We’re here to help you, Bud. There’s nothing goin’ on right now that we can’t help you with, that we can’t get past. I see that you’re looking at me [Hall faces the officer]. Why don’t you just step down there, and we’ll come talk to ya [Hall does step down, sits on the barrier, then sits on the roadway, but it is not clear what he responds to, at what point in their interaction this happens, or why the officer doesn’t go to meet him as he indicates]. We’ll get ya something to get warm, a coat, a blanket, we’ll figure this out, man. Whatever you need, we’ll help you get there, we’ll figure this out.

Negotiator #2 arrives (start min. 12:20 of video), he is a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who, like negotiator #1, also uses “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” Conversely, this guy is consumed by the gun. He asks Hall 13) to put the gun down over 40 times, stressing 14) that it’s an easy thing to do. Hall is sitting on the ground when Negotiator #2 starts. Hall is mainly unresponsive but does talk to the officer at least once, and at the officer’s successful urging, he does for a time put the gun on the safety barrier. The officer 16) minimizes Hall’s problem to him. This negotiator 10) tries empathy — I see your pain. He offers 3) freedom from harm, 6) help, 7) the assurance of a good outcome, 9) physical comfort/welfare, 5) contacting someone for him, 17) reminds him of the impact of his death on loved ones, and 18) tells him suicide isn’t what he wants to do. The officer asks him 15) to name something he needs. He 11) comes out from behind the car for a time. At some point, this officer and another 12) advance behind a ballistic shield in an effort to separate Hall from the gun. Their actions fail, and Hall retrieves the gun. After further negotiation, Hall, very slowly and with very short steps, gradually moves toward the officers. The officer repeatedly asks Hall to drop the gun. When Hall positions the gun — which has been mainly invisible to us in front of him as if his hands are in his jacket pockets — facing down on his left leg, an officer shoots at him several times and misses. Physically unfazed by the shots, Hall raises his arms in a “T” with the gun in his left hand pointing out to the side. Still with gun in hand, Hall raises his arms, transitioning into an “I give up” position, and officers shoot him.

[Hall is sitting on the road] Put that gun down on the concrete for me, ok? Put that down and I’ll come over there and talk to you, alright? We’ll get a nice warm cup of coffee and get some place warm to talk. [Hall asks if officers are trained to shoot if shot at and asks several times that they make it quick.] Am I trained to shoot? No, we don’t do that. I’m here to talk to you, that’s all. We’ll let you talk to whoever you want to . . . family . . . friends . . . whoever. Ok? You just have to put that gun down for me. You already did it once. Believe me, I have been doing this now for a very long time. There’s nothing we can’t work out for you. I can see you’re hurting, I see that. I’m here to listen to you, but I can’t do that from this far away, and I can’t come down there while you have that gun. I’ll meet you right there at that line. But you gotta leave that gun where it’s at, ok? I promise, no one will hurt you. You have my word. We’ll talk about anything that’s goin’ on here today, alright? You getting cold? Put that gun to the side. I’ll come down and talk to you. I’ll get you a jacket and stick you into a warm car, ok? Tell me what I can do for you, CJ. [The officer comes out from behind the car, can be seen full body for a time.] [Hall gets up, leans on barrier, remains unresponsive.] CJ, is there somebody I can call you want to talk to? No? You have to talk to one person and that’s me. I can’t carry on this conversation by myself. You gotta talk to me., Ok. You’re not in trouble. Nobody wants to hurt you. You gotta tell me what’s goin’ on, though, ok? CJ, what is it that I can do for you? What is it you want? You ok? Do you need an ambulance? [Hall handles his gun, goes to a backpack, gets and puts on a jacket, gets cell phone charger, and marijuna pipe., complies with request to put the gun down and moves toward the officers.] You get further away from that gun, they just will put their guns away, I promise. [Which means the police guns must be drawn at that time, which he can see, is aware of.]

Let me know when it’s good to come down, alright? You wanna come up a little further to me now? We’ll meet right up there, and we’ll talk, ok? Can I come down and talk to you? Cj, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. Can I come down there? My partner and I are going to come to you, ok? Don’t run, no sudden moves, ok? I’m just gonna come talk to you, I promise. Stay right there for me? I have your word? [Two officers try to circle around Hall while holding ballistic shield trying to get between Hall and the gun. After 10 mins, Hall picks up gun again and moves back.]

CJ, what can I do for you? C’mon, CJ, you were doing so well before. The longer it goes, the worse it looks for you. Yeah, like I said, this is not the end of the world. I’m not sure what’s going on in your head, but this is not the end of the world, just a little bump in the road. Put that gun down, walk up here, and we’ll talk like men. I promise. Put that gun down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you gotta do. Then it’s done. It’s very easy. [Hall sending suicide messages to x-girlfriend throughout, starts to take short, halting steps toward officers, ignoring 30 pleas to put gun down. When Hall extends left arm along leg with gun in hand, one officer shoots at him but misses. Hall does not flinch. When shooting stops, Hall stretches arms out in “T” — crucifix? — position with gun in left hand. Then raises arms above his head, ignoring more commands to drop the gun.]

Put your gun on the ground and walk up here towards me. . . . I don’t think you want to stay out here all night, right? . . . . Put it down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you got to do. . . . You did it before, you can do it again [that is, you can put the gun down as you did before] . . . You’re not getting any warmer, neither are we. . . . Whatever’s going on inside your head, we’ll deal with it . . . . Put the gun down for me, ok? . . . There’s somebody out there that loves you. . . . You can do it. Put the gun down right at your feet. . . . It’s been an awful year, let’s not end on ??. . . . It’s only going to get colder. . . . You can do it. . . . We’re not going to hurt you. . . . Easy to do. . . . All you gotta do. . . . Put the gun down for me, alright? . . . Put it right down, c’mon man. Nobody’s going to hurt you. . . . I didn’t lie to you, did I? . . . Just drop it right there, seriously. That’s all you gotta do. . . . We’re not going to hurt you, put it down. . . . CJ, you don’t want to do this. . . . It’s not what you want to do. . . . We’re not going to shoot you, put it down. . . . You don’t need it. . . . CJ, put it down, [Hall all this while advancing very slowly toward the police, taking about 24 baby steps over 4 minutes] {Hall dangles the left hand with the gun at the beginning of the walk and dangles it briefly during the walk, so it looks like he had the gun in hand the whole way, not as the narrative has it, which indicates a transfer from waist band to hand that triggered the police shots.] Just a bump in the road, a minor hiccup that’s all [Hall extends left hand with gun along his leg pointing down]. . . . CJ, put it down, put it down, put it down now, CJ [vehemently, adamantly] [Police shoot and miss.] [Hall doesn’t flinch.] Drop it, drop it, drop the gun [Hall immediately raises his arms in a “T” after the shots.] [Brief pause, still holding gun, Hall lifts arms in air in “I give up” or touchdown position.] [Brief pause, then police shoot Hall mortally.]

Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion

So Gadfly has asked you to dig into the Christian Hall case as part of our almost year-long discussion of policing in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Hall was killed by police December 30. Law enforcement ruled the killing justified March 30. The Hall family is suing.

Gadfly has asked you to hold off on the family news conference yesterday.

Gadfly wants you to focus first on the Monroe County D.A. press conference March 30 and the 30-minute video of the 90-minute interaction between Hall and the police produced by the D.A.’s office.

The article below has links to 1) a cell phone video by a bystander of the final seconds of the interaction as well as 2) a video of the hour+long D.A. press conference during which the 30-minute video was played.

Here again is a breakdown of the D.A. press conference video:

1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. video)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

Go to the primary source.

You can watch the whole episode play out and then listen to the D.A.’s “reading” of the episode.

Good stuff.

Let’s talk tomorrow.

————

selections from Peter Hall and Molly Bilinski, “Monroe County DA announces deadly force was justified in fatal state police shooting of man with pellet gun on I-80 overpass.” Morning Call, March 30, 2021.

Monroe County law enforcement officials on Tuesday presented findings of an investigation of the December fatal shooting of 19-year-old Christian Hall by state police, concluding their use of deadly force was justified.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso said Hall carried a replica of a handgun that could fire plastic pellets as he stood atop the Route 33 overpass at Interstate 80 on Dec. 30. Police fired at Hall, striking him three times after he walked slowly toward troopers and ignored commands to put down the pellet gun.

Mancuso called it a classic suicide-by-cop scenario, “fueled by Mr. Hall’s mental state and his desire to end his life.” The troopers reasonably believed that they were at risk of death or serious bodily harm and there was no evidence of ill intent in the officers’ actions, he said.

“At no time did the troopers believe anything but the firearm Mr. Hall was brandishing, holding and putting in and out of his waistband, and ultimately lifted up was nothing but a real firearm,” Mancuso said. “Why was he acting like this gun was real? What did he want to do? What did he want to have the troopers do to him? That’s the mindset that we started to see.”

Lawyers for Hall’s family said they would respond to the investigation’s findings in a virtual news conference Wednesday morning. They have argued that Hall was standing with his hands up when officers shot him, and his killing “should never have happened.”

A presentation of video and audio from two state police vehicle cameras showed the nearly 1 ½-hour effort by troopers to defuse the situation from two different angles.

According to the video, a state police corporal and four state troopers responded, including one trooper with a background in psychological health and another who is a 25-year veteran, trained crisis negotiator and member of the state police Special Emergency Response Team.

The video shows Hall standing atop the overpass wall as traffic passes below on I-80 when the first two troopers arrive. Hall is smoking in the video and the video narrator says a glass marijuana pipe was found at the scene. The troopers approach Hall with hands raised and try to coax him off the barrier.

“We can talk, c’mon off the bridge,” one says. A second trooper warns the other to watch for an object in Hall’s left hand, and as Hall stumbles and steps down to the deck of the bridge, they see it appears to be a gun, according to narration in the video.

Throughout the encounter, officials tell Hall to put down the gun “upwards of 100 times,” Mancuso said.

At one point, Hall placed the pellet gun atop the concrete barrier and troopers attempted to position themselves between Hall and the gun, but were unable to do so before he picked it up again, narration in the video says.

The troopers continued attempts to persuade Hall, whom they addressed as CJ, to put down the pellet gun and walk toward them, the video shows. Instead, Hall slowly took several steps toward troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand next to his left leg. One trooper fired several shots at Hall, but struck the barrier behind Hall.

As Hall continued moving toward the troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand above his head, troopers fired again, striking Hall three times. He was treated on the scene and rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, but died there that afternoon.

Mancuso said the evidence was “relatively unambiguous” and that an analysis of Hall’s cellphone records showed his suicidal intent. Hall had taken photos from the overpass a week before the shooting, which he paired with suicidal messages. Hall sent suicidal text messages to his former girlfriend during the crisis, Mancuso said.

The investigation also touched on Hall’s juvenile court record because he said to the trooper that he didn’t want to go back to jail. However, neither charges nor convictions were revealed.

A non-law enforcement mental health professional wouldn’t have helped the situation, Mancuso said, noting that he was speculating.

“There isn’t a provision in the law for that or resources for that,” he said, noting the state has to stop cutting back on mental health treatment facilities, as he’s seen an uptick in mental health-based crime. “In this case, I don’t think it would matter only because he was still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and had been provided all of the treatment for several years … That’s the best our system has to offer.”

There are safety issues involved, too, he said.

“I have never met a mental health professional that would want to be in that situation,” he said. “They wouldn’t mind doing an evaluation, therapy — but not under that setting.”

A number of communities across the country have developed systems in which mental health professionals are at the ready to respond in situations where it is safe to do so. Bensalem Township, in Bucks County, launched such a program last year in conjunction with the county government. Two social workers employed by the county and embedded with the police department are available to respond when police determine a call involves mental health issues, said public safety director Fred Harran.

Since the social workers began responding to calls in January, the number of people who call police regularly for mental-health-related problems has declined, Harran said. That’s because the social workers are able to identify people who need social services and ensure that they follow through. The goal, Harran said, is to address mental health issues in the community before they escalate to threats or violence.

Asked what he would tell Hall’s family, Mancuso said, “We’re sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine the impact that has had on you. We don’t believe you should blame yourself for anything. CJ had a lot of mental health issues and in the end, they were too much for him.”