BASD superintendent Dr. Roy: “We need to educate for anti-racism”

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from Joseph Roy, “Your View by Bethlehem school superintendent: How we will teach students to be ‘anti-racist’.” Morning Call, June19, 2020.

When we talk about racism, we tend to avoid actually using the word race. This is a perfect example of the advantages and power of primarily White leaders to choose the words we use. We talk about training for multicultural awareness, tolerance, diversity, equity, inclusion ― but we avoid the words race and racism.

We ended this sad legacy in the Bethlehem Area School District last August, when I challenged our teachers to be “anti-racists” and not just “not racist.”

Anti-racists actively look for and work to end policies and practices that have a disparate impact on black and Latino people. “Not racist” implies a bystander approach to racism. Anti-racism requires us to do something.

BASD is involved in powerful anti-racist work in early literacy, closing racial opportunity gaps and moving black and Latino students to higher levels of reading proficiency. Early reading proficiency is highly correlated with high school and college graduation and more successful life outcomes.

When we eliminate racial differences in reading outcomes, we are acting as anti-racists. BASD’s anti-racist work also includes working with community partners to expand high-speed internet access for students in their homes, reinstating middle school intramurals to engage students in after-school activities, revising our Gifted and Talented program policies and procedures, increasing access to dual enrollment college courses, implementing seminar courses to support black and Latino students, and expanding our community school and mental health partnerships to bring more services to students and families.

Despite this good work, recent messages from current and former BASD students made me realize our anti-racism work is missing a larger picture. These black, white and Latino students are closely watching current events, and simply asked, “Why didn’t I learn about this in school?”

Of course, our curriculum covers the Constitution, slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era. But we obviously fell short in educating these students on the deep-seated, wide-ranging and up-to-the-present consequences of racism.

BASD’s anti-racist work focuses primarily on supporting black and Latino students in overcoming the barriers they face as a result of racism. Like a doctor bandaging a wound, this work is important and necessary, but it is insufficient.

If we do not end the cause of the wound, we are always bandaging but never truly healing. We need to leverage education to end the cause of that wound. We need to educate for anti-racism.

Education’s most enduring contribution to ending racism must be to explicitly teach all students about the origins and continuation of racism. BASD students attend classes with a wonderful range of diverse races, cultures and languages. They are comfortable with differences between people in a way previous generations never were.

But our curriculum needs to expose our students to the history and horrors of racism. Nor have we done enough to teach the scientific, cultural and artistic contributions of black and Latino Americans.

In order to cure the disease of racism, we need all of our students to understand the impact of racism on society so they are prepared to live their lives as anti-racists. White students can be informed anti-racist allies of their Latino and black brothers and sisters.

When white Americans become anti-racists, the culture of white advantage, white supremacy and racial inequities will change.

As our country stands in yet another crossroads about racism and the role of policing in society, BASD commits to taking the following actions.

    • At the start of school, we will harness our students’ interest in and concerns about what they are now witnessing and teach for a deeper understanding of the historical context of present-day racism and social justice protests.
    • We will reform secondary American history courses to honestly and accurately include the realities of racism, the progress we have made and the long, difficult road that lies ahead. Our literature selections will continue to expand diverse authors and cultures. In order to move our country forward, we must educate students to become truly anti-racist.
    • We will undertake a review of the purpose, rationale and outcomes of our School Resource Officer program.
    • We will continue our ongoing equity and diversity work through Restorative Listening Circles, Trauma Informed Schools and Restorative Practices.

A well-educated citizenry is the goal of public education and the foundation of a democratic society. It’s well past time that we recognize citizens cannot be “well-educated” without learning why they must be anti-racists.

Our goal is that no BASD student ever asks again, “Why wasn’t I taught about this?”

Some further questions about the use of force policy

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

Paul Muschick, “Amid calls for police reform, Bethlehem police went beyond call of duty.” Morning Call, June 19, 2020.

Gadfly:

Kudos to BPD for releasing this! [The use of force policy] As I said before, it is, in my opinion, better than some others I have seen. It does however raise some questions.

The document lists chemical weapons, impact weapons, and electronic control devices as “intermediate weapons” in the continuum, but while these are usually not lethal, all can be lethal for some people under some conditions. There are many documented cases of serious injury from “less-lethal” weapons tear gas & pepper spray, from “flash-bang” devices, and from tasers

It’s not clear from this document whether BPD has or is prepared to use “rubber bullets” that we have seen used this month by police in some cities. (These are usually steel coated with rubber or plastic.) These too have caused many serious injuries (such as permanent blindness and brain injury) and some fatalities.

I won’t go into detail here, but I assume all officers are trained to recognize how these “less-lethal” weapons can in fact cause permanent and sometimes fatal injury even if used properly.

There is also the question as to when some provisions are added. BPD should also release the previous version and show when it was modified.

Peter

Regarding the last point, this is the second time Peter has made it. What is he getting at? The Muschick article linked above says the policies are reviewed annually.

“Communication doesn’t seem to be as important as it really should”

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Gadfly loves your voices.

An important thing that Gadfly has tried to do is amplify and disseminate citizen comments, to give them more “hang time,” and thereby to provide models of participation, encouraging others to civic engagement.

In that respect, one of the casualties of the pandemic has been the shrinkage of citizen comment at City Council meetings. Council has provided us with the means to comment, but the numbers have dwindled.

But Gadfly would call your attention to the comments of Greg Zahm at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Please listen to the recording; don’t just scan Gadfly’s summary text. Hear the voice of the thoughtful, concerned resident. Gadfly misses being able to take and post close-up videos of such presentations to enhance the impact of such words on us.

1) Mr. Zahm asked the 6 questions that he asked of the Mayor and Council in a letter of June 3, a letter, he said, that has not been answered:

1) What are we doing in our city to insure justice, care, and protection of and from Ben Franklin’s “unaffected” — mentioned by Mayor Donchez — for our affected brothers and sisters who still suffer with incredible resilience?

2) What changes have been instituted since the last time we met after the violent death of a black man at the hands of the police in America?

3) What leadership messages are we sending based on our actions within and based on our direct communications with the outside, my point being that I really feel like communication is lacking?

4) Will you ask the affected what they need?

5) Will you identify the affected directly? As far as I am aware, they remain unnamed.

6) So what changes do the City leadership recommend now on behalf of our very diverse family? And when will leadership speak with all of its people? . . . Something should have been said to the public much more broadly and loudly. I get the feeling the City has not expressed urgency on behalf of a large part of our family.

2) “Why were Councilman Colon and Councilwoman Negron not a party to that June 9 memo [of Councilmembers Reynolds and Crampsie Smith]? That’s a little shocking to me. Hopefully they were, but I’d like to hear that. Why doesn’t Council already have the requested information? Why is that information not already available to the public?”

3) “What does the City leadership have to say in response to the Bethlehem Gadfly post of Lehigh’s Ms. Breena Holland? She asked numerous questions regarding the treatment of Bethlehem citizens. I’d like to hear those questions answered publicly.”

4) “I’d like to know what minority candidates were considered for those positions [up for appointment at the meeting]. If for privacy reasons you can’t say who, of course, well how many were considered? How many resumes were received? I think this is a real serious issue. And how are they solicited resumes? And should these methods be reconsidered?”

“So ultimately probably the theme of this is communication. I’m really kind of stunned that while things are unfolding and still are that communication really doesn’t seem to be as important as it really should.”

Lot to chew on here from Mr. Zahm. As Gadfly said at the June 3 Council meeting, Mayor Donchez has a quiet style, he’s a quiet leader, but if too quiet, that can feel like non-leadership. Gadfly has several times expressed the wish that the Mayor would “step out” more — ha! Gadfly better watch what he wishes for! The issue of candidates for committees was raised vigorously by Councilwoman Van Wirt at the meeting, so look for a later post on that. Related to that issue, Gadfly has been thinking about the 2021 elections and hoping for minority candidates. “Communication” = same root word as “community,” Gadfly’s aphrodisiac word. Good stuff here.

Should the public have access to police body cam and dashboard cam footage?

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Under new business at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilwoman Negron asked this interesting question related to the ongoing discussion of police procedures in the wake of the shootings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. The Mayor promised a response to Councilwoman Negron the following day. Gadfly hopes she will share it with us.

  • We’ve had improvements with cameras, both dashboard and body cams.
  • But how is that really helping the citizens?
  • Is there a process by which a citizen can request the footage when they have been stopped?
  • I would like to see the footage of a few individuals who have been stopped and told me bad stories.
  • If what I have been told is a lie, I would be the first to apologize.
  • But I have heard too many stories otherwise, and we need a mechanism, a right-to-know request or something, that would be a better fix for both the officer and the subject.
  • Just like we can request a police report for a car accident, we need to be able to request the footage.
  • As a Councilperson, I hear stories, and I would like to see if what the people are saying is true. It would hold them accountable. Are they lying to me? It would hold the officer accountable too.

Gadfly finds this question of access to police videos very interesting.

Councilwoman Negron hears a lot of stories about police/resident interaction. She’s trusted. Gadfly imagines her as a giant ear into which all of the anguish on the Southside pours. Not an enviable position.

It probably does not surprise you that Gadfly hears a decent amount about police/resident interaction too. Comes with the territory. But the stories kind of paralyze him. The people will not come forward. What do they expect him to do? Publishing one side of an event makes him feel very uneasy. And, frankly, he leans toward trusting the police.

As followers might remember, Gadfly did get his shorts in a bunch over the traffic stop of an Hispanic man on September 11, 2019, at 6th and Hayes — a stop that made blog news in February and March after the arresting officer felt that the local judge was accusing him of being a racist. One thing that bothered Gadfly was what seemed to be the Chief’s premature action in supporting the officer without interaction with the complainant (who was not the subject of the stop) and, in return, accusing the complainant of unethical behavior to his superior.  It turned out that significantly later the officer was cleared in an internal investigation based mainly on camera evidence. The question naturally and logically followed about why the Chief did not cite that camera footage immediately to the local judge and his superior, offer to review it, and have a conversation about whether there was any racially insensitive behavior on the part of the officer — and thus perhaps totally avoid the ugly brouhaha that ensued. It seemed like a game of I have the evidence, you don’t, and I’m not going to show it to you. Fair? It may be beside the point now, but the letter about this matter hand-delivered by the judge/complainant to the Mayor and City Council on December 23, 2019, has, as far as Gadfly knows, not received either acknowledgment or response.

Relative to Councilwoman Negron’s point, there was camera footage, and it was only available to one side.

Now at the very beginning of the Tuesday City Council meeting, Officer William Audelo made a long and passionate statement. Gadfly will post about this shortly. Gadfly is not quite sure at this time if Officer Audelo was referring to the same case mentioned above, but he was angry and frustrated at allegations against an officer. Gadfly needs to and will refresh himself on the Officer’s statement, as well as provide it to you for your own judgment, but, as he remembers it, Officer Audelo says he has seen video and if we could see the video we would see how wrong the charges are.

Yes. Councilwoman Negron’s point exactly. And Gadfly agrees with her that he would be the first one to say sorry and even do penance (Catholic upbringing!) if shown that evidence so compelling to others. But, cloaked in secrecy as the handling of that case was, there was no closure. There could be no trust.

Is there a fair way to stop this game of we’ve got the evidence and you don’t? This game of “Trust us.”

Good question, Councilwoman.

to be continued . . .

Bethlehem, first Lehigh Valley city to post police use-of-force policy

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Memo to Councilpersons Reynolds and Crampsie Smith
BPD-Directive-3-1-1-Use-of-Force

We knew this already. Gadfly will be posting more on this topic from Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem Police Department becomes first in Lehigh Valley to release its full use-of-force policy.” Morning Call, June17, 2020.

Bethlehem took the unusual step of posting on its website an unredacted version of the police department’s use-of-force policy Wednesday, becoming the first of the Lehigh Valley’s cities to do so.

The city released the 12-page policy a week after police Chief Mark DiLuzio provided a heavily redacted version to The Morning Call. He said then that making the full policy public “would compromise the safety of individual officers and the public and make it easier for criminals to elude prosecution.”

The city released the policy along with a response to a memo Councilman J. William Reynolds and Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith sent to DiLuzio last week, asking for details about the use-of-force policy and officer training requirements.

Reynolds and Crampsie Smith also have proposed a community engagement initiative involving residents, police officers, school representatives and social justice organizations.

“Up until this point, no one really asked for the policy,” DiLuzio said Wednesday. “It was always there. We have hundreds of policies. It’s a good use-of-force policy. We update it every year.”

In the memo, DiLuzio, Deputy Chief Scott Meixell and Mayor Robert Donchez acknowledged that while no policy is perfect, they believe the department’s use-of-force policy exceeds standards.

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

Bethlehem’s policy instructs officers to use “the amount of force that is necessary and reasonable to effect the arrest.” It notes that in some cases, a tactical retreat may be a better option.

“It is not the intent of this policy to require officers to attempt to exhaust each force level before moving to the next so long as the level of force used is necessary and reasonable under the circumstances,” it reads.

An officer should consider deadly force, the policy says, only when it’s reasonable to believe it is necessary to protect an officer or another person from imminent danger or death. It says imminent danger may exist when an officer has “probable cause to believe” a suspect has a weapon. The policy notes, “A subject may pose an imminent danger even if he is not at that very moment pointing a weapon at the officer.”

It explains that among the things officers have to consider before using force — such as a gun or Taser, chemical agents like tear gas, or a K-9 — are: the seriousness of the crime; the subject’s age, size, weight, medical condition and mental state; and whether the subject can be recaptured at a later time.

Officers are not permitted to use deadly force if there is a reasonable alternative that will avert the danger. They also can’t use it to subdue someone whose actions are only destructive to property or only injurious to themselves.

In Bethlehem, officers are responsible to speak up if they see a fellow officer violating the use-of-force policy, and they are required to intervene to keep an officer from misapplying force.

In the redacted version Bethlehem police provided last week, sections were blacked out on justification for use of force, the use-of-force model, levels of resistance and control, use-of-force considerations, use of deadly force and restrictions on use of deadly force — seven of the report’s 10 sections.

Reynolds thanked DiLuzio and the city’s administration during a City Council meeting Tuesday night for sharing the department’s use-of-force policy.

“I do think this is the time for a much bigger conversation,” Reynolds said, adding that he and Crampsie Smith have heard from people in the community asking for a public conversation about local policing and how to prevent issues of racial discrimination.

Councilman Michael Colon is organizing a forum for the city’s next Public Safety Committee meeting. The event will be held at Liberty High School, but a date has yet to be chosen, he said. It will likely be held within the next two weeks.

Esther Lee, the longtime president of the Bethlehem NAACP, said she had not personally been informed of the meeting but that her group, at the recommendation of the National NAACP, set up its own meeting with city officials and police officers earlier this week.

Council follows up on the Mayor’s report

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The Mayor’s response to the R/CS memo at City Council last night generated this response from Council members. The Chief again feels confident in his department policies, reiterates belief that the criminal justice system needs reform, is all-in to cooperate with Council, and affirms getting back to community policing.

Councilman Reynolds elaborates a bit on the Community Engagement Initiative and distinguishes it from the just previously announced Citizen Advisory Committee with the NAACP.

Chief Diluzio (min. 0:30):

  • Most of the stuff we already do.
  • Everything is documented.
  • Do we have issues, and can reform help us? I think reform can help every police department in the country. Criminal justice reform can go around this country and we need it.
  • We have an out-dated criminal justice system.
  • Is there racism in it? Yeah, there is also racism in every type of occupation.
  • If we’re going to do this, let’s do it correctly. Let’s put everything on the table. And let’s look at it and do it right.
  • The 8 things in 8 Can’t wait — honestly, I support all of them.

Councilman Reynolds (min 3:30):

  • I’m happy to hear that the Mayor talked about his advisory council, but I do think that this is time for a much bigger conversation.
  • The idea of the Community Engagement initiative is that we need to expand these conversations.
  • What we’re hearing  . . . is that people want a public space for this conversation . . . a consistent public space for discussion and action items on systemic racism, discrimination, and social justice.
  • We also need to have discussion about prioritization of the allocation of resources within the police department.
  • [prior plan to take one police slot and use that money for community engagement]
  • We need to listen, we need to provide space for the different groups in our community to have that opportunity for discussion.
  • I also think there should be some public conversation within this initiative about organizing these non-enforcement events in neighborhood communities.
  • I’m not sure . . . that everybody in the police department buys into the values of these non-enforcement, trust-building activities.
  • Not only could you, but you should have employees in your police department that are not traditional police officers.
  • We need to look at how we are organizing law enforcement.
  • I think it’s more powerful if we have monthly, regular get-togethers . . . not just the leadership, the rank-and-file.
  • The power that we have in City Council is to help set the structure and space in which these groups have a voice, and that’s what the Community Engagement Initiative is about.
  • [Look for a resolution at the upcoming Public Safety meeting.]
  • We’re the ones who set the budget, we’re the ones who allocate the resources . . . and there is a lot of room here . . . for discussion about how we are spending this money.

Chief DiLuzio (min. 9:36):

  • I think community policing is very important. Community policing . . . is what we should be getting back to in this country.
  • Police, social services — everyone needs to be involved.

Councilman Reynolds:

  • It’s not just the idea of community policing, though, it’s also about teaching our police officers about the intersection of all of these different issues.
  • Part of the challenge is getting buy-in from everybody in our police department.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (min. 11:00):

  • I’ve seen how policing has evolved . . . My dad was a true community police officer . . . Those days are gone in many ways. And we really need to get back to some level of community policing.
  • The people of Bethlehem have spoken . . . We need change.
  • [converses with the Chief on the force directives: choke holds, duty to intervene, training]
  • Systemic racism does exist.
  •  . . . giving the community a voice, because that is the right and necessary thing to do.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (min. 25:15):

  • How is the Civil Service Board involved in complaints a gains officers?

Councilman Callahan (min. 26:35, transmission lost at end)

  • Racism is everywhere.
  • Small percentage of officers out of line.
  • We can be very proud of our police department.
  • [culture shift, teachers can’t touch students, same being applied to police]
  • Police departments have become more weaponized.
  • [Police have a right to defend themselves, but what happened in Atlanta not right.]

Councilman Callahan repeated his remarks later in the meeting under new business, and they can be heard better here:

The Mayor responds to the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo, announces plan for Citizen Advisory Committee with the NAACP

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We have been interested in the City’s response to the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Use of Force Directives and Community Engagement Initiative memo to Chief DiLuzio.

The Mayor’s response last night was very positive. The City’s response memo to City Council along with many department policies will be available today on the City website, and Gadfly will alert you when that happens.

The Mayor also reported on a meeting with the NAACP in which it was decided to establish a Citizen Advisory Committee comprised of community leaders to discuss community issues. Look for a press release on that next week. Gadfly is not sure how this CAC meshes with the R/CS proposal for a Community Engagement Initiative.

  • Bethlehem Police Department is a highly trained, very professional department.
  • The Hirko case [see the previous Bethlehem Moment post] was a turning point in Bethlehem’s history with the police department. It made the Bethlehem Police Department evaluate itself, and many of the recommendations that came from that event have been incorporated along with state and national accreditation.
  • But we do not intend this as a statement that there are no deficiencies, that every officer performs at all times with perfection.
  • You can always get better, and we’re trying to strive to get better.
  • Many of the elements we are talking about we have incorporated because of that event [the Hirko case].
  • I have issued a directive . . . to review all the policies and to make as much public as possible [including the use of force policy].
  • We are trying to put as much information as we can on the web site.
  • We certainly want to work with City Council as we move forward, having a dialogue.

There’s a lot going on in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, so look for further posts on last night’s City Council meeting shortly.

Bethlehem Moment: A Drug Bust Goes Bad

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Bethlehem Moment 24
City Council
June 16, 2020

Edward J. Gallagher
49 W. Greenwich St.

Bethlehem Moment: April 23, 1997

A Drug Bust Goes Bad

After prior investigation and working with a confidential informant, at approximately 11PM on April 23, 1997, a group of about a half-dozen Bethlehem Police officers attempted to exercise a search warrant at a house on the Southside in which lived a suspected drug dealer, known to be armed, and his girlfriend.

Here are the skeletal facts:

Officers 1 and 2 were in the front of the house, the rest of the officers in the rear.

Officer 2 opened a front window, and officer 1 threw into the living room a flash-bang distraction device that immediately and unexpectedly started a fast-moving fire. Hirko 3

Officer 1 entered the house and shot the suspect as he was starting to move up the steps to the 2nd floor. Officer 1, using what is described as a “submachine gun” (shown here testifying at the trial), fired approximately 16 shots, 11 hitting the suspect, all in the back.

The suspect’s girlfriend was on the 2nd floor, saw the suspect on the steps, and exited the fiery house through a window.

The suspect died from the gunshot wounds, and his body was burned beyond recognition in the fire that rendered the house a total loss.

Questions about the way police handled this event arose at once.

The Pennsylvania state police and the Attorney General’s office investigated and in September 1997, 5 months after the event, cleared the police of any wrong doing.

The suspect’s family sued the City and the officers for breach of the suspect’s civil rights and for use of excessive force.

A central point of contention at trial was initial interaction between officer 1 and the suspect. Officer 1 said he shot at the suspect because the suspect shot at him. No shell casing from the suspect’s gun was found. The suspect’s girlfriend said she did not see him with a gun on the steps.

The civil suit against the City and the officers began September 2003, 6 1/2 years after the event.

The trial took 6 months, ending March 2004. The jury deliberated 9 days.

The jury told the judge they were deadlocked at 10-2. Both sides agreed to waive the need for unanimity and to accept the 10-2 verdict whatever it was.

The verdict was guilty: officer 1 had violated the suspect’s civil rights by using excessive force, and the City failed to properly supervise the officers and had failed to create policies for the Emergency Response Team.

Rather than further deliberation before the jury and the prospect of years of appeals, both sides agreed to settle the case before the penalty phase of the trial was to begin.

The mutually agreed on terms of settlement were: 1) the City would pay $7.89m, 2) seek accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, 3) hire an independent consultant to make sure that the City’s police practices meet national standards, and 4) seek a grant to instruct officers in the constitutional rights of citizens.

A key to the settlement without further jury involvement was the City’s promise to seek outside help to improve the police force and the offer by Mayor Callahan, in office only two months, to meet privately with the plaintiffs and make an apology.

The police, however, did not apologize, and, in fact, officer 1 was given an “Award for Valor” by a police organization.

Interviewed afterward, the jurors said the suspect had a right to shoot — if, in fact, he did — because the police provoked the suspect to defend himself by storming in late at night without properly identifying themselves. Their verdict focused on civil rights, they said, not on whether the suspect was using or selling illegal drugs.

That was the sentiment of most public comment reported in the Morning Call. There was recognition that the suspect bore some blame for what happened to him, but the police were described as a bunch of ninja’s and as commando’s that took into their own hands the power to be judge, jury, and executioner.

The anti-climax to this long saga was a battle between the Mayor and City Council on how to fund the $7.89m payment. The Mayor advanced a plan, Council rejected it. Council put forth a plan, the Mayor vetoed it. And Council overrode the veto.

The City finally finished paying off the $7.89m judgment in 2015.

End of story.

But the point of this Bethlehem Moment is its relevance to our own cultural moment.

Here is an example from Bethlehem’s past when lack of proper oversight of the police department caused big trouble.

We recognize the dual accreditations that the department now enjoys in large part as a result of this event, and which the Chief told us about last meeting, but we also should not lose sight of the need for continual oversight of the police department and continual improvement of department policies, practices, training, and community involvement.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Morning Call articles

April 25, 1997: “Gunshots killed man in drug raid”

September 17, 1997: “Bethlehem police cleared in death”

September 17, 2003: “Hirko lawsuit too important to be frivolous”

January 4, 2004: “What happened at 629 Christian St.?”

March 4, 2004: “Hirko jury nails Bethlehem, police officer for deadly raid”

March 22, 2004: “Hirko settlement reached”

March 23, 2004: “Hirko deal: $8 million, reforms”

March 29, 2004: “Jurors: Hirko had right of defense”

March 22, 2005: “Year after Hirko settlement, Bethlehem police try reforms”

March 24, 2005: “Bethlehem police get credit for efforts to adhere to national police standards”

 

Everyone’s a little bit racist

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Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

from Steele’s Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, Part 1

For the fifteen or so years or so since I learned every word of this musical [“Avenue Q”] and was awoken to the fact that I have inherent racial biases with which I was raised, I haven’t been quite sure what to do with that information other than work actively to recognize when my decisions are made based on fact or on personal bias. I have also long believed that since I was born into a life of resources, stability, and privilege, that it is my responsibility to lift up others who have not had the advantages I’ve had, whether racial, economic, or educational. Again, when it comes down to how to do that, I feel like I’ve never been quite sure of the best course of action, though social equity is something I have tried to focus on supporting in my career path. But ultimately, I don’t consider myself to be very progressive, and I feel like I could be doing more good with my position of privilege.

The events of the past few weeks and months have been incredibly disturbing and have really shone a spotlight on the systemic racism in our country and biases baked into our law enforcement and criminal justice systems. On one hand, it has been horrifying simply to turn on the news; on the other hand, it has also been heartening to see the sheer scale of voices from communities of color and support from white allies calling for justice and accountability. When I “look for the helpers,” as Mister Rogers taught us to do, I see ways I can educate myself and work toward the change I want to see in the world.

Friends of mine have been sharing information online about how to contribute time, money, information, and physical presence in a variety of ways (and I will be providing a list of resources and ideas below and in the coming posts). One opportunity in particular that caught my eye was from my dear friend Kelly who is leading a discussion group on the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. I signed up immediately.

One friend I told about this group was surprised that I signed up for it because she does not consider me to be a “fragile white person” – because, she told me, I do recognize my privilege and take steps to fight for social equity. I hope her assessment of me is accurate, but I also believe that we can all do better. And my goal in joining this group was to learn how I can better engage others in these types of conversations, particularly those who aren’t as willing as I am to talk about race.

Since we’re going down this path, I feel the need to say that I recognize it is not my place to speak for minorities. It is not my time to be center stage, but to be a good ally by supporting others’ voices and highlighting their experiences. However, I am becoming rapidly aware that many of us in the majority don’t know how to do that. I think that part of the problem with talking about race in America today is not only the fact that we aren’t taught how to talk about race, but that most of us don’t have the first idea of what it is like to be a minority. Therefore I’m going to go on a tangent about myself to demonstrate how little I understand about being a person of color in America…

[please continue on Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, Part 1.]

Gadfly has recommended native Bethlehemite Steele’s blog before for her sustainability posts, but, you must admit, she’s taking on a timely but tricky subject here. Take a look.

Other aspects need to be explored

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

Gadfly:

I think the reporters did a very good job with this, although there are still some aspects that need to be explored, including:

• Chief DiLuzio’s justification for saying that an unredacted use-of-force policy put police officers or the public at risk — surely he must know that these are public in many cities throughout the US. [see useofforceproject.org] And he must realize that lack of transparency runs counter to some of the fundamental principles of a democratic society.

• Even where departmental policies are good, there have been many cases where individual police officers failed to follow them — and where fellow officers fail to intervene or even report them. (Sometimes, this seems to be based on a “thin blue line” mentality and/or knowing that it wouldn’t sit well with the higher-ranking officers.)

• The terms “reform” and “defunding” seem to be misused in many conversations. Reform focuses on immediate changes that can reduce the amount of violence and bias in police forces, while defunding involves reducing police budgets *so the funds can be used, through modalities other than policing, to prevent and reduce the conditions that contribute to crime. (For a better understanding of this, one good source is Josie Duffy Rice at the Justice Collaborative.)

I hope the reporters will follow up on this, but it’s even more important that the city council (and officials in other jurisdictions pursue these questions.

Peter

Our police department learned from its mistakes, says the Chief

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“We learn from our mistakes.”
Chief DiLuzio
June 3, 2020

The Chief was no doubt referring to this drug raid by City police on April 23, 1997, which ended with a man dead and a house burned down. The City was sued, found guilty, and fined $8m in damages — a giant sum only recently paid off.

As part of  the court judgment, the City Police Department was required to review its policies, procedures, and tactics, which review and subsequent changes resulted in the unusual dual accreditation the department now enjoys and to which the Chief called attention at City Council June 3.

About the guilty verdict, the Morning Call in March 2004 would title an editorial: “Jury sends police a message.”

Message received according to the Chief.

Hirko 1

Hirko 2

Morning Call, April 25, 1997

Opposite the Cuomo plan, community engagement with a different goal

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The Cuomo plan aims at reforming existing police departments (like the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith proposal apparently). The Minneapolis plan aims at transforming local public safety into something different than the current police force. In Minneapolis the City Council will lead a year-long engagement with the community aimed at coming up with something different entirely. Council is the driver here in this Minneapolis option, not the Mayor or the police. This is not what is envisioned in the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith proposal from what we can see of it now.

Minneapolis City Council resolution
approved unanimously

Declaring the intent to create a transformative new model for cultivating safety in our city.

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Minneapolis:

That the City Council will commence a year long process of community engagement, research, and structural change to create a transformative new model for cultivating safety in our city.

Be It Further Resolved that the City Council will engage with every willing community member in Minneapolis, centering the voices of Black people, American Indian people, people of color, immigrants, victims of harm, and other stakeholders who have been historically marginalized or under-served by our present system. Together, we will identify what safety looks like for everyone.

Be It Further Resolved that the process will center the role of healing and reconciliation. The process will require healers, elders, youth, artists, and organizers to lead deep community engagement on race and public safety. We will work with local and national leaders on transformative justice in partnerships informed by the needs of every block in our city.

Be It Further Resolved that decades of police reform efforts have not created equitable public safety in our community, and our efforts to achieve transformative public safety will not be deterred by the inertia of existing institutions, contracts, and legislation.

Follower Deni Thurman-Eyer suggests we read this story.

Cuomo’s “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative”

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In Bethlehem, the Cuomo plan (see link and text below) would look like this. The Mayor convenes the Police Chief and a broad range of stakeholders (police officers, other law enforcement officials, community members from high incident areas especially, religious groups, non-profits, etc.) that considers anything and everything promoting public engagement and addressing racial bias for the purpose of creating a plan tailored to local needs that improves the police/community relationship, a plan that is offered to the general public for comment then presented to Council for passage into law. (In the Cuomo plan, if the town didn’t do that by April 1, 2021, it would forfeit state funding.)

Is this a model for the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative?

New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative
Governor Cuomo executive order

Each local government entity which has a police agency operating with police officers as defined under 1.20 of the criminal procedure law must perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, and develop a plan to improve such deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, for the purposes of addressing the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

Each chief executive of such local government shall convene the head of the local police agency, and stakeholders in the community to develop such plan, which shall consider evidence-based policing strategies, including but not limited to, use of force policies, procedural justice; any studies addressing systemic racial bias or racial justice in policing; implicit bias awareness training; de-escalation training and practices; law enforcement assisted diversion programs; restorative justice practices; community-based outreach and conflict resolution; problem-oriented policing; hot spots policing; focused deterrence; crime prevention through environmental design; violence prevention and reduction interventions.

The political subdivision, in coordination with its police agency, must consult  with stakeholders, including but not limited to membership and leadership of the local police force; members of the community, with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions; interested non-profit and faith-based community groups; the local office of the district attorney; the local public defender; and local elected officials, and create a plan to adopt and implement the recommendations resulting from its review and consultation, including any modifications, modernizations, and innovations to its policing deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, tailored to the specific needs of the community and general promotion of improved police agency and community relationships based on trust, fairness, accountability, and transparency, and which seek to reduce any racial disparities in policing.

Such plan shall be offered for public comment to all citizens in the locality, and after consideration of such comments, shall be presented to the local legislative body in such political subdivision.

Follower Deni Thurman-Eyer suggests we read this story.

What I would do as Chief

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

Gadfly:

(ref: “If you were Chief, what would you do?”)

I would immediately do some things that might help calm any doubts the public might have:

I would explain why earlier police killings of unarmed people were not worthy of comment. It’s easy to condemn and denounce such a blatantly criminal act as the Floyd killing, but there have been many others, and many reported incidents have involve Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

I would let the public know why Bethlehem needs a higher ratio of police to population than the median for cities in this size range. (Approximately 19.7 sworn officers per 10K people here, compared to 15.6 for cities with populations of 50K–100K.)

I would ensure that if there are any allegations of police misconduct, they will be made public and reviewed both internally AND by a qualified person or commission outside the department. If there have been any such allegations over the preceding 2 calendar years, whether reported formally or informally, I would also make a public report including a description of the findings.

I would establish a firm policy of not cooperating with ICE or other federal authorities unless there is a court-issued warrant (signed by a judge, not an administrative official).

Only then would I start looking at what processes might help strengthen and develop relationships with the entire community, especially poor and minority residents. Since this is not an area where the police have expertise, I would start by discussing possibilities with knowledgeable people and community groups who might be able to help develop an effective process.

Peter

Follower Deni Thurman-Eyer suggests we read this story.

How would you characterize the relationship between the police and the community?

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In announcing his “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” Governor Cuomo said, “There is no trust between the community and the police.”

How would you characterize the relationship between our police and our community?

Use specific examples, the prof says.

Gadfly wants to think of Bethlehem as “Capra-esque.” He wants to look at our town through the fantasy lens of Norman Rockwell paintings. You’ve heard him say that. And probably laughed.

But he sometimes hears dark mutterings, especially about the doings on the Southside.

Stories that are shadowy not sunlit. They don’t feel to him like “data.”

At Council last time we heard of messages flooding official in-boxes.

But those messages he saw seemed related to the wider issues of racism and violence and/or without concrete hometown situations, incidents, problems.

Frankly, Gadfly doesn’t know how to think about the relationship between our police and our community.

He needs help.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo says “many residents feel that the level of trust is still lacking.”

Who? Why? How?

Gadfly has a hard time judging the basis and depth of the mis-trust without stories.

Use specific examples, please, the prof says.

Gadfly does know that the one recent incident he did hear details about, the September 2019 traffic stop at 6th and Hayes involving an Hispanic operator, sounded precisely like an incident that could blow up and might just be the tip of an iceberg. Thus, his dissatisfaction at the City’s response.

How would you characterize the relationship between our police and our community?

And on what basis do you do so?

The prof needs specific examples.

Follower Deni Thurman-Eyer suggests we read this story.

Impact of the Atlanta shooting on us?

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The Friday night shooting of an African American man by a white police officer in Atlanta.

You’ve been following it on the news, I’m sure.

Horrible in its own right.

But Gadfly would have you think about the timing for what’s going on in our town.

The City is to respond tomorrow to the memo from Councilmembers Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

Gadfly bets a draft of that response existed before this shooting.

And wonders what impact the shooting will have on the final response.

And whether it has affected your thinking about how the City should be proceeding.

Gadfly has reviewed some of the available videos online and chosen these two. If followers have suggestions for other, better ones, please let him know.

Follower Deni Thurman-Eyer suggests we read this story.

Councilman Reynolds: “This has got to be a completely transparent conversation”

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from Jacqueline Palochko, Sarah M. Woicik, and Manuel Gamiz, Jr. “Movement afoot to reform Allentown, Bethlehem police departments, make use-of-force policies public.” Morning Call, June 13, 2020.

As communities across the country demand changes in police tactics after the death of another black man at the hands of a white officer, Allentown and Bethlehem city council members are calling for reviews and possible reforms in use-of-force and other policies.

Bethlehem council will discuss the police department’s policies next week, while Allentown Councilman Joshua Siegel plans to recommend changes at a council meeting this month.

The proposals in Allentown and Bethlehem aren’t as drastic as in Minneapolis, where a majority of the city council supports disbanding the police force after four officers were fired and charged in the May 25 death of George Floyd. Reformers in the Lehigh Valley want the departments to be more transparent about policies and complaints, emphasize de-escalation methods, and engage the community. They have joined a chorus of leaders calling for changes in police tactics amid Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the country, including Philadelphia, where the city council wants to ban kneeholds and chokeholds.

In Bethlehem, Councilman J. William Reynolds and Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith sent a memo Tuesday to police Chief Mark DiLuzio, asking for details about the use-of-force policy, officer training requirements and the department’s de-escalation techniques. They also proposed a community engagement initiative involving residents, police officers, school representatives and social justice organizations.

 The Bethlehem Police Department shared a heavily redacted version of its use-of-force policy with The Morning Call, blacking out sections on justification for use of force, the use-of-force model, levels of resistance and control, use-of-force considerations, use of deadly force and restrictions on use of deadly force.

DiLuzio said releasing an unredacted document detailing the department’s use-of-force policy “would compromise the safety of individual officers and the public and make it easier for criminals to elude prosecution.”

Some of the changes reformers are recommending in Allentown and Bethlehem were in place, the police departments say, even before a Minneapolis police officer kneeled for nearly nine minutes on Floyd’s neck, killing him and triggering worldwide outrage and daily protests.

In Bethlehem, neither Reynolds nor Smith have seen the department’s use-of-force policy, but both believe the public should have access to it. Reynolds said it was unrealistic to expect the community to be able to hold police accountable without knowing what the policies say.

“I do think this has got to be a completely transparent conversation,” Reynolds said.

In Bethlehem, change was driven by a botched drug raid 23 years ago at a South Side home. There, police shot John Hirko Jr. 11 times, killing him, and threw a flash bang grenade that burned down the house as Hirko’s girlfriend narrowly escaped.

A federal jury found the police department used excessive force, leading Bethlehem to settle with Hirko’s family for $7.39 million. In 2015, Bethlehem cut the final check to pay off that debt. But Mayor Robert Donchez said the reforms that blossomed from the incident remain.

The police department became both state and nationally accredited and transformed into what Donchez called a more community-minded agency.

“When you look at the city’s police history, the Hirko incident led the city to reevaluate the role of its police department,” Donchez said. “The accreditation holds us to a higher standard than some other police departments. I’m not saying there’s not always room for improvement, but this did add an increased accountability to the Bethlehem Police Department.”

Reynolds said he sees a community engagement initiative as a starting point for building more trust between residents and the police department, as a space “for the community to create the solution over time and solve the problems over time.”

Crampsie Smith said, “It is really important that our black and brown communities have a voice. . . . We need to get input from the community. What is their priority?”

The daughter of a police chief with two nephews in law enforcement, Crampsie Smith said she understands the important role police serve in communities, but she believes they’ve grown more aggressive over the years. She said she’d like to see them go back to a model focused on guardianship and protection.

Cultural competency training could help officers recognize and stop their own biases, Crampsie Smith said. And she believes de-escalation training won’t just create a better relationship with the community but could save lives.

Donchez expects the city to have a response to the memo early next week, followed by a joint public safety meeting with council to keep the discussion moving forward.

Cuomo mandates community/police engagement

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“We are proposing creating a citywide Community Engagement Initiative within our police department. It would include a broad coalition consisting of residents, police officers, representatives from our schools, social justice organizations, and more.”

J. William Reynolds, Member of Council
Grace Crampsie Smith, Member of Council

————

Compare the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith voluntary (as of now, anyway) community engagement proposal without penalty (as of now, anyway) with Governor Cuomo’s mandatory community engagement proposal with penalty.

“There is no trust between the community and the police.”

————

Does the Cuomo statement apply to Bethlehem?

Despite some positive community programs in which police engage, Reynolds/Crampsie Smith state that “many residents feel that the level of trust is still lacking.”

Do you agree?

Do we need a community engagement initiative?

We need to hear what’s on your mind.

Community engagement has to be based on building *relationships*

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

Gadfly:

It’s a lot easier to say “community engagement” than to do anything that actually engages a wide spectrum of community members.

Block Watch is a program started to connect police with the community but primarily so they would get info from the community. And, as we’ve seen in other cities, it can become a cover for vigilante groups. Decades ago, most block-watch groups in Allentown became Neighborhood Associations, with some support from the city; this seems to be a much more community-centric model, since it deals with all manner of issues.

I think the city should report the home location of police and all other city employees!

If the “CEI” is a group or the city controls who participates, I think it would be a waste of time and money. Community engagement is more than a group / committee or even a process — community engagement has to be based on building *relationships*.

Rumor has it that community policing was phased out in favor of a department-wide community-oriented-policing approach; unfortunately the actual result seems to be much less — not more — community policing.

There used to be a Regional Community Policing Institute in Allentown, but they gradually became less and less effective. (Although many states still have RCPI, I don’t know of one for PA.)

I’m going to repeat that is it easy to talk community engagement. The talk is often self-serving or posturing, and I hope we don’t see any of that here.

Peter

Rogue officers part of a larger system

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

Gadfly:

I am not sure there really is a “national debate over whether the violence carried out on people of color by police is the result of systemic racism or rogue officers.”

Either way, though, we are left with the fact that a disproportionate number of these crimes — not only the highly-visible assaults and murders that happen to get caught on video — are perpetrated against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

Yes, it is clear that there are “rotten apples” in the police (and many other occupations — although most of those people are not given the authority and weapons to do so much harm). The presence of these rotten apples in no way eliminates the problem of deep systemic problems.

Why do police departments and police unions and many police officers defend the rotten apples and make sure they are not prosecuted or even disciplined for their criminal acts? By doing this, aren’t they all violating their oath of office and making a mockery of the term “law enforcement” officer?

What I see is rogue officers that are part of a larger system (not just the police) in which racism, white patriarchy, and the use of violence are embedded and normalized. Even people who aren’t racist & people opposed to violence are caught up in the system and may not see it for what it is.

P.S. — We don’t really know the reasons, but I suspect that all the ERT officers in Buffalo resigned from the squad because they were outraged that 2 officers were suspended and charged for their criminal acts.

Peter

If you were Chief of Police, what would you do?

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Gadfly often asks you to role play, usually to role play a City Council member.

Since Gadfly wants you to be the best voter you can be, role playing a City Council decision can help you understand the job and the responsibility and to determine the kind of person we need to elect to sit at the Head Table.

But today Gadfly’s going to ask you to role play the Chief of Police.

Everybody in city government associated with law enforcement is on a hot seat right now in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing — mayors, police chiefs, city council members.

Let’s think about the hot seat our Chief is on.

Two City Council members have asked him to respond by Monday to a request for information on the department’s use of force directives and his willingness to establish a Community Engagement Initiative within the department.

The Chief has made a strong public statement denouncing the Minneapolis police behavior and has already sketched out before Council what he considers strong department policies and training procedures regarding the use of violence.

Responding to the request for information on the directives at this point doesn’t seem like a big deal. The Chief doesn’t seem worried about that. That seems normal accountability.

But how about responding to the major Community Engagement Initiative idea?

That does seem a big deal. And might be taken as a reflection on his job performance.

Role play.

If you were the Chief you might be thinking, hey, I’ve been in law enforcement around 40 years, I’ve been in Bethlehem law enforcement 25 years, I’ve been Chief 6 years, I have outstanding department policies and training, I have made a strong statement decrying what happened in Minneapolis, I seem to have cordial relations with Council, our city is reasonably free of such racial incidents and tensions that mark other cities — so, hey, what’s all this about not trusting the department all of a sudden?

Previously, Gadfly hypothesized three possible ways the Chief could respond:

1) that he is open (or not) to participating actively (maybe even lead — not clear) in the development of what looks like a major enterprise

2) that he would like to withhold comment and commitment till the two Councilors provide much more detail on how such an initiative would operate

3) that he could suggest another way to achieve the same goals.

Subsequently, Gadfly has thought of a 4th option: that the Chief wants to wait to see if the CEI idea has the support of the full Council rather that just two members before he “engages” with it.

Gadfly doesn’t know anything about Council dynamics backstage. Perhaps the full Council was involved in or at least alerted to formulation of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo.

But their memo is on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting as a “Communication” and will no doubt be discussed then or under New Business.

What do you think the Chief is likely to do? What should he do? What would you do?

Starting the conversation about a “Community Engagement initiative”

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Some of this is naturally way ahead of the proposal at this point, of course, but it might help start the conversation.

  • “Community Engagement Initiative”: Gadfly’s aphrodisiac words. Gadfly’s all in.
  • The proposal is directed to the Chief. Is this the way to get this done? Options? What’s the Mayor’s role in this? What’s proper procedure and protocol?
  • What’s Council’s role vis-a-vis the police dept? What power does Council have over the dept? Can Council be only facilitators, partners? Could Council mandate (not that you would want to maybe)? Is this basically the Mayor’s business and chain of command?
  • Gadfly would be interested in a detailed list of police/community interactions. Off the top of his head, he knows block watch and a Junior cops program. What else? How about a detailed list and a sense of how many officers are involved.
  • Gadfly is also curious about how many officers live in Bethlehem.
  • The memo says the CEI would be “within” the police dept. That’s interesting. Not outside? Gadfly would like to hear more about that. Make it a dept activity under dept control rather than a separate entity with connotations of either oversight or impotency? (See Peter Crownfield’s comment to a recent post that “I also wonder if a community engagement effort will resolve current concerns if it’s conducted by and for the police department.”)
  • So what is the connection of the CEI with the dept? Are there models of such as is envisioned by the Councilors that we could look at?
  • Who leads the CEI?
  • Who establishes the CEI?
  • Who decides who is in the CEI? (The potential list looks enormous)
  • What power does the CEI have?
  • Would the CEI need a budget for staff and activities?
  • Though Gadfly loves community and inclusion, the envisioned group does look enormous and potentially unwieldy for a working group. How get operational?
  • If assuaging (good SAT word) race and ethnic issues is the motivation and goal of CEI, should Southside/Hispanic be highlighted — seems like there’s a center of attention.
  • If fostering a (very) large community group to create its own agenda, it would be interesting for the Councilor’s to formulate the one-paragraph prompt a meeting facilitator would give them to kick off their work.
  • Gadfly would like to know more about the history of “community policing” in Bethlehem. Officer Dosedlo (now retired?) spoke of it fondly at the 2016 NAACP forum in the newspaper article posted a couple posts back. And resident Lisa Rosa has spoken of it nostalgically at several Council meetings. What exactly was community policing in Bethlehem, and why did community policing disappear in Bethlehem?

Let’s start thinking about a “Community Engagement Initiative”

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We’re in the process of thinking about the Use of Force Directives and a Community Engagement Initiative memo to Chief DiLuzio by Councilmembers Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

And once more a tip o’ the hat to the Councilors for stepping up and getting something on Hatlo 2the table.

We’ve spent some time thinking about the first part of the memo, the “Use of Force Directives.” Now to the “Community Engagement Initiative.”

Here’s what the Councilors put on the table:

Over the last several years during budget hearings and various community events, we have heard consistently about the positive programs that our police officers engage in with the community. These “community policing” programs involve everything from working with elementary school students to attending block watch meetings where citizens share the issues in their individual neighborhoods. The importance of these programs is unquestioned. They provide positive, trust-building opportunities for members of our community and the police officers who serve them. Yet, many residents feel that the level of trust is still lacking. We, as a community, clearly need to invest more time and money into the aforementioned initiatives to continue to build trust and collaboration between our citizens and our police department.

We are proposing creating a citywide Community Engagement Initiative within our police department. It would include a broad coalition consisting of residents, police officers, representatives from our schools, social justice organizations, and more.

The initiative would bring awareness and a louder voice to issues of injustice in our City. It could also help to design and promote events and actions designed to build trust between our citizens and the Police Department. It could also be a place for people to talk, organize, and, most importantly, listen. The reality is we don’t know exactly what the coalition would want to focus on. It is designed to be a group with an organic and flexible focus determined by our community. We understand that we are currently successfully carrying out individual events that fulfill the philosophy of engaging citizens with our Police Department in non-enforcement activities. It is clear, however, that we need to do more. Bethlehem needs to include more officers, more organizations, more citizens, and have more discussion on issues relating to race, justice, and trust.

Now Gadfly has said earlier that he didn’t think the Chief would have any qualms about engaging with the Councilors on the directive part of their memo. His comments at last week’s Council meeting show that the Chief is confident in the area of policies and training in regard to the use of violence.

But Gadfly is not sure how the Chief will respond to this initiative.

The concept of a Community Engagement Initiative is defined only in very, very broad outlines here.

An awfully lot has to be worked out and detailed before one could agree to be totally on board.

Now perhaps there is some back and forth going on between the Chief and the Councilmembers before the requested Monday response on some of these details.

But if Gadfly were Chief, he thinks all he could say now is that 1) he is open (or not) to participating actively in the development of this major enterprise or 2) that he would like to withhold comment and commitment till the Councilors provided much more detail on how such an initiative would operate or 3) here’s another, maybe better idea to achieve the same goals.

But a ball is rolling.

Some questions and comments about this initiative are coming into Gadfly’s mind — how about you? Think on this, send comments if you want, and join with Gadfly in sharing some preliminary thoughts in the next post.