Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder
“She’s telling us how to run our country. How did you do where you came from? How’s your country doing? She’s going to tell us — she’s telling us how to run our country.”
A high-level person whom we all know
After that last post about the ugly treatment of peaceful protestors in our state (shots fired, “n—s suck”), Gadfly’s mind went to the words of Guillermo Lopez during Tuesday’s BAPL “Courageous Conversation” about the need for “community healers.” So wise, so true, feels the Gadfly. Many thoughtful things were said during the “conversation,” and Gadfly hopes to return to them. But the need for community healers seemed so right with the bitter after-taste of those actions by our fellow Pennsylvanians still in his mouth. Gadfly looks forward to such conversations in the Community Engagement Initiative as we participate in the national reckoning with race, and he looks forward to perhaps, just perhaps, some fruitful local action on the other side of the conversations.
A lot of the work that I have done over the past 30 years is figuring out how that we work with opposing views.
And found that now we have a vacuum.
We have good people like us that are silenced or frozen and we’re not taking up the space in the conversations in our society that helps move this forward.
I think that what’s happening now is a lot of shouting of pain at each other and somewhere some of us have to stand there and listen to the pain without taking it personal.
I think that there has to be a place where we create people that I’ll call community healers, people that facilitate healing to understand and listening to understand.
I think I’ve also learned that until someone is noticing that I’m willing to listen to their pain at some point they’re willing to listen to mine.
There has to be a place that some of us have to step up and be facilitators of understanding, healing, and once we have that going, we can have deeper discussions of why we’ve gotten to where we are.
I’m looking forward to when [Courageous Conversations] become normal conversations.
Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley’s op-ed — “[Lehigh] County’s proposed budget promotes systemic racism” — likely sought to provoke discussion of the county’s prison system and the district attorney’s office. Mr. Pinsley appears surprised to discover that the operation of government agencies may not satisfy his criteria for effectiveness and compassion.
Interpretations of systemic racism range from (1) believing the U.S. is a “whole system of oppression and power that produces racially disparate outcomes” rooted in capitalism to (2) “racist attitudes that allegedly persist subconsciously in our institutions and habits” [Gadfly finds this “New Segregationist” article to which the authors link to be very provocative and may come back to it.] Although we categorically reject (1), we fear that (2) exists to an unknown degree.
Mr. Pinsley makes two invalid accusations of systemic racism — with origins in collectivist thinking, as described in “Ominous Parallels” by Leonard Peikoff — against his employers, the taxpayers of Lehigh County. We find these two accusations to be based on the unfortunate notion that humans lack free will and their thoughts and actions follow an irrelevant “collective” characteristic, such as skin color or gender.
Collectivism effectively treats individual humans with minds, consciences, even souls, like the mindless physical matter of physics that makes no choices.
We believe the lowest and most morally reprehensible form of collectivist thinking is racism: treating human beings as if their skin color alone governs their thoughts and behavior. The leftist “identity politics” phenomenon that embodies such thinking dominates the racial debates corrupting our culture today.
The claim that any statistical difference between races or sexes in any arena proves the existence of systemic racism or systemic sexism is a flawed assertion. It relies on the collectivist notion that rejects the validity of the ideas of free will, individualism and free choice of behavior to be law-abiding or law-breaking.
First, Mr. Pinsley cites systemic racism to explain why poor inmates and poor families of inmates must pay for part of the cost of their incarceration with fees for inmates’ phone use and commissary purchases. Even though, whether white or black, all inmates face identical fee schedules, Mr. Pinsley concludes that certain groups pay more than other groups due to systemic racism, an illogical conclusion.
Second, Mr. Pinsley fabricates a racist agenda out of whole cloth in the district attorney’s office. He accuses Lehigh County taxpayers of systemic racism by providing prosecutors with more than twice the funding provided to public defenders, with disparate effects on different races.
Why should Lehigh County taxpayers punish themselves by increasing their own taxes to (1) pay for inmates’ prison fees and (2) subsidize expensive public defenders to keep potentially dangerous criminals at large?
Mr. Pinsley is correct to challenge management of Lehigh County government agencies. Finding things he objects to does not prove that the county’s budget priorities for its justice system promote systemic racism.
This series of two digital forums will explore the relationship between race and the region. Topics include historical, contemporary and forward-thinking discussions of community policing, the idea of “who belongs where,” the implications of gentrification and urban renewal, access to green spaces, and programs fostering a healthier sense of belonging in natural spaces for BIPOC.
Race & Space in the Lehigh Valley: Where We Are and Where We’ve Been
October 14 at 6:30pm
The first of these forums will focus on “Race and Space in the Lehigh Valley: Where We Are and Where We’ve Been” exploring the historical context of sociocultural and socioeconomic factors leading up to the current landscape in the Lehigh Valley.
Race & Space in the Lehigh Valley: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
October 21st at 6:30pm
The second discussion will focus on “Race and Space in the Lehigh Valley: Where We Are and Where We’re Going” and discuss current efforts to foster access to and a sense of belonging in natural spaces for BIPOC in the Lehigh Valley, as well as best practices and strategies to this end in the arts and urban development.
These events are sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC), with generous support provided by a grant to Lafayette College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
It would be interesting to debate what the true center, the living heart of a town is.
Gadfly’d vote for the library.
You can’t have a great town without a great library.
That warehouse of ideas, information, and knowledge for its residents.
That collection of great minds ever available for residents to tap.
And all of those great minds are not just on the shelves.
Gadfly has more than once remarked in these pages about the wonderful programming and resources BAPL’s staff is producing, especially relevant to the nation’s and our city’s reckoning with race in the post-GeorgeFloyd era.
Tuesday night, BAPL’s Rayah Levy kicked off a series of “Courageous Conversations” framed by Ibram X. Kendi’s award-winning book Stamped from the Beginning.
This is no book club for dilettantes engaging in idle chatter “after tea and cakes and ices,” the faux-intellectual social set T.S. Eliot parodied.
This is serious business.
Listen to Rayah passionately lay out the purpose of the series as digging out the deep roots of the age-old tree of racism and planting new trees for the education of the new generation.
And the tree is old, the roots are deep.
Kendi dates the origins of racist slavery practice in Western Culture, our culture, with the work by the Portuguese in 1415.
The cause was greed.
“We” began making money off the bodies of African Americans 600 years ago.
Our assignment for the Tuesday conversation was the first section of Kendi’s book, moving from the 15th century Portuguese to the turn of the 18th century and slavery in New England and Virginia.
The first Africans were sold in what is now the United States in Jamestown in 1619. (Remember Gadfly suggested a week or so ago that you look at the controversial 1619 project.)
One of the things that struck Gadfly was that in the 300 years between the Portuguese King John and the magisterial New England minister Cotton Mather although slavery prospered, grew, and spread, there was always tension in the White culture about it. Portugal, Spain, England were all Christian/Catholic countries. Slavery never completely set comfortably in these cultures. Slavery took root, but it had to be continually justified. It had to be ever made to fit in. It had to be repeatedly rationalized. It required an excuse.
Somewhere in his discussion of the local Columbus issue in these pages recently Gadfly remembers saying that it takes real work to hold a people (a race) down, takes continuing work, work never paused for a cultural minute. That’s what systemic racism is all about — the work of many hands in many areas over a long time.
In a future post, Gadfly might give you a taste of the arguments used to justify slavery. His students mostly hadn’t thought about this and mostly found the taste sour.
The next Courageous Conversation takes place October 27 register here
A continuation of last year’s celebration of the history, struggles, and successes in the Black community of the Lehigh Valley, recognizing exceptional talent, drive, and leadership. In this year of the Black Lives Matter movement, protests, civil discourse and loss of great civil rights icons – a year where the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are raised in voices across every state – we claim space and call for justice, recognizing that our history informs the present.
Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder
Gadfly keeping in front of us worse case scenarios. This case just settled for $20m. Not about race this time. But violence. It’s a cautionary tale of not only the need for early warning systems to flag troubled officers but effective functioning of them: “Those involved with the case said the hefty settlement was driven largely by the unprecedented details of the shooting, previously reported by The Washington Post, including red flags the department missed related to Owen’s history of using force and claims seeking workers’ compensation for psychological difficulties.”
The officer here was required to take “judgment enhancement shooting training.” Gadfly would like to see the syllabus for that.
Click through to the article below to see a disturbing video of a previous arrest by this officer.
Months before Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. fatally shot a man in handcuffs, the Prince George’s County Police Department’s early-warning system flagged him as an officer who might be headed for trouble.
Owen triggered the system by using force twice in quick succession last summer. But his supervisors weren’t formally notified until January. And they had not taken action by Jan. 27, when Owen killed William Green in the front seat of his police cruiser, sparking outrage in Maryland that was amplified by the national reaction to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
With law enforcement agencies across the country under pressure to improve officer training and oversight, Owen’s case is a cautionary tale of missed opportunities, the limits of early-warning systems and the danger of relying on police officers to report for themselves when they are stressed or struggling.
Owen’s supervisors were unaware he had sought workers’ compensation for psychological difficulties stemming from a fatal shooting early in his career, department officials say, even though Owen was supposed to notify them. Over the next decade, Owen used force against civilians at least nine times, according to a Washington Post examination of his career. Twice last year, videos taken as Owen was arresting people show him with his hands on their necks. Criminal charges against some of the people Owen arrested over the years were dropped because he didn’t show up in court.
Department officials say Owen, who was fired after the Green shooting, has not been found at fault in any of the cases identified by The Post.
Owen’s lawyer, Thomas Mooney, said he has not examined previous uses of force by Owen closely enough to comment on specific instances. But he said such interactions can be routine.
“Being a police officer is a tough job, and they deal with people who act erratically and unusually and aggressively all the time,” Mooney said. “So he finds himself the subject of an investigation because somebody’s complaining — that’s every police officer in the county that’s on the streets.”
Experts agree that for an officer to accumulate use-of-force encounters, and even complaints, over the years does not necessarily indicate bad behavior. But they say an officer’s repeated failure to appear in court can be a sign of trouble.
They also say the sluggish pace of the early-warning system is a significant problem that jeopardizes both officers and civilians on the streets.
It is not publicly known how many other times Owen used force, because the Prince George’s police department does not disclose the reports that such incidents generate. The Post’s review relied primarily on searching for arrests by Owen in court records. One incident occurred less than a month before Green was killed. Again, the civilian was in handcuffs.
Nearly a year earlier, Owen wrapped his hands around a man’s neck during an altercation that followed a traffic stop. Jonathan Harris, 27, was driving a car with no tags. He was on probation, records show, after pleading guilty to theft and second-degree assault in a 2014 case.
Video of the Jan. 3, 2019, arrest, taken by Harris and obtained by The Post, shows officers pulling Harris out of his car and Owen pinning Harris to the pavement, his hands around Harris’s neck.
The incidents that triggered the department’s “early identification system” happened last summer.
On July 13, 2019, Owen was dispatched to a Temple Hills home where Devonne Gaillard Jr., 29, was arguing with his girlfriend.
“He wanted to talk to me, and I didn’t want to talk to him no more, so I walked away,” Gaillard said. “When I turned my back, he grabbed me and slammed me on my neck.”
On July 31, officers pursued a man on a suspected stolen motorcycle, who crashed and fled. Owen found him, and there was a brief struggle, according to a police report. Owen had drawn his gun. As he tried to re-holster it, he accidentally fired. No one was hit.
It took the early-warning system, which relied on information being compiled by hand and entered into a database, months to create the flag, police officials say.
Owen’s supervisors weren’t notified until January. Their deadline to meet with Owen and decide whether counseling, training or other actions were warranted was Feb. 29 — a month after Owen shot Green.
After firing his gun in July 2019, Owen was required to complete “judgment enhancement shooting training” and meet with a department psychologist, all of which happened within a week, department officials say.
Gadfly caught this part of a conversation between two of his followers:
“Hey, thanks for sending me that Court TV video. Thanks, I think. That was hard to watch. That woman screaming. It was ringing in my ears long after I was finished. I don’t know how the cops kept their cool. My temples were pounding just watching the video!”
“We’ve all seen some very disturbing videos this year, the most horrifying being the George Floyd video. God rest his soul. This Connecticut video shows a woman freaking out when police stop her for a stolen car stop. It’s amazing how well behaved the police are, despite the screaming, the foul ‘cock-sucker’ language, and the ‘cameras in the face’ from by-standers with no tolerance for any police activity. How do any police tolerate this behavior?”
“We’ve heard a lot about bias training lately, there must be ‘Cool’ training. The cops sure showed that. One cop even tried to calm her down by showing the stolen car report. But the screaming was one thing but trying to move the car was another. Now that was a dangerous move — what was she thinking? — and her daughter is in the car. I wonder how old. I wonder if she could be aware of what’s going on. One thing I especially noted, though — did you hear it? — when she starts to shout ‘I can’t breathe.’ It scares me that Floyd’s tragic words will be misused to inflame situations now.”
“I did hear her say ‘I can’t breathe’ and called for an ambulance. Agree, serious call for help is now a slogan. Am I an old coot because I am so offended by the foul language? How did we get here? What happens to a police person when they have to deal with that stuff all the time. Police techniques for de-escalation didn’t work. At what point would reasonable people agree with restraint?”
Such good questions. If somebody calls you a cock-sucker, that’s got to be fighting words. What does it do to you long-term to swallow that abuse without response in kind. Can’t be good. Frankly, I thought violence was going to explode any minute. I fully expected it. But did you see the cops employing de-escalation techniques? I’m not sure I did. The woman was hysterical, out of her mind. What’s the technique for dealing with that? With my kids I would just walk away. But I guess cops can’t do that. What do you do when someone is incapable of listening? Damn. There was a Black cop there — no help. Some by-stander was asking for a woman cop. Would that have helped?
Well, I would sa . . .
Police behavior is much under discussion these days. Would you want to continue the conversation on this episode?
Gadfly has his antennae up for responses to the George Floyd murder in our area. Gadfly knows from experience that curriculum change is complex in the best of times and tips his hat to such activities during the pandemic. Dr Roy has made strong statements about similar changes in the BASD curriculum (see here and here). “We need to educate for anti-racism,” he said with definitive clarity. Taking on these activities during these trying times is sharp testimony to the impact of the Floyd murder.
This school year, the Parkland School District will launch a curriculum review, staff training, a community committee and a slew of other initiatives around racial equity and inclusion, as outlined in an Equity and Inclusion Action Plan the school board unanimously approved Tuesday night.
A team of administrators has been collecting ideas for the plan for nearly two years, curriculum director Kelly Rosario told the board. They put pen to paper over the summer, shortly after the school board approved a resolution supporting an “anti-racist school climate,” declared in response to the national racial reckoning following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The plan centers on student and diverse voices in three spheres: culture, curriculum and community. Though the goals have tentative timelines extending through August 2021, Rosario said the document is meant to be thought of as “living and breathing.”
Train staff on the effects of trauma on students and coping strategies.
Implement “class chats” on race and resiliency.
For new students, develop a new student club, peer buddy system and assign a teacher “adviser.”
Survey all students about school climate.
Form a staff/student committee to address student concerns.
Have an “Equity and Diversity Day” across schools.
Build a diverse employee pipeline, beginning with promoting the education field at the high school’s job fair and attending job fairs at colleges with diverse student populations.
Complete an audit of K-12 curriculum by October.
Develop a teacher committee to brainstorm what contemporary events should be added to social studies curriculum; collect feedback from students and parents.
Develop a plan for curricular changes that include multicultural perspectives to present to the school board in May 2021.
Review English curriculum in tandem, proposing modern novels that add multicultural perspectives.
Develop staff training on inclusive practices to roll out in February 2021.
Launch an Equity and Inclusion Community Committee in November, meeting quarterly.
Host a broader community event with guest speaker in April 2021.
Translate districtwide communications into Spanish.
Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder
Still keeping an eye on what’s happening elsewhere. The Breonna Taylor ruling yesterday precipitated not only protests but violence, as well as renewed calls to “defund” the police, to “divest and re-invest,” to “reimagine” how public safety is done.
Now that it looks like leadership of the police department is being re-established, perhaps we will have discussion of such matters that is visible to the public.
The Seattle Council proposed changes in August, the Mayor vetoed the legislation, now Council has overridden the veto.
We are not Seattle, of course, but Gadfly believes we are not without suitable imagination.
Seattle City Councilmembers have officially approved legislation enacting sizable cuts to the police department’s budget.
Pushback against the proposal from the other side of the aisle has come from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, police unions and pro-police community members, who have all cited concerns over public safety should the department be forced to reduce its number of sworn officers.
Last month, seven of nine councilmembers pledged support for defunding SPD by 50% in 2020 and reinvesting that money into communities of color as demanded by King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle, which encompass dozens of community groups, non-profits, and other BIPOC-focused organizations.
The highlights of the 2020 package approved by councilmembers Monday include:
Eliminating up to 100 sworn officer positions across various teams via layoffs and attrition (including 32 patrol officers), beginning in November 2020
Capping command staff pay at $150,000 (not including Chief Best’s salary, which was reduced to $275,000).
Ending the Navigation Team (14 of the 100 officers mentioned above)
The package also cuts or reduces a variety of SPD’s specialized units, including the Harbor Patrol Unit, SWAT team, Public Affairs unit, and school resource officers, and cuts $800,000 of SPD’s retention and recruitment budget.
The goal from councilmembers is a re-imagining of policing, right-sizing what the council feels is an inflated police department and budget that is not necessary and instead finding alternatives to sending armed officers to respond to calls that someone else, such as a social worker, might be better equipped to handle and avoid an unnecessary risk of escalation.
Exactly what this re-tooled version of policing and public safety will look like in practice remains to be seen, and likely won’t come into full view until next year, but the council says it will be a community led effort as has been demanded by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, the groups that will taking part in the participatory budget process with the council on the 2021 public safety budget.
The blueprint Decriminalize Seattle has provided as a path forward includes city-funded research done by BIPOC communities to provide, and among other things, “a plan on what health and safety actually means, including (but not limited to) alternatives to policing.”
“Instead of buying bullets, violence and intimidation, we are choosing — the city council is choosing — to invest in peace and restoration in a community that has been ravaged by generations of racism,” Council President Lorena Gonzales said as she explained the vision for future policing in Seattle.
Chief Best has repeatedly urged caution, explaining that she and Durkan support a re-envisioned SPD, but that these changes cannot happen overnight without risking public safety. Last week, Best also released her own vision and accountability website for making such changes.
City council voted to override Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s recent veto of cuts to the police department’s remaining 2020 budget by a 7-2 vote, with the mayor issuing a statement after the fact indicating she might not adhere to all of the provisos laid out in the council’s proposal.
“We cannot look away from this and we can no longer accept the status quo if we truly believe that Black lives matter,” said Council President Lorena Gonzalez after expressing that she would be voting to override the mayor’s veto.
Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder
It has been said that the murder of George Floyd has triggered (another) national reckoning with race.
Followers will recognize that Gadfly rarely comments on national political issues, rarely mentions national political figures.
There is such polarization on the national scene that community seems impossible.
But Gadfly believes that community is possible among neighbors in the relatively small town of Bethlehem, believes that if we focus on local issues fellow residents will “lean in” and resolve differences for the benefit of all of us.
We have on our plate, in the words of Councilman Reynolds, the lofty goal of ending systemic racism and making Bethlehem an equitable city.
And thus Gadfly, as you can tell, has for several months now been filling his mind and yours with perspectives on racism.
And, as such, President Trump’s recent announcement of a 1776 Commission to foster “patriotic education” and his reasons thereof very much clamored for his attention.
The 1776 Commission is very much a response to the New York Times 1619 Project inaugurated in August 2019, a project that suggests thinking of that year — the year the first African American slaves arrived on land that would become the United States — as our founding moment. Replacing 1776.
(Take a moment to consider the importance of founding moments/points of origin to our national sense of self. The issue of the local Columbus monument fits in here. What we think of as our founding moment is quite important to our identity. Put it this way: where would you want the traditional survey of American History in high school or college to begin? What’s chapter 1?)
Gadfly, like you, has heard of the 1619 Project and knows that it is finding its way into school curricula, but, probably like you, he has never looked in to it.
“Would you let your daughter marry a Black man?” It was the fall of 1985, in the Cincinnati Bengals locker room. I had just stood up to put on my shoulder pads for practice.
I was a 27-year-old slot receiver from a small school (Lehigh University) in Pennsylvania. Bobby Kemp, our strong safety, was asking the question from a distance of about 12 inches. Lots of teammates were watching.
“Um, yeah — but I would want her to know what all she’s getting into.” (Why’s he asking me this? Aren’t we friends?)
This wasn’t the first time Bobby had asked a question like this. A year earlier, just as I got up to put on my shoulder pads, there he was, 12 inches away, eyes flashing. I had been sitting at my locker, doing my usual nerdy thing and trying to get some reading done for my graduate school classes in finance.
This time the question was, “All this junk you’re always readin’ — have you ever read James Baldwin?” “Um, no. No, I haven’t.” (Why’s he asking me this? Aren’t we friends?)
So there I was, seventh year in the league, a few months from finishing a Ph.D., thinking the U.S. was headed in a good direction. Black players on the team were friendly to me. There were Black people making some progress in business and the professions.
In general, it seemed that people understood that it was bad to be racist. There was reason to be optimistic — confident even.
This is how I thought about things for a long time. And then in 2007 my college-age son fell in love with a woman who happened to be Black. I began to hear things I never heard before.
Speaking about Black friends who were engineering graduates from Princeton, holding high-paying jobs and driving BMWs and other high end cars, “Dad, you know they get stopped while driving around Princeton? In this fancy town? And they have to hold onto the steering wheel with both hands and be super courteous and sweat and hope and pray they don’t get shot. This happens all the time. It is a regular part of their life — this fear.”
And “Dad, the kids couldn’t tell you, but when you were coaching our little 10-year-old kids’ football team, when we would go to those games out in the rural counties, a lot of the Black kids were really scared. Their parents told them not to go there because there’s a lot of crazy people out there who want to kill them. They were really terrified.”
My son is now in his 30s and he and his wife have a son. My daughters live with their families in a well-to-do Philly suburb in Bucks County and have been encouraging my son and his wife to move close to them.
He asks me, “Dad, how do I tell them that my wife is afraid to live there?” “Dad, if you were a 22-year-old Black man, would you go for a jog in the neighborhood where you and mom live?”
It is worse than shameful that it took having a Black grandson to make me think, “What is it like to be a Black person in the U.S.”? To read James Baldwin. To start reading “Stamped From the Beginning” and “The Ways of White Folks,” etc. But that’s what happened.
We need to look at everyone as one of our family.
George Floyd is everyone’s brother or cousin or uncle. Or grandson.
But first, let’s talk about the group promoting defunding the police, “Black Lives Matter.” While many of the recent protestors are truly interested in supporting minority rights, “Black Lives Matter Inc” contrary to its name, is at i’s core, a Marxist organization admittedly led by trained Marxists easily verified by a quick web search. It is funded to the tune of $1.3 billion by organizations from around the globe as well as by well-intentioned but misled corporations. Much of the money raised because of the George Floyd video just as easily may be funneled to French radicals or to the Congo, but not, you notice, to the devastated local black communities. It is international and has connection to the TIDES Foundation and others. By the way, Marxist movements historically are responsible for the deaths of 170,000,000 civilians, not counting deaths during war.
The violence you see today didn’t begin with the death of the vicious felon George Floyd , it began in 1999 or maybe even earlier when Marxist-Socialists protested the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle demonstrating in what was called a “black box”. This is a collection of radicals all dressed in black with masks and helmets or head coverings. They paraded down the main streets damaging businesses, setting fires in trash cans, and smashing windows. Because of the complicity of the elected officials there, the police were regularly restrained from intervening and when they did the mob mingled and dispersed, their nondescript clothing making it impossible to arrest the vandals among them.
This type of activity went on occasionally for years since then. ANTIFA was the next progression. Same outfits, same tactics, but even more violent attacking individuals, often including the same radicals. Twenty years BEFORE George Floyd!
They were waiting for a video like George Floyd’s.
If raising awareness of injustice was the reason for the protests, how long would it have taken to raise awareness? But if the overthrow of our government is the goal then arson, destruction, intimidation, violent confrontation, and even extortion as we see in many cities is in order.
THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.
THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.
This may seem far-fetched . . . I’m sure it did to the people in Portland and Seattle too. But things eroded little by little.
First the language changed. They started using phrases like social justice and systemic racism. If we’re going to have discussions let’s define the words and discuss whether the problem is real or imagined. What is social justice? There are about 18,000 police departments in the US. There were 13 or 14 unarmed blacks killed in 2019. Does that sound systemic? When 4.4 million random stop and frisks were conducted in New York City, during the period from 2004 [to] 2012, even though Blacks were disproportionately singled out, the incidence of further police action was less for Blacks than for whites. Is that SYSTEMIC racism??
If you are rightly willing to condemn actions like those of ANTIFA and reject strategies of BLM like the dissolution of the family and defunding of police, say so, strong and clear at the beginning of this process Otherwise you are complicit in the lawlessness.
Socialism has a unwavering pattern. Venezuela was a prosperous country with rich oil supplies but with a lot of problems in their government. They saw Socialism as the solution to their problem. About 6,000 people a year are murdered by Venezuelan “law enforcement” in a country 12 times smaller than the US that has banned private gun ownership. There are no zoos, starving citizens have slaughtered the animals for food. There are no pets for the same reason. One of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, praised and posed with Venezuela’s Marxist Socialist Nicholas Maduro.
If Black Lives Matter wanted to be inclusive and healing they wouldn’t bristle at the phrase All Lives Matter. While many of the young people in good faith have responded to the BLM slogan others engaged WITH EVIL INTENT, let me leave you with a question. Would an organization whose goal is the empowering of black citizens trash and burn its black community to the ground?
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
. . . and bad conversation destroys community.
That’s the way it goes with language.
We’ve had bad conversation on all sides.
A caller at the August 11 Public Safety meeting reminded us that a defunding partisan said, “we don’t need to hear from any more white people.” That kind of talk gets us nowhere.
A defender of the police called defunders “insane.” That’s insane. In what universe does that help to solve problems.
A defender suggested that residents might need to pass a stakeholder test before claiming the right to speak on the issue of police/community relations. Echoes of the poll test before voting. A silencing tactic. Anti-democratic.
A defender suggested that defunders might find another city in which to live. America, love it or leave it. Bethlehem, love it as is, or leave it. A particularly nasty trope. Anti-democratic.
A businessperson on Main St. with years of good relations with the police argued against defunding as if her experience was the only one that counted. Remember empathy.
A defender asked who will safeguard you from the death of your loved ones if we defund police departments seemingly without realizing that defunders were reacting to the injury and death to their loved ones at the hands of the police. Whose loved ones count the most?
Out of nowhere at the end of a recent City Council meeting, one Councilperson asked another Councilperson a question whose only purpose Gadfly could discern was to cause trouble — and not the John Lewis variety of “good trouble.” Of course, Gadfly could be wrong. But Council dissension is the last thing we need.
Both defunders and defenders threaten political retribution. Vote my way, or we’ll vote you out of office. Gadfly is not always sure that elected officials are strong enough to withstand such threats. Perhaps naively, he hopes that arguments can be made without such threats. Make your case. Persuade. Don’t bully.
“We need to heal,” we just heard Julia Jackson say.
Let’s avoid the incendiary and inflammatory and insensitive.
And remember that good conversation can build community.
David Collins, a captain with the Department of Corrections at the Northampton County Jail. . . . doesn’t think police departments need less money, but he also believes in the power of peaceful protesting and the message of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“If I’m doing my job, I get it from both sides,” Collins told a roomful of police leadership and Black community members Tuesday morning at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem. “I don’t believe in the movement to defund police. I think it’s ridiculous. But I also believe in Black Lives Matter. How can I not? After I take this uniform off, people don’t see a blue life. They see a Black life.”
Collins shared his experience during the second installment of a listening summit designed to open a dialogue between Northampton County law enforcement and Black leaders in the community.
The aim of the summits — the first of which was in June — has been the sharing of ideas, experiences and concerns, in order to try to improve the relationship between police and communities of color.
Andre Stevens, a detective and task force coordinator with the Northampton County Drug Task Force, said he was dismayed to see the video, both as a member of law enforcement and a Black man. He said he was most bothered that officers, close enough to Blake to tug on his shirt, chose deadly force over other methods of detaining the man.
“Police are not punching bags. We want to go home safely to our families,” said Stevens. “That being said, if you got fear in your heart, you shouldn’t wear the badge. Because it’s fear that will escalate a situation far beyond where it should.”
But a lot of the confrontations between police and the public are not clear cut, argued Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio. He mentioned the July 12 incident in Allentown, when a city officer restrained Edward Borrero Jr., 37, in front of the St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart, and used a knee to keep Borrero’s head pinned to the ground.
Photos and video of the encounter caught national attention and sparked local protests. But Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin ultimately determined the officer’s use of force was “reasonable.”
“Use of force does not look pretty,” DiLuzio said. “It’s messy and it’s nasty. It never looks like it does on TV. And that’s why we need to wait and see what the facts are before we go out and make things worse.”
Police and community members agreed that building relationships would be key to changing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.
But Tuesday’s attendees agreed that the rallying cry to defund the police was not the answer locally.
Houck said he greatly opposed the idea, saying he’s seen police departments slowly “defunded” over the years as budgets have been slashed.
“It would cripple prosecutions and investigations if it were to continue,” Houck said of funding reductions.
Myers also took issue with a literal interpretation of “defund the police.” What he believes most people want to see is a reallocation of police funding.
This would mean beefing up training or moving some of the duties to different professionals such as social workers, rather than shelling out money for militarized equipment, Myers said.
Nicole Cooper, an Easton resident who has helped organize Black Lives Matter events in the city, agreed that “defunding” can be a misnomer that hurts the cause itself. But while reallocation is more accurate, she said that term doesn’t capture the full breadth of the reform advocates want. Funding changes should also include an element of oversight and accountability, she said, ensuring that departments put the money where it’s most needed in their community, whether it be for outreach or training.
Bethlehem police released a report Tuesday on resident complaints over a five-year period, showing only 7% of the 125 filings were substantiated by the department.
Topping the list was rude and unprofessional behavior, followed by disputes with police and then complaints about force, which accounted for 16 of the incidents from 2015 through 2019. Allegations ranged from an officer damaging someone’s property, to inappropriate use of force, to people saying they were targeted by police, and racial profiling. Nine of the complaints were substantiated by the department.
“When you look at the report, look at it with an open mind. We are providing the number of complaints and what happened with those complaints, who filed those complaints,” police Chief Mark DiLuzio said. “I think they are very good statistics considering the number of calls and arrests made per year. Would I like to see them lower? Yes, but we are being honest and transparent and putting the numbers out there.”
The report also noted the gender and race of those filing complaints in the city of 76,370 residents, where nearly 60% are white, 29% are Hispanic and 7.5% are Black. Whites filed 65% of complaints; 17.6% were filed by Black complainants; and 15.2% were filed by Hispanics.
Although the information has always been available to the public, Tuesday was the first time the department issued a report on it, DiLuzio said.
During the time frame covered by the report, police responded to 216,489 calls to 911 and made 13,650 arrests.
The report doesn’t detail what discipline officers faced in cases where it was determined they violated department rules. In the report, DiLuzio says 11 officers either resigned or were discharged in the past seven years.
DiLuzio said two of those officers were arrested, though in both instances the behavior occurred off duty and wasn’t related to the officers’ job performance. For lesser violations, such as an officer acting rudely, they may be sent for retraining. If the behavior happens multiple times, they could be suspended without pay, DiLuzio said.
The majority of complaints were for rude and unprofessional behavior, with 70 such complaints logged. The second highest category was for disputes with the police, which had 21 complaints. A dispute can be any situation where the resident wants the officer to do something and the officer does not do it, the report says. For example, the resident may want a neighbor arrested.
As for use-of-force complaints, body cameras can be analyzed to verify if an officer’s actions were in compliance with the department’s directives on force. The report showed six use-of-force complaints last year, up from only one complaint in both 2018 and 2017. There were five such complaints in 2016 and three in 2015.
There was only one complaint about racial profiling noted in the report. That complaint was made in 2015. In 2016 there were five complaints about being targeted or harassed by police. Such complaints usually involved an allegation that an officer gave a ticket or made an arrest because the officer and the person had prior contact and the officer didn’t like the person.
“The majority of complaints filed against officers failed to show that the officer acted or performed contrary to department regulations or state law. Police body cameras, city surveillance cameras, in-car dash cameras and even videos from citizens were very important in the investigation of these complaints and allegations,” the report says.
When a complaint is received, it is reviewed by the department’s Professional Standards Division which is comprised of several Bethlehem police officers. The division is responsible for overseeing training and works with the state and national accreditation agencies on policies and directives.
If the complaint is minor, the officer’s immediate supervisor investigates. Such allegations could include that the officer was rude or failed to take action.
Serious allegations, like gross misconduct, excessive force, death or injury and violations of law are investigated by supervisors in the Professional Standards Division. Because of the serious nature of these violations, the district attorney’s office is usually involved.
When an allegation is filed against a supervisor, the police chief will assign the deputy chief, a captain or lieutenant to investigate, the report says.
“I want people to understand that we hold police officers responsible and accountable when they do something,” DiLuzio said. “If they break a rule or are upset with someone and are rude, they get disciplined.”
Esther Lee, longtime president of the Bethlehem NAACP, said she has yet to see the report on complaints but believes it will be discussed at the group’s meeting next week. She said she has not heard many complaints about the police department.
“Over here in Bethlehem we have a pretty good relationship with the officers. I think our police are very mindful of what they do,” she said.
In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner.
Bernice King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter and the chief executive of the King Center, said on Twitter she was dismayed to see another video of a Black person being “brutalized and/or gunned down by police.”
“Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness,” King said.
We can’t really give you text to read here, but the above videos will give you a sense of the authors and how their works and worldviews relate to systemic racism.
Great coincidence regarding Ta-Nehisi Coates. CBS Sunday Morning (which Gadfly considers the sanest show on television — ha! not that you care or asked) did an excellent piece on him this morning. View “Vanity Fair magazine seizes the moment.”
The coincidence was a sign to order Coates’s book. Gadfly did.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Good conversation builds community. The Gadfly
Much has already been written on this blog about both the quality of BPD as well as the known problems. Increased attention to anti-racist, less-violent, and non-punitive approaches will cost money. Unless we are suggesting a tax increase, shouldn’t funds for these improvements come from reductions in spending for the approaches that need to be changed.
Blowback from the so-called “defunding” proposals is to be expected, especially from those who have not encountered the problems or have other reasons for supporting the police no matter what. Read the following to see what happened when a series of what seem to be modest and reasonable steps were enacted in a city that already has a successful program of specially-trained paramedics to respond to mental-health-related situations.
The Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut its police department budget by $150 million on Thursday, after officers and the city’s top cop faced months of criticism over the killing of an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, the use of force against anti-police brutality protesters and the investigation of a demonstrator’s fatal shooting by another citizen.
Those criticisms coincided with protests across Texas and the country calling for reforms on police tactics and the “defunding” of law enforcement in favor of redistributing funds to social services and alternative public safety programs. The council’s move makes Austin the first of Texas’ four biggest cities to drastically cut police department funding. The share of the police department budget that was cut is among the largest percentage decreases in the nation this year.
These immediate cuts would include eliminating funding from three planned police cadet classes and reallocating funds to areas like violence prevention, food access and abortion access programs.
Another $80 million in police budget cuts would come from a yearlong process that will redistribute civilian functions like forensic sciences, support services and victims’ services out from under the police department and into other parts of city government. About $50 million would come from reallocating dollars to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that would divert money toward “alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.”
The council’s proposal also includes eliminating 150 vacant officer positions, so that the police department will begin fiscal year 2021 without any unfilled sworn positions.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that the council’s actions represent the triumph of political agendas over public safety, and vowed that the Texas Department of Public Safety will “stand in the gap” to protect Austin until the state Legislature can take up the issue next session.
“Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness,” he said in a statement. “Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Austin City Council’s decision to reduce the police department budget was a “political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture” as Austin continues to combat violent crime.
“Unfortunately, the targets of this ‘cancelling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe,” he said in a statement. “The city council’s action to slash funding disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens, and the many guests who frequent it.”
The Austin Police Association tweeted its opposition to the council’s plan.
“The council’s budget proposals continue to become more ridiculous and unsafe for Austinites,” the group tweeted. “They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded.”
The Austin City Council spent hours Wednesday listening to more than 200 speakers voice their opinions about cutting the police budget during its public comment period.
Sarah Hay, a District 10 resident, called in to express support for council member Greg Casar’s “Reimagine Public Safety” fund.
“Specifically, we support reimagining traffic safety and enforcement within this proposal,” she said. “We can easily divest over $18 million from traffic enforcement when most of these functions can be administered by unarmed civilians and is not required to be police work.”
But others said the council’s proposed plan to reduce the budget was not enough.
Two members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, a local group that seeks to promote racial justice, read a testimony from Alicia Torres Don, an Austin resident who said she is concerned that the money from the police budget will not be redistributed quickly enough under the council’s plan.
City councils around the country have been voting to cut police department budgets, including Los Angeles, which voted to cut $150 million from its proposed $1.86 billion budget, and New York City, which slashed $1 billion from its nearly $6 billion budget. Portland’s mayor and school board said they would discontinue the presence of armed officers from local schools and reallocate the $1 million designated for these officers into the community.
“‘Reimagining public safety’ does not mean simply reorganizing departments or taking the same functions that APD currently performs and moving them, complete with their current staff and culture, to a civilian department,” the groups said in a joint statement. “When we say ‘reimagine public safety,’ it’s a step beyond defunding the police. It means imagining a world where we don’t rely on cops, cages, and other punitive approaches to keep us safe.”
Moore understands the frustration, but he believes Austin has taken a powerful step toward that future. “Either we ask for the big thing and we don’t get nothing and then we’re stuck in the same place, or we can start chomping away at the elephant one bite at a time,” he said. “I think we took a pretty good chunk out when council took the vote last week.”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, state officials and other lawmakers from outside Austin were quick to decry the cuts and pledge legislative action against such “short-sighted efforts,” as a Dallas-area state senator put it. Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to have state police “stand in the gap” to protect the city, while George P. Bush, the elected state land commissioner, took to Twitter. He posted a video of a row of cars with broken windows in a parking garage downtown and implied that the vandalism had taken place the same night as the city council’s vote. “The need for police funding is as clear as ever,” he wrote. “This is a dangerous path to go down.”
The grandstanding was little more than transparent fearmongering. The city hasn’t cut any current positions, so there’s really no “gap” to stand in. Besides, the state police already play a big role in Austin, where they have jurisdiction over state property — including parking garages like the one where the vandalism Bush was decrying took place. State police said the vandalism actually happened on August 8, four days before the council vote, and was discovered during a routine patrol.
Moore is also ready to push forward. “I just hope we can try to break the barriers of everything that has been socialized within us so we can truly allow ourselves to imagine and get creative with things outside of boxes, outside of what the norm is, so we can come up with something pretty groovy,” he said. He notes that major shifts in U.S. history have been rife with uncertainty: abolishing slavery, women’s suffrage, desegregation. “We always had these assumptions that the most terrible thing was going to happen if we stopped doing the status quo,” he said. “Yes, there’s still oppression and people are still fighting … but because we’ve taken these big steps in history, it’s only made us better.”
Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd killing
Gadfly likes to keep an eye on what’s going on in Allentown. Been rocky there. But they have agreed to move forward to continue to talk about, to research some very significant issues.
Such as, for example, a citizen advisory board, availability of body camera footage, and, most importantly, in regard to what we’ve been discussing here on Gadfly lately, reconsidering how public safety is funded.
By voting for the resolution, council members voice support for:
Potentially creating a citizens advisory board for the police force.
Recommending the police department revise its use of force policy so officers are required to intervene to stop excessive use of force.
Prioritizing departmental spending on de-escalation training and implicit bias training.
A “public discussion” with city and police administrators on requiring police to present biannual performance reports to City Council on a variety of data, including use of force incidents.
Further consideration of legislation mandating community meetings following use of force incidents.
The updated resolution directs City Clerk Mike Hanlon to basically complete a research project by October on police reform efforts in Harrisburg related to:
Requiring body camera footage be made available to the public.
Requiring the state attorney general’s office or another third party to investigate all misuse of force allegations.
Requiring a shared statewide database of municipal use of force policies.
Banning stop and frisk and no knock warrants, and requiring statewide reporting of such incidents.
Next, the resolution authorizes city solicitor Matthew Kloiber and his staff to review — upon the subsequent request of at least two council members — the legality of:
Requiring the police department to place officers on administrative leave when they’re being investigated for misuse of force.
Punishing police officers, up to and including termination, for failing to use body cameras.
The final section of the updated resolution takes a different approach to reconsidering how public safety is funded.
Rather than specifically calling for the divestment of the police department’s budget, the updated resolution strives to tackle the broader issue of “priority budgeting and allocation of resources as they relate to community needs.” Council also promises to meet with “appropriate agencies and stakeholders” throughout the process.