FOP president provides further information on an incident that troubled Gadfly

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: The FOP president defends his officer (June 19, 2020)
ref: FOP president to Council: “If you want to work together to make our community even stronger, we’re here to work with you” (June 22, 2020)

Mr. Gallagher:

I wasn’t aware of your questions until recently, but for the sake of those who may have questions about this incident in the future, I’ll try my best to answer them. The defendant was interviewed by our Professional Standards Division (Internal Affairs). In an official video-recorded statement to the investigators, the defendant made numerous criminal allegations regarding the involved officer. These statements were contradicted by both in-car and body worn cameras. The defendant’s interview and both videos from the incident were shown to members of City Council. Councilwoman Negron and Van Wirt did not watch the presentation shown by now Chief Kott. I reached out to Negron and Van Wirt and requested they approach the Police admin to watch the videos.  Dr. Van Wirt never responded to my emails, and several months later I ran into Councilwoman Negron who informed me she never approached the Police admin to view the footage and she did not intend to. The search was a consent search which was legal and on video. The officer did park the defendant’s vehicle and provided him with a ride home after he was fingerprinted. The FOP does not control when or if videos are released to the public. We believe if this video was released, it would have immediately ended any concern as I believe it was handled so well it could be used as a training aid on how to be professional during a traffic stop. Also, just to clarify, New St. is about 10 blocks from where the officer was parked monitoring the intersection. The defendant didn’t “detour a bit” 10 blocks.  I’d be happy to answer any other questions in the future.

Officer William Audelo
Bethlehem Police Department

Tip o’ the hat to Officer Audelo for providing further information on this episode that, as followers might remember, troubled Gadfly.

The Bethlehem Press interview with Chief Kott

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

In this interview with the Bethlehem Press, Gadfly is especially interested in Chief Kott’s mention of collaboration with the Health Bureau. He also notes her mention of membership on the Community Advisory Board and a LGBTQ subcommittee of a community engagement board. Gadfly knows about the CAB, formed early by/with the NAACP after GeorgeFloyd. But what is the community engagement board? Is that something out of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution for a Community Engagement Initiative? Gadfly has heard nothing about the CEI for a long time. And there never has been, as far as he knows, any public information about what the CAB is doing. So we have no information upon which to judge these initiatives. And he thinks we would like to hear substantially more.

The Chief’s idea of a public information officer is interesting.

This is a good time for the periodic Gadfly reminder to subscribe to the Bethlehem Press so that we can continue to have and even expand community news.

———–

selections from “Nate Jastrzemski, “‘It can’t just be one person at the top’ Police chief details department’s projects, upcoming goals.” Bethlehem Press, February 9, 2021.

In regard to policing the city, 2020 has been an extremely weird year,” said Bethlehem Police Chief Michelle Kott during her first interview with the Press since taking command in October. “It’s been odd because not as many people have been out. Obviously we didn’t have Musikfest, Celticfest, all the other festivals and events that we have in the city that bring hundreds of thousands of people a year.

“Our officers are not having as many citizen contacts as we normally would … however, for 2020 we responded to 225-250 medical calls involving COVID-positive patients”

Kott emphasized, as she did during her nomination and confirmation, that community engagement is imperative for the department to build and maintain a trusting relationship with the public. Whether face-to-face, Zoom or other virtual platforms, police are reaching out as often and safely as possible.

Additionally, the department is collaborating with the Health Bureau to help residents that officers come into contact with to get in touch with resources and services that could potentially prevent future police contact or help them navigate an issue they are facing, whether food insecurity, homelessness, mental health issues or substance abuse. Kott would like to expand this relationship long-term, as it helps everyone involved.

Social work is particularly important now, Kott said, as we grapple with the ramifications of prolonged quarantine. “I think this is going to require communities to come together and put people in touch with services to help them get through this hard time.”

As for the department, Kott was upbeat. “I’m very, very pleased and happy with the teamwork and the collaborative efforts … all the way down to the officers, to work together to provide the best level of service to the community,” she said, adding a key component to the cohesion she seeks is working with supervisors regularly, rather than delegating from on high.

That is partially because she worries about losing institutional memory due to longtime officer retirements. Young officers have a lot of enthusiasm, Kott said, but it’s hard to make up for a loss of decades of experience. Thus, she is focusing on recruitment and mentorships and how they might also benefit through broadened community relations.

“We need to get information out to the citizens so they’re better informed about what’s going on in their communities and I think a valuable way to do that is to have a central contact, like a public information officer.”

Kott also participates in the Mayor’s Advisory Board and NAACP monthly meetings to address various forms of systemic racism through police reform, education and healthcare and on a community engagement board, serving on the LGBTQ subcommittee.

Kott also participates in the Mayor’s Advisory Board and NAACP monthly meetings to address various forms of systemic racism through police reform, education and healthcare and on a community engagement board, serving on the LGBTQ subcommittee.

Lack of a modern public facility notwithstanding, Kott succinctly summarized her holistic approach to policing and community, evident throughout the interview, by declaring with purpose and certainty, “Everybody wins if we work together.”

Giving gadflying a bad name

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

This is the kind of stuff that gives gadflying a bad name.

Somebody needs to connect the dots between the newspaper story and the LVGNA post for me.

————

Peter Hall, “Bethlehem police: Man tried to gouge officer’s eye during arrest.” December 28, 2020.

An Easton man is charged with aggravated assault after allegedly trying to gouge the eye of a Bethlehem police officer who was investigating package thefts Saturday.

Rashan Y. Bellamy, 39, of the 900 block of Butler Street was sent to Lehigh County Jail under $50,000 bail, according to court documents. In addition to a felony charge of aggravated assault of a police officer, Bellamy is charged with simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and driving an unregistered vehicle.

According to a police affidavit:

Officer Matthew Steidel and another Bethlehem officer were watching a car that was identified as the vehicle used in multiple package thefts. The officers discovered that the temporary registration tag on the car was assigned to another vehicle and had expired in September.

When the officers saw Bellamy get into the car and pull out of a parking space without using a turn signal, they tried to make a traffic stop, but Bellamy eluded them.

Steidel radioed that he found the car in the 600 block of Fifth Avenue and officer Trevor Tomaszewski responded to that location. When Tomaszewski arrived, he saw Steidel struggling to take Bellamy into custody. Tomaszewski helped Steidel handcuff Bellamy, who continued to resist until he was placed in a police car.

Steidel said Bellamy pushed him against the police car, hit him and pressed his finger on Steidel’s eye.

———–

Do you have implicit bias? Take the test!

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Implicit bias training for Bethlehem police

Gadfly has reported that 6 of our officers, including the Chief, are in a pilot implicit bias training program.

“The pilot program is broken down into three sessions. Each session provides officers with information regarding implicit bias through PowerPoints, videos and tests.”

In one of the sessions the officers took the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

You can take it too.

Gadfly did.

It only takes a few minutes.

Go to Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

Gadfly was surprised at his result.

The question of “community police”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Police chaperone fee  . . . is questioned

Gadfly:

BPD used to have a semi-separate “community policing” group, although I don’t know the organizational [structure]. Then, quite a few years ago now, that was abolished, and we were told that the entire department would be using a community policing approach.

Two former police officers have told me that when that change was made, community policing was, in effect, eliminated from the department.  One of them said there was always an antagonism against the community policing officers, that they were not seen as “real police.” Maybe the problem was the culture, not the structure.

Perhaps the new Chief will find more effective ways to restore true community policing.

Peter Crownfield

———-

Gadfly:

True community policing has happened in 2 forms. The key is the level of integration into the neighborhoods.

The first was the team policing of Adam, Baker and Charlie teams who were assigned to one-third (roughly) of the city each. This way they became quite familiar with those areas and residents became familiar with them. The level of cooperation was strong because these relationships were established.

The second was the neighborhood substation/bike patrols who also became integrated into the neighborhoods that they served.

I remember one commenter at a council meeting saying we don’t need more pizza parties.

They are wrong in my opinion if we use “pizza parties” as a metaphor for socialization, because that helps to break down barriers.

It’s not the sole answer, but it’s a large part of the equation.

In Bethlehem, when bonds and identification and buy-in were best, it was because officers and residents worked together, met on the streets and sidewalks during the normal course of a day, gathered at the local playground, cooperated on a break-in spree, etc.

Each side needs to feel respected, and strengthening relationships via community policing efforts goes a long way to breaking down barriers.

Follower

Chief Kott’s memo on fostering police-community relations

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Chief Kott outlines plan to engage our community

Here’s the actual Kott memo that I didn’t have when posting on Friday. Add this to the info on implicit bias training that I didn’t have when I posted on Friday, and it looks like Chief Kott has been busy.

 

 

Police chaperone fee when alcohol is served is questioned

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Another issue involving the police, marginally, was also raised at the December 15 City Council meeting.

A City policy requiring a police officer present at events on City property at which alcohol is served is apparently under review.

The cost is $50/hr. for an officer to be present.

The crux of the issue is the financial impact on non-profits.

Mary Toulouse spoke against the policy on behalf of the Mt. Airy Neighborhood Association/Rose Garden Farmers Market, and Jp Jordan and Christopher Schorr spoke against the policy on behalf of Touchstone Theatre.

For Ms. Toulouse, the issue was a vendor (and a Bethlehem merchant at that) at the Farmers Market selling alcohol for home consumption, not at the market. The cost for a policeman would have been $200 per Saturday for 20 weeks . Ms. Toulouse ultimately argued successfully with the City for an exemption this year, but it sounded like she might have to argue similarly next year, and, in any event, she felt “threatened” by the police in her interaction over the fee. Ms. Toulouse spoke against the policy both for herself and other groups in similar situations.

The issue for Touchstone was selling alcohol at events for consumption there. Mr. Jordan described the different situation elsewhere in cities at which the theater troupe performed and suggested it might be a “cultural issue” here in Bethlehem (close to being a sin tax). Mr. Schorr argued the difference between a large entrepreneur who sold alcohol at events to make money, and to whom hiring a policeman was an acceptable cost of doing business, and the cost to a non-profit simply trying to make expenses and for whom a policeman might account for 50% of the profits. Au contraire, said Mr. Schorr, the City should be trying to “incentivize” the non-profits.

Neither the reason for the policy nor its duration (a remnant of Pa. blue laws?) was given, so it’s hard for Gadfly to judge the merits of the policy, but Gadfly can tell you the three residents made good sense.

One more thing, though, that intersects with wider police discussions.

Ms. Toulouse remembered a time of community policing that West Side neighbors still remember positively and fondly — nostalgia for a neighborhood beat officer they all knew and — speaking to the issue at hand — one who could visit the Farmers Market in the due course of his or her beat work. Councilwoman Negron gave this idea legs as well.

Gadfly has heard others  — he thinks especially of resident Lisa Rosa — who speak fondly of this past successful version of community policing and urge its return. Such comments always confuse Gadfly since the department describes itself as already doing “community policing” on the City web site: “The Bethlehem Police Department is structured using the community policing philosophy and is committed to community and police partnership. The department structure has three divisions: Patrol, Criminal Investigations and Professional Standards.”

There’s confusion somewhere.

There must be different definitions of community policing.

Gadfly’s thinking on this subject is no doubt influenced by his Norman Rockwell image of the idyllic small town with its friendly police, but he must admit that he would like to see this form of community policing discussed in the promised meetings early in the new year.

Mary Toulouse (8 mins.):

Jp Jordan (5 mins.):

Christopher Schorr (5 mins.):

Do you know what Bethlehem police’s implicit bias training is?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Implicit bias training for Bethlehem police
ref: A vision of Bethlehem as anti-racist city
ref: Bethlehem: The Anti-Racist City
ref: New branding campaign takes off

Maybe you missed it.

It was easy to gloss over.

But the pilot program of implicit bias training for officers in the police department we posted about Friday is a self-described anti-racist act.

We know the difference between “not racist” and “anti-racist.”

Being not racist is passive, refusing to support or participate in racist ideas, action, attitudes, systems, behavior, belief, policies, procedures.

Many of us are “not racist.”

Being anti-racist is active, doing something to fight racist ideas, action, attitudes, systems, behavior, belief, policies, procedures.

Only a few of us are “anti-racist.”

Chief Kott recognizes the difference: “It would be incredibly naive and irresponsible of us to say that there is no such thing as a racist cop. . . . It’s one thing to say that I’m not racist, I’m not prejudiced. But it is a completely different thing to be anti-racist. . . . That [being anti-racist] is the driving force behind this [pilot implicit bias] training.”

Chief Kott has chosen anti-racism for herself and her department.

Gadfly would like to know the backstory, but he assumes this pilot program was her unforced idea, and she reports that she herself underwent the training.

How’s that for leadership.

So good.

Gadfly has been excited by the attack on systemic racism explicit in the Community Engagement initiative, and ever-so-tongue-in-cheek he has envisioned an additional brand for Bethlehem as “The Anti-Racist City.”

One step at a time.

He hopes anti-racism and systemic racism will be issues in the now fast upcoming mayoral and councilmanic campaigns.

Implicit Bias training for Bethlehem Police

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly is rather astounded that he is just finding out this news (like, literally, 20 minutes ago), and from the Brown and White.

Gadfly tries to be alert to what’s going on, but he does not believe that he previously heard about this program in all the buzz about the police department lately, a program which is said to have begun in the summer.

Before or after the retirement of Chief DiLuzio?

This is a good thing!

Selections from Miguel Cole, “Implicit bias training begins in the Bethlehem police Department.” (Lehigh University) Brown and White, December 17, 2020.

The Bethlehem Police Department has been working closely with the Pennsylvania Youth and Disproportionate Minority Contact and Law Enforcement Corporation to develop an implicit bias training program for the department.

There is currently a pilot program in place that six of the city’s officers have participated in. The program is still in its early stages as the two entities continue to iron out the details.

Bethlehem Police Chief Michelle Kott has spoken about what is involved in the pilot program, its importance to the department and what they expect to get out of this partnership.

Kott hopes to have the program available to all officers by either the first or second quarter of 2021. The pilot program is broken down into three sessions. Each session provides officers with information regarding implicit bias through PowerPoints, videos and tests. Kott said she would like to add a pre- and post-survey to the program to see what strides have been made.

“As you go through the course, you start to realize that this is something that no one is immune from,” Kott said, who took over as the city’s police chief following former Police Chief Mark DiLuzio’s resignation earlier this year.

Implicit bias refers to the subconscious attitudes and predetermined concepts an individual has regarding another social group. These biases are influenced by personal experiences and the context in which people live.

Virtually no one is free from implicit bias.

“All cognition is influenced by past experience, goals, culture. Even perceptual experience can be different in people raised in different cultures,” said Gordon Moskowitz, professor of psychology at Lehigh University.

Kott and Capt. Rodney Bronson, both of whom participated in the pilot program, took the Harvard Implicit Bias Test as a part of one of the seminars.

Through this test, both Kott and Bronson realized they had their own implicit biases.

“Your upbringing, your cultural conditioning, carries you through your entire life. It fills those biases that you might have and don’t even know because they’re in your blind spot,” Bronson said.

The training has had its challenges and barriers as they attempt to piece together what works best.

Because of COVID-19, the training program has been virtually constructed. However, both Kott and Bronson have expressed the desire to have this be an in-person program.

The implementation of this program is geared to help officers recognize their implicit biases in hopes to correct and improve community interactions.

The department got the ball rolling on this program this summer after the murder of George Floyd.

“It would be incredibly naive and irresponsible of us to say that there is no such thing as a racist cop,” Kott said.

In the past few months, there has been a lot of conversation about what it means to be anti-racist. To be anti-racist is to take the extra step and be actively against racism while promoting racial tolerance.

“It’s one thing to say that I’m not racist, I’m not prejudiced. But it is a completely different thing to be anti-racist,” Kott said. “That is the driving force behind this training; trying to make people aware of what is unconsciously going on in our heads so that we are able to have better interactions with the community that we serve.”

These biases can show themselves in many police-community interactions, from arrests to traffic stops to suspicion to stop and frisk. But recognizing implicit bias has surfaced as an important part of Bethlehem’s police-community interactions.

“Just as with all other training, it is something that has to be done periodically. It can’t just be a once and done course,” Kott said. “This is a practice that, as chief, I want to be a norm.”

Officer Audelo provides perspective

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Turns out that police and policing were in good view during the December 15 City Council meeting (look for another post involving the police after this one!).

Officer Audelo, president of the local FOP, called in with these comments (7 mins.):

  • bad air quality in the police station, a test would be sure to show “positive toxic mold”
  • a movie needing a 70s look was just done in their cell block — outdated infrastructure
  • think better starting salaries to attract the best new hires, ours are lower than Allentown and other surrounding communities
  • when thinking about the cost of pensions at budget time, realize that officers do not take social security and pensions for new officers were cut not too long ago
  • “experts” like Lehigh profs Ochs and Mikell are “embarrassing,” for instance in statements like force should never be used on juveniles (gives personal experience as example)
  • force beyond taking a person to the ground was used only 38 times out of 62,000 calls last year
  • the department always could be better
  • minorities don’t want whites speaking for them
  • people not encouraging love and who are just shouting not speaking, they are on the wrong side
  • police stand with the small business community

Officer Audelo’s call was immediately followed by one by Greg Ragni, whom we now recognize as co-head of the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance.

Mr. Ragni complimented the officer (It’s nice to hear “what a true expert on policing sounds like” “it’s nice to hear someone speak facts”) and, in the conversations about policing we have been having, he called for “true experts versus political hacks with an ideological ax to grind.” We should be talking about what policing is like “in Bethlehem,” not Seattle or elsewhere, he said (2 mins.).

Officer Audello remarked that he had encouraged Council to watch a particular body cam video but that no one had. Gadfly would like to do that. His understanding is that body cams are not obtainable via Right-to-Know, but he will try.

Chief Kott outlines plan to engage our community

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Councilman Reynolds requests a Community Engagement Plan outline from the City

In a November 30 memo Councilman Reynolds prompted Chief Kott to put some thoughts to paper regarding police interaction with the community.

The Chief did that at the City Council meeting December 15.

And did so generously.

Councilman Reynolds was pleased.

Gadfly will try to get a copy of Chief Kott’s detailed reply to Councilman Reynolds, but for now you can listen to her reading it (4 mins.), and Gadfly will share a few highlights below.

  • General outline of the police department’s plan to engage our community.
  • During these divisive times, community-police engagement opportunities can genuinely and organically build understanding, trust, confidence, and respect between police agencies and the communities they serve.
  • . . . seek to remove barriers . . . embrace diversity, and encourage two-way communication . . . strive to identify the community’s public safety priorities, build trust, increase understanding, improve satisfaction, and initiate a collaborative effort with community stakeholders for addressing community issues and concerns.

Here are some of the “measurable actions” to be implemented. Listen to the audio for more detail on each.

  • various surveys
  • Your Neighborhood/Your Police Department events
  • community walks
  • community-police forums
  • re-introduce Citizen and Junior Police Academies
  • expand partnerships with other City departments
  • partner with stakeholder organizations . . . listening sessions, focus groups
  • increase social media presence

The Chief’s comments were followed up by supportive comments by Councilpeople Reynolds, Negron, and Crampsie Smith. Councilwoman Negron highlighted for Chief Kott suggestions by earlier resident callers Toulouse and Schor that we will cover in a subsequent post. Councilwoman Crampsie Smith hoped for future collaboration with services provided by the County (so as not to duplicate) and she highlighted increases in autism that need to be addressed.

It is evident that relations between Chief Kott and Council are off to a good start.

“We have the information and the ability to do better”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

speaking of statistics

ref: What’s missing in LVGNA’s march to victory?

Much appreciate the work Gadfly; the need for this conversation is pretty apparent if one does believe that there are over 1000 neighbors “supporting” the fear mongering being driven by the so-called good Neighbors Assoc.

To stick to facts over 50% of Americans believe that policing needs a major over all while only 6% believe no improvements are needed.

Gallup usually gets this stuff fairly close to right I think we would all agree (https://news.gallup.com/poll/315962/americans-say-policing-needs-major-changes.aspx).

But more than that; there are concrete examples actually happening all across the country.

Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and now the newly elected LA prosecutor George Gascon (https://www.wfmz.com/news/crime/new-la-prosecutor-ends-cash-bail-for-many-offenses/article_7451be42-206c-5537-93bb-0e4aa7304b6d.html); revolutionizing the way we see policing, eradicating cash bail, re-evaluating 3 strikes cases and the ceasing of charging juveniles as adults.

All of these structural changes are supported by data; not rhetoric, not feelings nor a desire to cling to days gone by.

The only excuse Bethlehem has to not follow the ingenuity of those leading the way is fear.  Not good enough. We have the information and the ability to do better.

Michele Downing

Residents chatter about Gadfly around Gadfly’s water cooler

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: What’s missing in LVGNA’s march to victory? et al

  • Gadfly’s assault on LVGNA shows immense bias on his part.
  • And a lack of common sense: Tuesday was precisely the right night to call in, the time to influence council before they offered amendments.
  • And some naivete: just because 2 council members may have said 2 weeks before that they would not defund the police doesn’t mean that they would not have 4 votes to do so.
  • Hey, Waldron pulled a tricky maneuver, diffusing call-ins by announcing at the beginning that there were no amendments.
  • I think he [Gadfly] has been sucker-punched by the BLM agenda to destroy America. A majority of those scary July 7th speakers subscribe to that BLM agenda.
  • Yeah, and that husband and wife that keep calling in are avowed Marxists.
  • I thought so.
  • Marxism is totally unacceptable.
  • I think Gadfly is basically a good guy, I just don’t see how he goes along with mantras like “What do we want — Dead cops” or “Pigs in a blanket.”
  • There’s a lot of ignorance: police do not kill black criminals at a higher rate than whites, and no one is talking about black on black crime which kills 90% of blacks—they focus on a limited number of blacks killed by police instead of addressing the inner city drug culture & fatherless households & crime.
  • Don’t forget that Blacks themselves don’t want a reduced police presence in their neighborhoods by an 80% poll preference.
  • So the Neighbors have every right to be concerned.
  • No question the George Floyd thing was awful but that occurs to white & Hispanics as well and particularly when they resist arrest or are juiced up on drugs like Floyd was.
  • The Neighbors were civil, how about the guy from Broad St that screamed at the top of his lungs, he . . .

Councilwoman Negron: stop the lies!

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

We come to an end of Gadfly’s coverage of the December 1 City Council meeting. You have heard lots of voices. Gadfly loves these voices. Both our elected officials and our ardent residents.

Most recently we have been listening to Council voices. You can really learn something about these people by hearing their voices, no?

And I hope you can recognize them by their voices.

When Gadfly started Gadfly he used to put pictures of the Council members up and ask you to identify them. He did that because he quickly learned that there were a decent number of followers who couldn’t name the Council members and, of course, couldn’t “recognize” them either.

Gadfly wants you to know them, know them well, especially if they are on the ballot next time ’round.

But, he wonders, could you recognize their voices if he put up some audio clips without identification?

Maybe will do that. Would be an interesting exercise.

But we’ll end this thread of posts with one voice you can’t miss.

Councilwoman Negron.

And she’s on fire here!

Listen —

7 mins.

  • I’m very upset right now.
  • [Thanks Councilpeople Reynolds and Crampsie Smith]
  • Thank you for calling the group that is spreading fear, especially among the elderly . . . they are scared.
  • They are spreading lies, lies.
  • This is not fair.
  • As a woman of color that has been hurting about everything happening in our nation . . .
  • [Recounts her work history and experience with the police]
  • That’s what I did for frickin’ fve years!
  • I know we can do better, I know how to do it better.
  • So it is appalling to me . . . that somebody would just come up and say this is what they are doing.
  • It is wrong.
  • Stop the lies.
  • I am really happy we have a brand new Chief of Police, I am very proud of her.
  • And I know that under her leadership, we are going to do a whole lot better.
  • The role that we have as members of Council . . .
  • You want to fire me, go ahead, I don’t pay for my rice and beans for the $185 I get from City Council.
  • Stop threatening for something that has no value.
  • You wake up and smell the coffee.
  • It is wrong.
  • Something that you need to understand is [both City and Council have roles and services they need to provide] we can not just eliminate public safety and police and hire 50 case workers.
  • It doesn’t work that way.
  • We are not in the case worker business.
  • [Police and Health Bureau working together]
  • [Working with Pinebrook]
  • [Northampton County and Lehigh County have great crisis programs]
  • We need to do a better job sharing this information with our community.
  • We have a great service [at the county level], we don’t have to reinvent the wheel for something the city is not meant to do.
  • That is what the county Human services do.
  • [Mental health and drug court]
  • They get treatment according to their need.
  • I am really appalled that some individuals took it upon themselves . . . to scare half of the city.
  • That has to stop.

Other Councilmembers respond to Councilman Callahan: suspicion, outrage, separation

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

If you’ve been following Gadfly’s coverage of the butt end of the December 1 City Council meeting, he left you with Councilman Callahan in the middle.

Where Councilpersons Reynolds, Van Wirt, and Waldron took aim.

We have suspicion that Councilman Callahan is the source of the “fake controversy,” outrage that he’s driving a wedge between Council members, and belief that his intention is to separate himself from the rest of Council in regard to support for the police.

Councilman Reynolds (4 mins.)

  • better idea of where this fake controversy came from and how it got pushed to this point
  • [conversations with other Council members] we all had our suspicions.
  • pick and choose [quotes]
  • [About the Community Engagement Initiative] A lot of people are feeling pain, and we are trying hear different people’s perspectives
  • A lot of the comments that night, some we agree with, some we disagree with.
  • [Long meeting, lot of people talking] You do not have to own every comment made.
  • Different people have different perspectives.
  • [Conversation with a police officer]
  • A lot of discussion over past six months is not . . . slogans, or how we make people look bad . . . [but] how do we move past that for the betterment of society.
  • You have a 4hr meeting and somebody says O they agree with this and they don’t agree with that so on and so forth — that’s not a serious way to look at these issues.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (2 mins.)

  • [Thanks to other Councilmembers for their words] to promote unity and healing.
  • [Thanks to Councilwoman Crampsie Smith] for the dichotomy that is a good Councilmember, which is that you can do both things at once.
  • Indeed, that is the definition of a good Council member, being able to do both things at once, both sides of the coin.
  • Usually, I don’t respond to Mr. Callahan . . .
  • But I am outraged at his behavior . . . driving a wedge that doesn’t exist in between Council members and causing such pain and fear among our fellow citizens.
  • His words have been divisive and inflammatory, self-serving, and distorted.
  • What we need is unity.
  • Finding someone using such a painful topic for their own gain, I find reprehensible and I’m embarrassed.
  • For him to take words and distort them, I find reprehensible.

President Waldron (2 mins.)

  • mixing and matching different quotes from callers and Council members that may or may not have anything to do with each other
  • out of context look pretty damning, and I think that’s exactly what you are doing right now, inciting a lot of the rhetoric that’s been going on
  • After a lot of the rhetoric that’s been going on and the emails we’ve been getting . . . facebook posts that have been circulating there’s been a lot of misinformation and a lot of quotes being taken out of context.
  • I’ve had an opportunity to correspond with a few people . . .they thanked me for clarifying the record and said they were misinformed.
  • . . . intent to separate you from the rest of your Council members as if you are the only one who is standing up for the police department when clearly every one on this Council supports the police department.
  • There’s no proposals to defund . . . supporting [the police department] 100%.

Councilman Callahan quotes from the record for the record

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Councilman Callahan got himself in the middle, a not unusual position for him, by providing his explanation of the genesis of the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance and the callers the night of the December 1 Council meeting.

That genesis, he said, was a combination of the tough defunding/abolition statements by commenters at the July 7 meeting plus sympathetic and supportive responses to them especially by Councilpersons Reynolds and Van Wirt.

Councilman Callahan went to the July 7 primary source and quoted passages from the Councilpersons to back up his point.

He explained that he wasn’t trying to differentiate himself from others on Council, but he wanted the record to show that such statements were made, statements that would concern some citizens, and Gadfly believes that Councilman Callahan was implying that if it weren’t for pushback at the August 11 meeting, there might have been amendments affecting the police department from the more liberal members of Council.

Certain members of Council “re-prioritized” after pushback, he said.

This, you will recognize, is the narrative of the LVGNA.

5 mins.

  • I agree with a lot of the comments that Grace Crampsie Smith made.
  • All of us agree . . . very unfortunate deaths of those individuals..
  • Some of those cases, I believe it was murder.
  • I’m totally supportive of the police in our city, but I understand why the Black Lives Matter movement came up . . . supported that movement.
  • I don’t know the group that you are talking about [Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance].
  • Obvious some of the residents of the city were concerned that some of the comments that were made at the July 7th meeting  . . .
  • No one on Council right now is making any amendments to defund the police department, but, let’s be honest, that was not the case at the July 7 meeting.
  • [reads comments from public at the July 7 meeting]
  • Based on comments made at that meeting . . .
  • [reads direct quotes from Councilpeople Reynolds and Van Wirt at the July 7 meeting]
  • Those are the comments that were made and that’s the genesis of some of the phone calls that were coming in tonight.
  • I don’t know about any threats, and I apologize to Ms. Crampsie Smith if anybody attacked her.
  • [People who called in tonight] felt there were some pretty radical comments made at the July 7 meeting and there were some comments by Council members that backed up that.
  • I’m just quoting from the record.
  • That’s where the genesis of that was.
  • Nobody should be inciting any type of violence against anybody, or any type of fear . . .
  • We’re talking about the Bethlehem police department [not Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.].
  • Our police department hasn’t really had any ____?___ since the Hirko settlement . . . national accreditation.
  • [Concerns of people who called my house came from comments by Council people Reynolds and Van Wirt]
  • Those were direct quotes from the Council meeting.
  • I just want it on the record that those comments were made by those two individuals.

2 mins.

  • [Mr. Waldron], I think what happened was in that following Council meeting there was a lot of pushback
  • I was the only one at that time — I’m not trying to differentiate myself from any Council members — I said very plainly we are not defunding the police department.
  • There was a lot of pushback and [Councilers Reynolds and Van Wirt] had a re-prioritization of their thoughts.
  • [repeats comments of Van Wirt from July 7]
  • That’s a direct quote; I’m not putting words in anybody’s mouth.
  • If anybody thinks the context is wrong, please go and check.
  • [Gives time marks on video for each Council person] Judge for yourself on the context.

2mins.

  • I agree . . . empathy . . . seeing from both sides of the issue.
  • All I was saying — I don’t know any of the callers who called in, I don’t know why anybody thinks I had anything to do with it, I didn’t encourage anybody, if you want to blame me for that, you may, I had nothing to do with it, I don’t know anybody who called in — I’m just trying to correct the record.
  • I encourage all the residents, go look at the July 7 video and make up your own decision.
  • I’m not putting words in anybody’s mouth, go look at the meeting.
  • It wasn’t till after that meeting [August 11 public safety meeting] . . . when there was pushback and everybody kind of took a step back from their comments . . .
  • For everybody to pretend that those comments weren’t made is very disingenuous.
  • Make up your own mind.
  • Had there not been pushback from the community . . .
  • I don’t know anybody that called tonight . . .
  • Had there not been the pushback, some of the more liberal people on our Council . . .
  • When it comes to our police safety, I think some of the comments that those two Council members made that night were not welcome.

2 mins.

  • Mr. Reynolds, I agree with you about the emotional and reactionary response.
  • I plainly said, right away, immediately, we are not going to defund the police department.
  • My point is that some of you reacted . . . very reactionary and emotional responses to what was being said that night instead of thinking through the process.
  • I stated right away, we’re not defunding the police department.
  • I’m not trying to embarrass anybody, but everybody’s trying to back walk.
  • Just like these comments weren’t made. They clearly were made.
  • I felt they were reactionary and emotional responses from you.
  • If anybody is offended by me quoting . . . I apologize.
  • But I encourage city residents to watch the video.

Councilman Colon: a lot of fear but not a lot of understanding

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

The sense of injustice that most Council members felt at the actions by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance might best be registered by the response by Councilman Colon the night of the December 1 Council meeting.

In his more than two years of Council watching, Gadfly never saw Councilman Colon so exasperated.

The always pleasant, always cheery, always even tempered, always brief Councilman was, in Gadfly’s view, quite a bit off his equilibrium in his longest commentary in Gadfly’s tenure (8 mins.). Not, it seemed to Gadfly, “appalled and angry” like Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, but pained and frustrated.

  • What I heard tonight was a lot of fear but not a lot of understanding.
  • As Councilmembers we are tasked with looking at things from everybody who calls in and understanding that life looks a lot different depending on what lens you are looking at it from.
  • This heightened sense of fear that we heard tonight . . . where’s this coming from? . . . what’s driving some of this? . . .
  • this idea that there’s a nefarious, clandestine, undermining of the police department and beyond our police department our City’s sense of feeling safe in our residents’ own homes . . . and drumming up the sense that looming around the corner is us, the City Council, with this plot to kinda push Bethlehem over a cliff into chaos.
  • And we hear these anecdotal notions of other cities and what’s going on . . .
  • this idea that if it weren’t for Council being called out that we were ready to unplug the energy of Bethlehem . . .
  • or that conversations going back to over the summer where we tried to understand where people were coming from . . .
  • people who feel that they are walking around with targets on their backs, whether real or perceived . . .
  • we heard tonight, some people who say that they can’t call the police
  • then on the other end of the spectrum people who feel that they can’t go to bed at night because they don’t know if there’s going to be someone to call if they need help.
  • Or to the brave men and women who actually punch a clock every day and put on a badge feeling that they aren’t being supported or that they are walking around with a target on their back . . .
  • A lot of this fear, but not a lot of understanding.
  • Talking about something that happened more recently, we all lauded an appointment that came before us with our new Chief of Police, Chief Kott, that passed unanimously, without question, not only did everyone vote in favor of Chief Kott, everyone sung her praise, justly so . . .
  • After the new year we should have conversations about hiring practices within the police department, promotions within the police department, what police responses look like, what our policies . . . and also visit the pilot program with the Health Bureau . . .
  • Previous to this fury of emails we had already established that at a budget hearing that we were not taking any positions away from the police department.
  • It’s a matter of understanding comprehensively how we operate a city . . .
  • I invite . . . anyone interested in learning anything, tune in.
  • Don’t just take it from a Facebook post, get it from the source, tune in to a Council meeting . . .
  • We’re getting emails from people telling us not to do something that we have not had discussions to do.
  • Acknowledging that there are people who think different than you not that they are trying to plunge Bethlehem into an anarchist state but that they want to look at things in a certain way to accomplish goals.
  • And that’s not going to happen overnight . . . these things don’t happen with a flip of the switch.
  • hope that we as a Council, outside of some of the other forces that be . . . continue to offer understanding of each other, of the different perspectives, and really try to diminish fears out there . . .
  • that we are behind closed doors in the shadows plotting to turn Bethlehem into some sort of chaotic city, which there’s nothing to support that.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith: sympathy and support not mutually exclusive

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

“I can do both. I can sympathize with people of color and the hurt and pain they are feeling, and I can also support the police. They are not mutually exclusive things.”
Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith

Last week was a quite busy week for your city government and thus for Gadfly. A regular City Council meeting and the final budget hearing. Lots of interactions by our elected officials, the kinds of things that are not only important for us but also give us a good view of our elected officials. Gadfly will try to provide a few more scenes from the City Council meeting today to catch up on that one anyway.

The response from City Council members at the December 1 City Council meeting to the full court press that the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance put on to obstruct Council’s suspected conspiracy to defund the police was vigorous.

Led off by Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith in strong words that were praised by her colleagues (5 mins.):

  • No one on Council has ever proposed eliminating the police.
  • That has been the message sent out to the community over the past days and weeks, and that is unfortunate.
  • Many on Council have been hurt and moved by the pain and hurt that people of color have experienced.
  • This doesn’t mean that we are anti-police.
  • In my personal and professional life I have had many friends and clients and students who have been victims of systemic racism.
  • I see them, and their hurts, and I sympathize, but I can do both.
  • I can sympathize with people of color and the hurt and pain they are feeling, and I can also support the police. They are not mutually exclusive things.
  • And that needs to be clear to the community and the individuals and the groups that are spreading falsehoods about me and my fellow Council people.
  • [Council supported resolution for supplies for police.]
  • [She enrolled in the Bethlehem Citizens Police Academy to get a better feel for what police do.]
  • [Have been meeting with police since June about how to improve the quality of services and officer training.]
  • The biggest concern I have . . . is the falsehoods circulated by individuals such as the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance.
  • They have instilled fear in our community needlessly at time when we should be encouraging and supporting of others, especially like the elderly, crime victims, and those with PTSD, etc.
  • [Personal experience, daughter of a police chief, knows the stress.]
  • I saw my father get hurt and have a heart attack in the line of duty and almost die when I was 10 years old.

“She claims she’s not for eliminating the police but she wrote the resolution that gives radical Marxists direct influence over City policy and policing.”
The LVGNA “coffee cup” brochure

  • I saw the stress that that job took on him and I saw him go to an early grave because of the stress.
  • I am appalled, I am angered by the individuals and the groups that say I and my fellow Councilman do not support the police.
  • My father was a police chief and frankly I feel you are spitting on his grave by saying I do not support the police.
  • You can insult me, you can attack me personally, but don’t attack my family and that is what you are doing.
  • [Other family members in police work.]
  • I have nothing but complete respect, love, and admiration for them.
  • I would just ask that the individuals and groups that are spreading these falsehoods please consider the ramifications of your actions.
  • The one thing that is most upsetting is that you are instilling fear needlessly in innocent citizens of our community.

The claim that the Community Engagement Initiative Councilwoman Crampsie Smith co-sponsored with Councilman Reynolds gives direct influence to anybody much less radical Marxists is false.

“Let’s have the humility, respect, and wisdom to ask why”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Residents chatter about the December 1 City Council meeting around Gadfly’s water cooler

Gadfly:

It is more than a fair point that council is subjective regarding length of call-in time. Malicious? I don’t think so. Favoritism? It certainly can be argued. Simple solution, council, take more care for equity AND explain that it is within the President’s purview to extend times – if in fact it is.

Having said that, LV”GN”A HAS maligned, insulted, and spread fear rather than understanding: undefined and unsupported knee-jerk classifying epithets (from shared online posters and the Gunther Walsh radio program) – “Marxist”, “Marxist Crusade”, “Radicals”, “Far Left”, “Leftist”, “Oddball”, “Indoctrinating”, “Infiltrate the government”, “Master Plan”, and “Power Grab” are manipulative, bullying, dangerous fear-mongering attempts serving to incite, suppress, and divide.

To express an opposing opinion is the Constitutional RIGHT OF ALL. Having said THAT, slander and libel  — “Marxist” and the like — are crimes.

Could defunders and abolitionists put things less shockingly, i.e., “read the room” better? Of course.

So LV”GN”A  and it’s supporters COULD educate themselves about and/or acknowledge the damage to our city, nation, and species of the “inter-generational trauma” of slavery, Jim Crow. and its modern legacy, IF the leadership existed among these extreme factions, entrenched in past repressive “norms.”

So our ancestors could have NOT enslaved, abused a people. Wrongs to be righted, STILL.

Yes, there is much suffering outside of our minority family. But NOT because of these brothers and sisters.

Let’s have the humility, respect, and wisdom to ASK WHY defunders and abolitionists no longer soften their complaints!

THEY have been and continue to be oppressed. LV”GN”A,  in their shoes, you’ve demonstrated you would strike outwardly, in your own defense. So THEY have spoken.

To ignore the opinion and argument of another is undemocratic as Pope Francis reminded us of the golden Rule — and so much more fundamental to being truly “Good Neighbors” — in his 2015 address to the joint session of Congress*, a timely reminder and rebuke of our base, selfish, fearful, and materialistic failings.

Let’s unite to recognize our common challenge. You might find the Pope’s words are a good guide for our path forward in continued coexistence.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.christianpost.com/amp/transcript-pope-francis-to-congress-pursue-the-common-good-respect-human-dignity.html

Greg Zahm

What’s missing in LVGNA’s march to victory?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly has liberally quoted recent voices from the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance without comment.

But he does not agree with them.

Here is some of his thinking on that.

  • LVGNA’s two highly placed but unnamed sources who indicated City Council was conspiratorially plotting as a bloc to “defund” the police department were wrong.
  • In fact, two Council members were immediately on record weeks ago as totally opposed to “defunding.”
  • Gadfly followers would know that he, who looks forward to comprehensive discussion but not necessarily “defunding,” has been whining precisely about Council inaction and saw no movement toward a vote of any kind.
  • People paying attention would know that there would be no vote on the police department funding at the regularly scheduled Council meeting December 1, that if there were to be any voting at all it would happen at the budget hearing December 3 and the final vote would not be till December 15.
  • Thus, LVGNA created a false sense of crisis for December 1.
  • People paying attention would know that Council is planning public meetings with and about the police in January, and if there were to be any change in the way policing is done, it surely would not happen till after that public discussion.
  • People paying attention would know that, on their own initiative, the police have instituted a pilot program involving a social worker, without any “defunding,” to be sure, but precisely in the kind of direction that “defunders” would like to see them go.
  • That said, the new Chief has basically recognized that there is a problem to be addressed and Council and police seem to be working cooperatively not antagonistically.
  • The notion fostered by LVGNA that people need to rally at the barricades to defend the police and save public safety from dissolution seems a false narrative.
  • LVGNA has perpetuated the notion of “defunding” — admittedly a poor term to begin with (which is the reason why Gadfly tends to put it in quotes) — as a mindless or Marxist attack on the police rather than a good faith attempt to address some problems by re-imagining how policing is done.
  • Those who call for “defunding” are not monolithic. Gadfly spent several posts on the “abolitionist” who presented at the NCC conference in October. He saw change gradual as public safety moved to a new structure.
  • The notion that “defunders” or “abolitionists” want an immediate end to police departments, throwing civilization into chaos, returning us to the law of the jungle, misunderstands the movement.
  • There were extreme public statements made against the police July 7 — that, yes, gave even Gadfly the shakes — but his response, like those expressed by some members of Council, was to try to understand the basis of such rhetoric not immediately condemn it. That seemed the neighborly thing to do, and certainly would be the role of a Council charged with representing the entire community.
  • Since that time those speaking for change in public safety have been quite moderate both in tone and idea. Gadfly has come to think of them as mainstream “defunders.”
  • In contrast, we find the LVGNA facebook pages filled with extreme hostility: Council members are characterized as “big city leftists,” supporters of “BLM, Antifa, and the criminal element,” toxic, disgusting, Socialist, simple minded, disgraceful, shameful.
  • And we find callers referred to as “radical Marxist anarchists.”
  • The kind of language hardly conducive to the good conversation that builds community.
  • The LVGNA seems to believe that police should be allowed to operate without oversight, especially by the body legislatively charged with doing so.
  • In short, Gadfly has a hard time seeing that LVGNA is doing any good. In fact, quite the contrary.

Without a doubt, the main thing that Gadfly has noticed in the recent self-styled LVGNA march to victory is what is not there.

Not a mention of George Floyd. Nor the other names on the necrology of tragic police encounters with people of color.

Not a mention of awareness of where and why the “defunding” movement started.

Not a mention of the problem the movement is trying to address.

It’s generally agreed that the “defunding” movement began with the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

And in the past six months it crescendo’d with a series of such events spanning George Floyd to Walter Wallace.

If you don’t try to understand the trauma of these events, you will never understand the “radicals.”

LVGNA has 7000 signatories to a petition to defend the police. LVGNA could do a lot of good with that following.

Gadfly has suggested starting a conversation based on a specific “first contact” situation between the police and a member of the community.

Here’s how he put it after his discussion of LVGNA’s “coffee cup” brochure.

Does LVGNA see no first contact problem that needs to be addressed? Gadfly would be curious to know the basis for such a view. That would be good conversation.

Or does LVGNA see a first contact problem and have a solution (such as more training handled internally by a department) but are objecting to “defunding” and/or to the presence of BLM? That would be good conversation too.

Such a conversation would better prepare us for the meetings Council will host with and about the police in January.