Lehigh Valley Stands Up applies full-court press as budget vote nears

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

City Council, November 17, 2020 video
begin min. 14:40

Lehigh Valley Stands Up members or residents supporting them dominated the public comment period at the November 17 City Council meeting, criticizing the budget plan to insulate the police department from cuts and calling for reallocation of resources to Health areas.

Such arguments were generally based on needs generated by the pandemic, and, for the first time, we see such specific proposals as a hiring freeze in the police department, elimination of school resource officers, and cutting — 16% — a specific amount that would double the Health Department budget.

Interesting.

One caller — the final caller — Bruce Haines provided the “other side,” indicating that the police department has been understaffed, that social trip media indicates Bethlehem is not a safe city, and that therefore the police are very important to the business community and others. He also suggested that he has no argument with mental health as a need but that the defunders should explore other options rather than the police department for the necessary funds.

As always, Gadfly points out that his text is paraphrase and incomplete and that he hopes you will take a little time to listen to the voices of your fellow residents as they make their cases.

Public participation. Democracy in action.

Always good.

There are two more meetings where the budget will be discussed, amended, and voted on.

What are you thinking about the issues raised here by community members?

 Jon Irons (4 mins.) (min. 14:40)

Lot of needs in the City: pandemic, economic crisis. The Mayor’s budget is planning for this but leave the police department budget untouched. If there are cuts in personnel anywhere, there should be cuts in police. It’s the biggest slice of the budget and the primary driver of the pension costs. How to cut? School resources officers might be cut. Also a hiring freeze. Hopes in future years for serious divestment in the police department. Health Bureau, for instance, has a lot of needs. Could expand the new social worker program immediately. More public accountability in regard to discipline hearings and firings. Any new training should be within existing budget not new funds or new grants.

W. Market St. lady (2 mins.) (min. 18:35)

Increasing evidence that policing is not working in the way we expect it to. Think strategically and creatively about ways in which we can keep our community safe and healthy.

Michele Downing (3 mins.) (min. 20:20)

Short time to address the impending catastrophes. Mortgages, evictions, housing crisis, student loans, covid, food insecurity, child care, online learning = our social worker program is inadequate. We are not looking at all at what the needs of the City are going to be. We all need to tighten our belts and redistribute as necessary. Videos of cars in line at food banks, and we’re not removed from that. Need discussions of where resources actually belong.

Glenn Nelson (3 mins.) (min. 23:38)

Immediate hiring freeze, and future defunding of police. Reallocation of 16% of police budget would double the Health Department budget, which seems reasonable in the middle of a pandemic. A common sense move when you realize how underfunded the Health bureau has been. It makes sense is a pandemic and financial crisis to see where money is really critically needed. Police department budget has gone up every year a bit, leading to large amount over decades. Unjustifiable in financial crisis not to look at the Police budget, plus we know it’s not working. Putting issues with people of color and with mental issues at higher risk. Hoping for cuts in police officers and addition of mental health personnel.

Cherokee St. lady (3 mins.) (min. 26:25)

Mental health crisis long before covid, now made worse. Worrying about your talk of increased police presence on Southside because knows from personal experience because police re not going to help here, and she is not alone in this belief. These crises in mental health, substance abuse, and covid have shown how deep inequalities are. We need sacrifices everywhere, and the police department is the obvious place to look. Police are not what we need. Part-time social worker and bias training will not help.

Patricia (3 mins.) (min. 28:53)

Supports calls for increased health services in the midst of a pandemic. Affordable public health services have been incredibly helpful to her. Calling 911 for mental health issues — cf. Walter Wallace — is not the answer. Police not trained to deal with such things. I ca sleep easier because of the Bethlehem Health Department but not because of the police. Need to put funds where they help people. People are really concerned as second wave of covid comes in, evictions, student loan payments. Not easy working with budget but keeping things as is will not be a benefit.

Anthony Downing (4 mins.) (min. 32:01)

Concerns of the disabled. Wants to remind people of a time when they were united in regard to caring about health because now cutting fire and other place as well as putting a 5% tax on is going in opposite direction. We should be spending this money in the midst of a global pandemic to bolster our public health, and more police or not cutting police but cutting elsewhere is going in opposite direction. You’ve done the right things before and hope you will be cutting money from police in favor of mental health services now.

Alexander Fisher (3 mins.) (min. 35:52)

Supports cutting police budget and reallocating to mental health services. Not safe calling police for mental health issues. Police department very overfunded. No empirical evidence that shows more policing leads to less crime. Myth that without big police force we would have an unfit society. Not hatred for police but growing move to reimagine the police and their function. Reallocation would make people of color and women feel a lot safer.

———-

Bruce Haines (3 mins.) (min. 39:26)

LV Stands Up has one agenda, to cut the police budget, and using the idea of a national agenda to do that. But that is not a majority position, rather a minority position. Agrees that the police are not meeting needs of the community but reason is that they are understaffed. Department only now fully staffed which gives business community a sense of safety about bringing tourists to Bethlehem. See Trip Advisor — we are considered an unsafe community. Police are critical in Bethlehem putting its best foot forward. No issue with concern for mental health but need to refocus on other options to funding mental health instead of taking money from police. Our police problem is not excessive. We don’t have a major police problem. LV Stands Up tries to make it a problem. I’m here to defend the police and funding for the police and speak for a whole lot of people who haven’t called in because the Mayor’s budget did not cut the police. Speaking for the other side and the safety of our community.

The budget dance (2): the police department

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Budget Hearing November 9 video
public comment, begin min. 3:53:49

“When I was in [a depressed state], the presence of law enforcement . . . made my anxiety spiral out of control.”

“You must make meaningful cuts to the police budget.”

“Implicit bias training and one part-time social worker — it’s insulting, seriously.”

“My ask tonight would be to make a cut to the police department personnel and to put that money to the Health Bureau for mental health services and crisis response and community health services.”

———–

ref: “Defunders” criticize the proposed police budget

Gadfly finishing off what he started a week ago.

Capturing the voices of those who called in at the tail end of the 4+ hour first budget hearing on November 9 to comment on the police budget.

In all, there were 8 comments, all asking for cuts in the police budget and reallocation of those funds elsewhere in the mental health area.

Gadfly captured 4 of those “defunder” voices in the previous post, now the final 4.

There were no “defender” voices at that meeting.

Once you use a metaphor, it’s hard to shake.

So Gadfly continues describing to you what he calls the “budget dance.”

These dancers are not responding so much to the economic issues triggered by the pandemic but to the moral issues set on fire by the murder of George Floyd.

And it’s not clear yet whether these dancers have any partners on Council.

They may be dancing alone.

At least two Council members have said that they would not “defund” the police, but several have spoken as if they would.

No specific plans to do so have been floated by Council members.

And, as a wise Gadfly follower has noted, that’s a problem.

It is one thing to say “defund,” but it does not seem at all likely to even get a hearing unless someone has a very detailed plan of where diverted funds would go and for what purpose.

And, in addition, that it was made very clear and that there was consensus about how fears of diminished community safety because of reduction of police funding were addressed.

It is hard for Gadfly to see that such a complex idea can be presented at this late date with any chance of approval.

In addition, the City/Police Department has advanced a pilot program involving a social worker without “defunding” and at no additional cost, though callers are not satisfied with that program.

Early on Councilman Reynolds foresaw that discussions about any change in public safety would need to start early on if any major changes in the police budget for 2021 would have a chance.

That’s one reason why Gadfly has been so impatient over the past weeks.

But maybe some ideas by Councilfolk are percolating but not yet visible to Gadfly.

In any event, Gadfly encourages you to listen to the voices of your fellows in order to understand the “defunding” impulse. The text here is just quick and dirty highlights.

If you find Gadfly’s audio muffled, follow the link to the meeting video.

Glenn Nelson (3 mins.) (4:13:59)

In Philadelphia Walter Wallace was shot within one minute of police arrival, and he was shot in front of his mother, leaving a wife and unborn child. That is what we want to stop happening here, and mental stress is in no short supply. There seems to be a willingness to allow mental health to languish. As a depressed person, I make up one of five in the population. I have been lucky enough to find voluntary treatment. When I was in that state the presence of law enforcement was not helpful to me. It made my anxiety spiral out of control. The answer to mental health, you can’t have that being a cop. We don’t need a mental health cop that is on the police force. We need other services that already exist. The police aren’t trained for that job, and they shouldn’t be. It is not fiscally responsible to have other departments on skeleton crews. A budget shows what a city values.

Jackie (2 mins.) (4:17:18)

Residents are facing simultaneous public health and economic crises. Police budget could be better directed to help. Lack of comparable cuts to other departments is frankly unacceptable. Council members previously promised LV Stands Up members cuts to the police. If we have 154 members of the police department next year, we have failed. I will not mince my words, your police budget by your own words is a failure. You must make meaningful cuts to the police budget. Free up funds to put back in the community to help manage the crises. It is the city’s responsibility to be proactive to protect citizens in the months ahead. Cops won’t protect us against the virus, joblessness, etc. Investment in other things will. Make the difficult but necessary cuts to the police budget in order to give the residents a fighting chance in the year ahead.

Cherokee St. resident (5 mins.) (4:19:35)

I live in the low to moderate income area. We don’t want more police here, whether they are on horseback, bicycles, etc. Policing does not make our community safer. Our demands have been to defund . . . abolish. Chief, you’re giving us inches when we are asking for miles. Clearly you are listening, you know we want social workers to respond. You clearly recognize that there’s a problem with racism. But you need to take it 500 steps further. There’s no amount of training, or reform, or money that you can throw at the problem of police brutality. Murder of black and brown. Don’t act as if that is not a problem here. Police brutality is a serious issue here. Can’t be glossed over. Won’t just go away. Wallace was murdered by police. We need to be accurate. It is a living, breathing problem in the corrupt institution of policing in our country. Everywhere in America. Budgets are moral documents. We saw Chief DiLuzio spew his morals on Facebook. The residents have clearly spoken. I implore you to listen and do better. Implicit bias training and one part-time social worker — it’s insulting, seriously. Police departments are not equipped to handle the problem of police brutality. Need 3rd party. You need someone else’s viewpoint. The community that I live in do not want you. Safety is not police– we’ve told you over and over again.

Southside resident (3 mins.) (4:24:30)

Very concerned about the budget proposed tonight. We’ve already expressed what we want very clearly. We want fewer police officers. We don’t want or need community engagement. We don’t want community policing. We have asked to divest money from the police into the community, and what we are offered instead is cuts to other departments. Once again, we’re not being listened to. My ask tonight would be to make a cut to the police department personnel. We don’t want armed police officers responding to a mental health crisis. We’ve seen people like Walter Wallace being murdered. More community engagement will not solve this. Social workers not going out on calls won’t solve this. Training won’t solve this. Only divesting funds into mental health services will solve this. This isn’t meant to be a punishment. This is meant to be a helping hand to the community.

Good news from Councilwomen Crampsie Smith and Negron

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

 

Two great developments announced at the November 17 City Council meeting:

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman is focused on homelessness and the housing crisis and has been meeting with people throughout the state, Alan Jennings, and Alicia Karner and announced the first meeting of the Bethlehem Affordable Housing Task Force (members include people from non-profits, financial institutions, city government, developers, etc.) to address the issue of lack of affordable housing and rental properties within the City with a goal of bringing ideas “to the table” by April. Fantastic!

Councilwoman Negron (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman has facilitated a meeting with the Mayor and Chief Kott with Pinebrook Family Services that has been doing work with the Allentown Police Department — with the goal of perhaps working together relative to the new plan by the Police and the Health Bureau to link a social worker to Police activities. Fantastic!

Your tax dollars at work!

Thinking more about supporting the police

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly continuing to think more about the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance and support for the police after his earlier post this morning.

In that November 18 Facebook post commentary, LVGNA says, “Sadly, our request for City Council members to improve their understanding about what our police do and how they do it fell on deaf ears. They only seem to want to hear from the radical activists who share their leftist political bias. Luckily, Council members Olga Negron, Adam Waldron and Grace Crampsie Smith are coming up for re-election in November 2021. Perhaps Bethlehem’s voters should help them move on to jobs where they would do less damage.”

LVGNA specifically targets Councilpeople Negron, Crampsie Smith, and Waldron for negative focus at next election time, which would really be the May primary not November. And campaigns will be starting soon. In Allentown, for instance, several people have already declared for mayor.

But there is also a 4th Councilperson up for re-election next year.

That Councilperson is Bryan Callahan.

Councilman Callahan does not seem to be on LVGNA’s negative re-election radar.

LVGNA is not suggesting that their followers help move Councilman Callahan on.

Now it is true that except for Councilman Callahan, one does not hear magniloquent [good opportunity to use today’s Merriam-Webster word-of-the-day] encomiums [good SAT word] about the police.

Gadfly is not sure there is anything especially deducible from that about the other three, at least not without substantial additional evidence.

But it is true that Councilman Callahan has been known to deliver something like magniloquent encomiums that contain many true points about the police.

Gadfly has knit together here two such examples, a short one from the November 9 budget hearing (1 min.) and a bit longer one from the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting (4 mins.).

Listen.

Something in the Councilman’s words is bothersome to the Gadfly.

It’s the strain of uncritical adulation.

Gadfly has heard this tone before.

Councilman Callahan is unabashedly, unashamedly pro-developer. Gadfly has heard this tone before in his direct personally praiseworthy address to the owner of 2 W. Market during a tough City Council meeting.

Gadfly knows he’s being the quintessential unpopular gadfly here and knows he’ll get a slap upside the head, but the gushing praise for Chief Kott (he knew she was going places) that elicits her muted, embarrassed “thank you” and his desire for the Chief to give an atta-boys-and-girls shout-out to the entire police force for him seems out of place (imagine how this would be done — loudspeaker announcements, emails to everybody, taking time at roll calls).

Gadfly is no expert on Council protocol, but such pronouncements from the Head Table can suggest attempts to curry favor.

And statements like “our police department is way ahead of most police departments in the country” just feel a little too hyperbolic for Gadfly’s liking.

The job of the Councilman in a strong Mayor-Council form of government is to be a check-and-balance. And the job of a Councilman in this cultural moment of reckoning with race is hard-nosed, open-minded, unprejudiced analysis of the way we do public safety.

Gadfly needs to feel the Councilman is capable of those things.

The Good Neighbors are looking for good stories

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance November 18

Followers might remember that Gadfly recently spent 7 posts on the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, ending with the line lets “see if we have common ground.”

Here’s some common ground.

Gadfly agrees that the police department doesn’t get enough recognition for the good it does.

Even he recognizes that in this post-GeorgeFloyd period of national reckoning with race that he has a tendency to take the good the police do for granted and head right to the problems.

There needs to be a balance.

Gadfly needs to be balanced.

So Gadfly applauds a concerted focus on stories of exemplary service by police.

He wishes, however, that LVGNA had dropped the parenthesis “(including several Bethlehem City Council members)” in the no doubt truthful claim that many do not realize and appreciate all the good police do.

(The extensive list of activities the Chief presented at the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting was very instructive in that regard.)

That’s unnecessary red meat in Gadfly’s estimation.

Because for most of the 30+ responders to this post at the moment, the parenthesis became paramount.

There is only one good story of invaluable service by the police.

Instead, there is name-calling: Council is useless, out of touch, clueless, reckless, liars, schemers, jerks, criminals (yes, there’s a call to lock ’em up!).

Instead, there is hyperbolic, emotionally charged terms: radical activist, leftist political bias, co-conspirators.

Lets have the good stories.

Lets have the common ground.

The common ground that enables the tough conversations we inevitably have to have.

How does LVGNA see first contact?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (1)
ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (2)
ref: Community Engagement Initiative resolution approved July 7
ref: Has Council succumbed to the heat?
ref: Looking closely at the LVGNA position
ref: Gadfly has a “conversation” with LVGNA
ref: Gadfly continues his “conversation” with LVGNA

Time for Gadfly to take his tongue out of his cheek.

To Gadfly’s mind, the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, as represented in the November 2 Facebook post and the “Coffee Cup” brochure, is going in the wrong direction in the discussion of policing made imperative by the killing of George Floyd.

Gadfly has nothing against our police department, but he is convinced that this is the time for a thorough analysis of how we do public safety.

The country is severely divided on this issue, as with many others..

Gadfly sees the LVGNA approach he has just analyzed as exacerbating division.

How can that be any good?

Gadfly seeks the conversation that builds community.

Gadfly would like to invite LVGNA into a discussion aimed at solving a specific problem in policing, a problem with what he calls the “first contact” situation.

Followers have seen him describe his thinking about the first contact situation here in many posts.

The necrology of problematic first contact situations that have riveted widespread public attention and stirred widespread public unrest includes George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Walter Wallace.

Those names have become household names.

Gadfly sees a disturbing readily apparent pattern in these first contact situations: someone dies (often a POC), textbook police training is called into question, a rift between police and the community opens, officer careers get disrupted or ruined, residents are traumatized, racism is charged, rioting and unrest follow, lives and property of innocent people are lost and damaged, law suits result, tax payers typically pay millions.

Everybody loses.

And the cycle starts at that first contact.

Gadfly doesn’t want to see such a pattern play out here. We had a botched first contact situation 20-some years ago and only finished paying for it not too long ago. Not to mention his worrying about the racial dimension to which we are now so sensitive in a city whose population is almost 40% POC .

The repetition of the pattern suggests to Gadfly an inherent problem about which something should be done.

It does not seem sufficient or satisfactory to him to say that the above mentioned “tragedies” are caused by chance or by “bad apples” — or by the citizen subjects themselves.

Gadfly has suggested that a meeting on policing take place with an image of the Walter Wallace first contact with two officers in Philadelphia October 26 (but it could be any number of images) framing this question for the discussants: “If you agree that there was not a good outcome here for either the subject, or the officers (it must be shattering to kill some one in any circumstance), or the community, how do we avoid such an outcome?”

Such discussions have led people around the country to suggest reimagining how public safety is done and reallocating resources appropriately. That’s what is, in an unfortunate term, called “defunding” the police.

Gadfly may be wrong, but his sense is that those opposed to “defunding” are resistant to any analysis of, any change in the present state of policing, and Gadfly can only deduce that they do not see any problem the police are responsible for in the first contact situations that have become imprinted on our minds.

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.

Lets have good conversation from LVGNA. And see if we have common ground.

Councilman Reynolds nudges the Chief for a plan

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Chief Kott outlines her new plans at the budget meeting
ref: Colon and Kott eye a “Hub” program

Toward the end of the Budget hearing, Councilman Reynolds kind of reminded Chief Kott that she had spoken about a reorganization and reinvestment plan for the department.

Gadfly had not remembered the Chief saying that with such specificity.

The Chief replies yes: “We were going to try to take a look at the overall department and refocus, make the department more refocused into community services, specifically in that community services division that we have under the patrol division.” (5 mins.)

Councilman Reynolds specifically uses the terms reorganization and reinvestment.

That’s “defunder” (still stuck with that term) lingo.

And, though Gadfly got lost in the Councilman’s wordage a bit, he thinks he made out that Reynolds was looking for such a plan not only in the turn-of-the year meeting that Councilman Colon will set up to look at, for one thing, the “first contact” situation that Gadfly has whined about but also he was looking for some sense of that plan at the final budget meeting December 15.

That’s interesting.

It might just mean that Councilman Reynolds is starting to set deadlines for the Chief (she’s been getting sort of a pass so far in her honeymoon period) or that there might be some possible budget shifting for 2021.

In any event, things are heating up in regard to the police department, which Gadfly is glad to see.

Yes, interesting.

Gadfly continues his “conversation” with LVGNA

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

The Coffee Cup brochure

“[LVGNA’s] ‘Coffee Cup’ brochure is a classic of its kind! It is a work of high art in the genre of rabid partisan politics. Gadfly cannot help but recognize the skill of its construction. The brochure will be effective. And Council has no ready means to combat its message.”
The Gadfly, November 12

ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (1)
ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (2)
ref: Community Engagement Initiative resolution approved July 7
ref: Has Council succumbed to the heat?
ref: Looking closely at the LVGNA position
ref: Gadfly has a “conversation” with LVGNA

Gadfly has called the “Coffee Cup” brochure by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance a classic of its genre. What does he mean by that? Let’s break the brochure down and identify several of its textbook tactical stylistic elements, the better to appreciate the skill with which it is constructed to achieve its goal:

Sensationalism: beginning with grim reapers strikes the proper apocalyptic note, for we know civilization will crumble if the police department does its business in a different way.

Caricature: the dangling puppet image is a great way to cloud remembrance of such service by the senior-in-tenure councilman as his two terms as council president and his initiation of programs like the Climate Action Plan and Northside 2027.

Innuendo: “Councilman J. William Reynolds wants to be mayor” slyly takes a laudable ambition based on a significant record of public service and taints it with a suggestion of self-serving whorishness by a man who will do anything to get power.

Trivializing: “Olga’s Ultimatum” and “Willie’s World” sound respectively like a chapter in a 4th grade reader and a section of an amusement park.

Delightful nonsense: a sentence like “Councilman Waldron confused about where the truth begins and his career ends” is a meaningless non-sequitor, but it is pure music, pure poetry  and will mesmerize the audience.

Cannodading use of capital letters: a very simple and basic device that can always be counted on to pulverize any contrary opinion without the bother of convincing argument.

Branding: the brand “CANCEL CULTURE,” for instance, is a convenient short-hand that saves a lot of time and avoids having to explain that the former police chief performed, perhaps innocently, a bonehead act in a period of exquisite national sensitivity about law enforcement and race, an act that objectively compromised his front-line leadership of a law enforcement department that he and others touted as one of the best in the state, an act that caused him to be disciplined (not fired) in appropriately harsh words by his usually mild-mannered boss, a boss who is his friend and who defended his appointment to the position of Chief seven years ago, an act which the Chief never adequately explained or apologized for before deciding to retire. Branding is so handy.

Loaded language: though the Cold War is so old news, a word like “Marxist” is still a knock-out punch. If someone says they are going to monitor your conversations, call them Marxist! It doesn’t matter if there is no connection. If you call defunding the police Marxist, no one will ask for an explanation how or why. The word is magic.

Fear-mongering: nothing bonds an audience to you more than revealing a danger they weren’t aware of. It is even more effective if you can make them feel that you and only you are the source of help dealing with that danger.

Intimidation: don’t waste time arguing your point, mobilize supporters, draw up a petition, make the polling place not the debate hall the focus of your activity. Make Council feel your eyes, your hot breath on them. Make them feel prey.

Anonymity: use of blank terms like “us” and “concerned citizens” helps avoid having to bother with the personal, time-consuming, and work-distracting nastiness that comes with this level of politics.

There, that should give you an idea of why Gadfly tips his hat to and marvels at the entrance of the “Coffee Cup” brochure by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance into Bethlehem’s serious deliberations as part of our national reckoning with race in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

to be continued . . .

“Defunders” criticize the proposed police budget; the “defenders” are absent

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Budget Hearing November 9 video
public comment, begin min. 3:53:49

“We expect this Council to invest in anti-racism.”

“We are not being listened to.”

“Part-time social worker? A band-aid.”

“Unconscionable to pass a budget without a reduction in the police budget.”

The Budget meetings can be hum-drum. The one November 9 was going into its 5th hour, and Gadfly thought it would sleepily just whimper to close. Who could believe that there would be public comment after all that? But the police were on the agenda, we are in the post-GeorgeFloyd era, and interest was there. So we were all woken up a bit by the ringing phone. 8 people called in. All finding dissatisfaction with the budget. All — in the unfortunate term we are stuck with — “defunders.” Where, O where were the “defenders,” especially right after the November 2 post complaining about not being heard. Strange.

Gadfly encourages you to listen to the voices of your fellows. The text is just quick and dirty highlights.

Horona Ochs (6 mins.) (min.3:53:49)

Police pensions higher than others because of the clout of their collective bargaining units and thus slight others. Increase of police budget at expense of other public servants is moving in the wrong direction. We expect this Council to invest in anti-racism. Cuts to police personnel are difficult but others have done it. Need to invest in things that bring us together not institutions of force. The Chief has good goals but not sure that the money needed for them is best given to the police department. Armed officers not likely to increase a feeling of inclusivity in the community.

John Irons (5 mins.) (min. 3:59:50)

We’re not being listened to. The budget is not responsive to what we’ve been talking about. We don’t need police officers doing things outside of their job descriptions. We need less police officers. We’re taking personnel away from critical services like fire. Police doing things with trees, abandoned cars, etc., that City services should be doing. We would like to see the police department take some of the personnel cuts other departments are. We put you into power, we delivered the 2020 election. We hope that Council will respect the priorities the community has already stated.

Anthony Downing (3 mins.) (min. 4:07:26)

We’ve made our beliefs clear. Police responding to every single call with a gun is not what makes folks feel safe. Police responding to cars is not called for. Council not answering the concerns of the community. Part-time social worker? A band-aid. Continue to deal with drug addiction, homelessness, etc., with people armed with weapons. This budget does not address concerns of the community. Fire department and other social services that help our community should be getting the money. We demand it. Hope that the final budget will include those concerns.

Allison Mickel (3 mins.) (min. 4:10:30)

Massive voter turn-out in recent election. 91% said police violence was an issue. We have shared data with Council. Mandate is there to reduce police violence. Unconscionable to pass a budget without a reduction in the police budget. A moral imperative.

Colon and Kott eye a “Hub” program

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Chief Kott outlines her new plans at the budget meeting

Here FYI is the line item portion of the Police budget. If money were to be moved around, it would be from here. The police remain about 20% of the total budget of the City.

Gadfly mentioned in the previous post that we are beginning to learn more about the ideas that Chief Kott has as she is settling in to her new role leading the department.

Later in the Budget meeting Councilman Colon initiated an interesting conversation about a “Hub” program such as the one in Upper Macungie.

The Councilman seemed quite interested and willing to back it — though apparently seeing it existing without additional staff or resources — and the Chief reciprocated that interest and spun out a bit more on department involvement with a social worker. (7 mins.)

Interesting, but note that this Hub program does not specifically address the “first contact” situation that Gadfly has his shorts in a bunch about.

Selections from Louis Gombocz, “Upper Macungie police brief supervisors on program to get people help.” August 7, 2020.

{Sitkoski] then turned his attention to another unique feature of the Upper Macungie Township Police Department: its adoption and implementation of a HUB program. Sitoski introduced officer William Rohrbach, who presented the details to the board of supervisors.

Rohrbach, the department’s community services manager, along with Lt. Peter Nickischer brought the two-year-old program in Upper Macungie from Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County, which modeled its program on one in Canada.

Rohrbach explained that it brings communitywide resources – including social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, social service agencies and the district attorney’s office – to residents who need assistance before they become part of the criminal justice system.

“We get people help before they become an issue,” Rohrbach said, adding that the program has decreased crime as well as police calls.

Rohrbach said that residents receive action plans as the result of police referrals. People from ages 7 to 86 have been involved in the program, however about 20% of the clients are between 10 and 19.

Gadfly has a “conversation” with LVGNA

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (1)
ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (2)
ref: Community Engagement Initiative resolution approved July 7
ref: Has Council succumbed to the heat?
ref: Looking closely at the LVGNA position

Gadfly finds himself very intrigued by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance. He feels a kind of kinship. They are playing a gadfly kind of role — outsiders with “eyes” on City Council trying to stir awareness in and the participation of the larger community in the workings of City government. And their “Coffee Cup” brochure sure exemplifies Gadfly rule #1 — go to the primary sources. Lots of quotes there and links to the meeting archives for substantiation.

However, Gadfly had a hard time with the style of the two LVGNA documents linked above, and thus what he did in the last post was attempt to parse out what he thought was the skeletal framework of ideas that lay underneath that style.

And he used that skeletal framework to focus some thinking overnight about those ideas. Here’s what he came up with.

  • The purpose of that [July 7 Community Engagement Initiative] resolution was to defund the police department, endangering public safety.

That doesn’t seem right to Gadfly. There’s a link to the resolution above. Gadfly would like to see LVGNA directly connect the dots from the words of the resolution to a defunding purpose. Gadfly is in “show me” mood here. Connect the dots. Moreover — bigger picture — Gadfly doesn’t find defunding so scary an idea. In this morning’s Call, a columnist says defunding may be the “dumbest political slogan ever.” Agreed. What people labeled as defunders are talking about is reimagining how public safety is done. The goal of public safety is keeping all people safe not keeping a certain way of doing public safety in existence forever unchanged. If the current mode of doing public safety isn’t keeping all people safe, then it makes sense to seek another mode. Those advocating reimagining how public safety can be done believe the current system isn’t keeping all people safe, therefore they seek change. Gadfly sees no problem with that. Gadfly has done some research in cities that have successfully reimagined their public safety structures. These models are not hare-brained. They do not move so quickly as to endanger public safety.

  • In creating and passing that resolution, Council listened only to advocates of defunding.

Gadfly doesn’t understand this objection. Yes, commentary at the July 7 meeting was one-sided. Gadfly wondered about that at the time. Gadfly was puzzled that the “defenders” of the police (these terms are awkward and imprecise, but we’re kind of stuck with them) were not there. But surely that cannot be Council’s fault. Where were members of the “other side”? The meeting was open to the public. Now that lack of balance was surely remedied at the August 11 meeting where defenders out numbered the re-imaginers. Council heard plenty from the “other side” that night.

  • The advocates of defunding who spoke July 7 favored the resolution.

Gadfly finds this point very curious. Gadfly thinks that to a person the “defunder” commenters (again, we’re stuck with the terminology) were either dissatisfied with the resolution or dead-set against it. If the purpose of the resolution was to defund, dismantle, etc. the police department, the defunders and dismantlers didn’t see it that way!!! How odd!!! Gadfly agrees, though, that the responses from the 4 Councilmembers quoted on the brochure would give the impression that in listening to the defunders, they were agreeing with them. That’s why Gadfly has been puzzled by subsequent silence on Council’s part and why he was so interested in the LVGNA claim of putting the brakes on Council action.

  • Council actively ignored, discredited, suppressed (censored?) opposing views.

This is the distinct impression that Gadfly came away with from the two LVGNA documents. This is an egregious claim or, at the least, insinuation. Badly needs evidence. Again, LVGNA has to connect the dots here.

  • The conscious, intended effect of the Community Engagement Initiative is to exclude some people from the community (such as those who oppose defunding the police).

Gadfly’s immediate response is that this claim or insinuation by LVGNA is patently absurd — prima facie. The resolution is about “Community Engagement,” it’s about wide inclusion, and it is done in a so open-ended, passive way that Gadfly has criticized it for being bound to be ineffective. It goes to an extreme to be inclusive. LVGNA could even sponsor a meeting as part of the Community Engagement. Again, Gadfly is in a “show me” mode here. LVGNA needs to connect the dots.

  • Council is a monolithic body, 7 people all on the same page, operating in unison as one body.

Gadfly’s backing off on the “monolithic” reading he previously made of LVGNA here. He now sees that the brochure does exempt Councilmen Callahan and Colon from the “bad guys.” I think LVGNA could have made clearer that they mean a “majority” of Council are “betraying” the City. However, he thinks they do create the impression that the danger to the public stems from the entire Council walking in lock-step with the “defunders.” In fact, saddle up, gang, I would expect discussion to be robust if issues or proposals ever get to Council.

  • This monolithic Council has a radical political agenda.

Remember, forget the “monolithic.” Council isn’t “monolithic.” Radical political agendas is a “loaded” term, but, in any event, radical political agendas don’t scare Gadfly. But he should have been more specific. He should have asked what LVGNA meant by that term. He guesses at root it might be the eradication of “systemic racism.” LVGNA puts that term in quotes on the their post probably to indicate their belief that systemic racism is a fiction. Gadfly believes in it. And, yes, he would guess that each Council member believes in it too. Systemic racism is obviously a polarizing issue and is too big an issue to tackle here in a few lines, but you know what came to Gadfly’s mind? That moment in one of the early post GeorgeFloyd meetings in which the former Police Chief — a victim of “Cancel Culture” according to LVGNA — rather movingly agreed with Councilman Reynolds that certain people in our culture don’t start from the same spot in life as the Chief and the Councilman did and didn’t benefit from the same advantages they did. That, Gadfly thought, was an honest, touching acknowledgment of systemic racism from a person LVGNA respects.

  • Reliable sources, necessarily unnamed, have revealed that the monolithic Council has discussed defunding in secret, perhaps in violation of the Sunshine Laws.

Awww, Gadfly recognizes the need to protect sources — been there, done that — but this is a bit too dramatic for Gadfly. Are 4, maybe 5, god forbid 7, cabal-ing in the basement of Mach’s Gute or somewhere? Judge Judy would call this hearsay.

  • LVGNA activists have stopped Council’s police defunding scheme and continue to work to preserve public safety in Bethlehem.

All Gadflies always struggle with humility.

to be continued . . .

Chief Kott outlines her new plans at the budget meeting

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Here’s the beginning of the Police section of the 2021 Budget book — the narrative section that precedes the line-by-line items.

The Chief selected certain items here and on the following pages to talk about at the Budget meeting on November 9.

Gadfly has selected here the portion of the Chief’s presentation dealing with new programs, which are his special interest (5 mins.).

The Chief talks about:

  • integration of a social worker
  • community engagement events
  • collaboration with other departments
  • specific kinds of officer training
  • record keeping/tracking — complaints, etc.
  • foot/bike patrols in low/moderate income areas (Yosko and 5 Points)
  • dealing with quality of life issues: abandoned vehicles, grass cutting, house structural issues, etc.
  • the goal being to increase community non-enforcement interactions

With each public appearance, the Chief gives more details of her thinking.

Give a listen.

Looking closely at the LVGNA position

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (1)
ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (2)
ref: Community Engagement Initiative resolution approved July 7

Followers know that Gadfly loves citizen voices.

There’s a lot coming at us in the two documents from the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, and it comes at us in a dramatic, highly stylized, and even sensationalized way.

So Gadfly has taken a step back and tried to boil their position down to a few bullets in order to think more clearly about their position.

See if you agree with the following:

  • Council passed a Community Engagement Initiative resolution July 7.
  • The purpose of that resolution was to defund the police department, endangering public safety.
  • In creating and passing that resolution, Council listened only to advocates of defunding.
  • The advocates of defunding who spoke July 7 favored the resolution.
  • Council actively ignored, discredited, suppressed (censored?) opposing views.
  • The conscious, intended effect of the Community Engagement Initiative is to exclude some people from the community (such as those who oppose defunding the police).
  • Council is a monolithic body, 7 people all on the same page, operating in unison as one body.
  • This monolithic Council has a radical political agenda.
  • Reliable sources, necessarily unnamed, have revealed that the monolithic Council has discussed defunding in secret, perhaps in violation of the Sunshine Laws.
  • LVGNA activists have stopped Council’s police defunding scheme and continue to work to preserve public safety in Bethlehem.

to be continued . . .

Has Council succumbed to the heat?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (1)
ref: Putting the Heat on City Council (2)

Gadfly is not a regular Facebook user.

He has a personal Facebook page as well as a page for the Bethlehem Gadfly.

But he rarely goes to either.

It just so happens that he went to his personal Facebook page last Thursday November 5 and found the “Betrayal of Bethlehem by Our Own City Council” post plus the “Coffee Cup” brochure from the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance dated November 2.

(Yiii, November 2, Election Day eve, Gadfly gives the LVGNA a tip o’ the hat for the ability to think about anything else at that time.)

Gadfly doesn’t understand how that post got there. The workings of Facebook are truly a mystery to him. But he’s glad it got there.

For he wonders if it explains something that has been puzzling him.

Followers will recognize that Gadfly has been impatient with the pace and the indirection with which the City and City Council have been playing their part in the national reckoning with race that has characterized the post-GeorgeFloyd era.

And he has been trying to understand why that is.

Gadfly really doesn’t know anything about the internal politics of our City.

But he knows there is a meaningful election coming up. He knows 4 Council members will be on the ballot (should they choose to run again, of course) — Councilpeople Callahan, Crampsie Smith, Negron, and Waldron). He thinks he knows that at least 2 Council members may be running for Mayor.

So Gadfly has been playing with the idea that the reason for the slow pace and indirection he has been whining about is . . . “politics.”

Perhaps, thought Gadfly, who is totally ignorant of these matters, the Police are a powerful political force in the City, that candidates benefit from the “endorsement” of the Police, that candidates would want to be viewed as pro-police, and that any questioning of the Police is dangerous politically because it could tag you as anti-police.

Perhaps, thought Gadfly, who is totally ignorant of these matters, questioning of the Police is a political minefield on which any Councilperson mindful of self-preservation would want to tread lightly.

(Is Gadfly mistaken when he says he seems to have observed a significant proliferation of those “Support your Police” yard signs around town lately.)

He remembers that right out of the gate two Councilpeople pledged that they would never “defund” the police. Gadfly thought that odd to do before any discussion — a clear indication that minds were already made up, an indication that minds were closed. Never a happy thought for Gadfly.

Gadfly remembers that one Council member kind of went out of his way to remind “us” that another Council member had entertained the idea of “defunding” — a sign that the issue was hot.

So, could politics be the answer to Gadfly’s puzzlement? He hated to think so — holding idealistically to the belief that Councilpeople are independent thinkers.

But, being totally ignorant of these matters, he hesitated to raise the question of the part that “politics” was playing in inquiries about the way we do public safety.

And then he finds LVGNA is orchestrating a political campaign claiming their “political activism” has “temporarily stopped [City Council’s] police defunding scheme in its tracks.”

Wow! Could this be true? Is the LVGNA political campaign the reason for the Council silences, the lack of urgency, the feet dragging that Gadfly has been whining about?

If so, Gadfly is a bit sympathetic, for, though he feels that LVGNA is pretty much totally off-base and misleading, that “Coffee Cup” brochure is a classic of its kind! It is a work of high art in the genre of rabid partisan politics. Gadfly cannot help but recognize the skill of its construction. The brochure will be effective. And Council has no ready means to combat its message.

We will come back to look at LVGNA’s post and brochure in more detail, but Gadfly’s day job is going to consume most of his day.

In the meantime, Gadfly invites you to spend a good bit of time on the LVGNA material and comment on what you see.

Demographic proportionality more useful for raising questions than answering

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

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

ref: “Trail monitoring again”

Gadfly:

As with most statistics, demographic proportionality is more useful for raising questions than thinking it is an answer.

WHY are there fewer POC on the trails, Main Street, and in the police department and the rest of the city administration?

•  Do they feel less than fully welcome?
•  Are marketing and recruiting efforts designed only by white people, and is that part of the problem?
•  Considerable effort is expended to market the trails, downtown, and events?  Is an equivalent effort made to market to POC?
•  How about recruiting efforts for city staff and especially for the PD?

At  the same time, it’s important to remember that proportionate staffing in PD does not necessarily mean problem solved — it’s often the case that POC serving as officers are pushed into conforming with the existing culture. As a result, we see police departments where performance by officers of color is just as problematic as performance of white officers. And just as there are a few white people who go into policing for the wrong reasons — such as liking the authority and power it conveys — the same thing can happen with a minority candidate.

Peter

Allentown Chief is thinking about the “first contact” situation, we’re not

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

“Allentown’s police chief is asking the city for a little more money next year for programs that could lessen the chance of a deadly encounter between a citizen
and an officer.”

As always, this is Gadfly keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. Allentown is addressing the “first contact” situation. While Bethlehem is not.

Selections from Paul Muschick, “Defund the police? Why that’s a bad idea in Allentown.” Morning Call, November 2, 2020.

Allentown’s police chief is asking the city for a little more money next year for programs that could lessen the chance of a deadly encounter between a citizen and an officer, and improve relations with the community.

The request is reasonable. I hope it doesn’t become a target of the defund the police movement.

You can’t take funding away from police departments and expect officers to be well-trained and well-equipped to respond perfectly to every situation. In many cases, a top-notch department will cost more.

Philadelphia police have been criticized for fatally shooting a knife-wielding, mentally ill man on Monday instead of trying to subdue him with a Taser. But the officers were not equipped with Tasers.

Thousands of Philadelphia officers don’t carry them despite a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Justice and a plan that was put into place several years ago to make Tasers standard equipment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A police spokesman said funding was an issue.

We will never know if a Taser would have made a difference. But if it had, and if Walter Wallace Jr. hadn’t died, the looting and rioting that are terrorizing parts of Philadelphia now wouldn’t be happening.

Fortunately, Allentown has not had such problems.

The goal is to keep it that way, and some of the additional money that police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. asked for on Wednesday could help.

He is seeking $40.8 million for the department next year, an increase of about 1.25% from the $40.3 million budget approved for this year.

The additional expenses include a second community intervention specialist, a civilian who arranges services, including mental health services, to people who need assistance with problems that may result in police being called. By getting them help, the goal is to reduce the need for police to repeatedly respond to the same location for the same issue.

Granitz said the city is working with Cedar Crest College to analyze the impact the specialists are having, including whether there is a decrease in officers using force.

Other budget requests include money to upgrade and expand the city’s network of street surveillance cameras. Not only can the cameras help officers solve crimes, but they can be used to hold officers accountable if they do something wrong.

The department also wants to replace its 10-year-old robot, which also is outdated and inefficient. The newer one slated for purchase is more nimble and able to climb stairs and reach small areas of buildings that cannot be reached by the current robot.

During standoffs and other tense situations, robots can be used to communicate with people and serve as the eyes and ears of officers, instead of an officer coming face to face with someone who may react violently.

The department also wants to increase training, and complete training it already has begun. About 40% of Allentown officers have gone through crisis intervention training, which includes instruction from not only law enforcement professionals, but from mental health providers and family advocates.

“This is something that I believe the community is asking for,” Granitz said.

If city residents want a top-notch force that’s well-trained and well-equipped to deal with problems, and to prevent riot-inciting incidents, they have to be willing to pay for it.

Pilot program connecting police with a social worker

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Committee of the Whole meeting, October 29, 2020

Meeting documents here

view meeting here

“We’re not talking about things, it seems to me, that really matter.”
The Gadfly

ref: “I didn’t hear anything that I wanted to hear or anything that I felt I needed to hear”
ref: audio clip: Gadfly comment at Committee of the Whole October 22
ref: “Gadfly suggests a ‘first contact’ focus”
ref: “Maybe a meeting on ‘first contact’ situations”

Ok, so the city and the council are not doing what Gadfly wants.

So what is the City doing?

The Mayor indicates the City has “learned from reflection” and is engaging in “re-investment in our community.”

The evidence for that is a new pilot program to integrate social work into the police department. The Health department has one social worker on staff and an intern from the Kutztown Masters program in social work for a full academic year. The intern is a freebie. The social worker is funded mostly by grants, and her work has been shifted around internally to accommodate the pilot. The pilot is beginning soon with one police platoon. After going out on a call, an officer can refer an individual to the social worker for any number of reasons. It is not clear, but Gadfly assumes that any subsequent subject contact with that social worker would be voluntary. The social worker would not go out on calls with an officer. Officers will get training from outside organizations like Turning Point. Data will be collected during the pilot, providing the basis for enlargement of the program to the other platoons if successful. The plan is to begin with that one platoon in December and expand to the rest of the department in the following year. The source of future funding would be grants. Gadfly did not get a sense that enlargement of the program would include having a social worker make “first contact” calls. If it did, funding would have to be worked out. The hope is that the program as thought of now will save officer time in the field and reduce arrests.

Mayor’s opening statement (2 mins):

“The tragic death of Mr. George Floyd last spring set off an unprecedented series of events. We have watched on tv, followed on social media, and witnessed in Bethlehem the response that continues across the country and beyond to this day. Social justice, social equity, systemic racism, mental health, peaceful protests, defund — these are words we’ve heard used many times these past months. As Councilman Reynolds stated at a recent City Council meeting, quote, many of these phrases have different definitions for different people. Through these conversations with citizens and government officials, we have heard the calls for re-investment in our community. As a city Bethlehem has long fostered the idea that investing in our community provides opportunities for growth, not only for our citizens but for the city as a whole. Embracing these concepts is what sets Bethlehem apart from other cities and keeps us moving forward. We want to take this opportunity to show City Council the investment we are making, what we have learned from reflection, and what we plan to do moving forward. I believe it is important to spend some time presenting some of the critical support services our city provides in order to address the important issues I have mentioned as well as the new initiatives that are underway before the budget process begins. Tonight’s focus is to explain specific programs that are embedded throughout the budget. In order to do that . . .”

Health director Wenrich and Chief Kott explain the program:

Wenrich (2 mins.)

 

Kott (1 min.)

 

Councilman Colon and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith ask questions:

Colon (5 mins.)

 

Crampsie Smith (3 mins.)

Gadfly, of course, sees lots of good in this new program, as well as in the many existing programs laid out at the Committee of the Whole meeting on October 22.

Gadfly simply sees a higher priority.

New Police Chief Kott was touted at her appointment as “trained in the areas of mental health, cultural awareness, de-escalation tactics, implicit bias, and crisis intervention,” and Gadfly was hoping to see evidence of such things in the plans by the Chief right out of the gate.

Maybe a meeting on “first contact” situations

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Committee of the Whole meeting, October 29, 2020

Meeting documents here

view meeting here

“We’re not talking about things, it seems to me, that really matter.”
The Gadfly

ref: “I didn’t hear anything that I wanted to hear or anything that I felt I needed to hear”
ref: audio clip: Gadfly comment at Committee of the Whole October 22
ref: “Gadfly suggests a ‘first contact’ focus”

Here comes Gadfly’s one-man band again.

Playing the “first contact” song again.

Gadfly just can’t understand why the first contact situation isn’t at the top of everyone’s agenda.

It’s where people die. Needlessly.

It’s where textbook training sometimes gets tossed.

It’s where law enforcement careers get ruined.

It’s where communities get irresolvably traumatized.

It’s where suspicions of systemic racism get exacerbated.

It’s where rioting is catalyzed.

It’s where taxpayers pay millions for suits.

WTH.

Gadfly comes near screaming for us to wake up.

But all was not for naught at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

At the very tail end, Councilman Reynolds played the “first contact” song, suggesting a meeting on the subject, perhaps a Public Safety meeting. (2.5 mins.)

Gadfly very much appreciated the Councilman giving the idea some life.

But he is not very confident anything will happen.

At this point Gadfly will respectfully register a sense of impatience with Councilman Colon, chair of the Public Safety Committee. While supporting such a meeting as Councilman Reynolds suggested, Gadfly senses no urgency in Councilman Colon’s voice. He is the man who has said several times that he believes change takes time, comes slowly. Frankly, Councilman Colon seems too comfortable with the status quo for the dyspeptic Gadfly’s liking. He is the one who should have seen the need for such a meeting without the prompting of Councilman Reynolds. And Gadfly remembers how long it took for the first post-GeorgeFloyd Public Safety meeting to happen, after which the 6hrs of commentary there went into a black hole.

It will be tough to get a meeting at this time of year (budget season), chair Colon rightly attests, but Gadfly thinks he hears a call for sacrifice in President Waldron’s concluding words (2 mins.).

People are dying good chairman Colon, very often people of color. Let’s get ‘er done, dude, as John Wayne says in the classic Western “Rio Grande.”

Gadfly suggests a “first contact” focus

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Committee of the Whole meeting, October 29, 2020

Meeting documents here

view meeting here

“We’re not talking about things, it seems to me, that really matter.”
The Gadfly

ref: “I didn’t hear anything that I wanted to hear or anything that I felt I needed to hear”
ref: audio clip: Gadfly comment at Committee of the Whole October 22

Gadfly was really cranky at the Committee of the Whole meeting last Thursday.

He even declaimed that the new Chief of Police needed to “step up.” O my. Not good. Whoa, Gadfly.

So cranky that he knew he had to step away for a couple days.

And did.

Now back.

Gadfly realizes he’s been like a one-man band on the issue of a tough conversation with our police.

Nobody else seems to care.

That doesn’t mean Gadfly sees anything wrong with our police department.

However, he does remember the “warrior” recruiting video on the department web site not too long ago that came down as soon as it received attention. And mindful of the adage that a Chief sets the tone for a department, Gadfly remembers that the past Chief was on (perhaps for innocent reason) a questionable web site, from which he made a racially insensitive re-post, and for which he did not admit or acknowledge or apologize for the insensitivity. Gadfly remembers that in the early post-GeorgeFloyd era discussions, the Chief kind of blamed the victim, indicating officers respond in proportion to the violence offered to them, missing the point of subjects with mental health issues incapable of responding rationally to police orders. Gadfly also remembers that the past Chief lept probably over-quickly to the defense of a possibly racially insensitive issue with an officer in the “Hayes St. traffic stop” incident. And Gadfly has heard of at least one case involving a department officer in Pennsylvania Eastern District Court.

Such things aside, it’s just that every department in this post-GeorgeFloyd moment should be undergoing rigorous self-analysis.

And Gadfly is impatient with our seeming reluctance to face the real problem.

The City threw everything plus the kitchen sink at Council Thursday night, obfuscating the core issue.

Gadfly keeps hearing the biting comment by an “activist” at an early City Council meeting (July 7?), something to the effect that we don’t need any more pizza parties.

It seemed to Gadfly that the real issue got lost Thursday night.

If it were Gadfly’s meeting (such hubris!), he would have thrown this image up on the screen:

And asked such questions as “How are our officers trained to handle a situation like this?” “If you agree that there was not a good outcome here for either the subject, or the officers (it must be shattering to kill some one in any circumstance), or the community, how do we avoid such an outcome?”

For it is precisely the “first contact” between officer and subject in an incident like this that is the exquisitely visible problem in policing that is being discussed across the country as a result of a series of tragic outcomes.

I would ask the department heads to focus on the “first contact” and then to draw concentric circles around it from their different perspectives, talking to each other, talking alternatives.

Too much of the talk Thursday night was on the margins, on the periphery.

I would ask the department heads to get out of their silos, focus on a first contact situation like just happened in Philadelphia, and brainstorm courses of action that might keep such a tragedy from happening here.

For that’s what worries Gadfly — a tragedy like that happening here.

Is Gadfly alone in this worry?

Are we immune?

He’s sure Kenosha and Ferguson never expected to happen what did.

Gadfly thinks assurance on that score (as much as humanly possible, of course) is what we residents need to hear.

And we heard nothing of the sort Thursday night.

Gadfly can imagine our department is well trained. His memory reaches to examples of de-escalation of jumpers on the Fahy Bridge and the climber down at Steel Stacks.

But training in handling of “first contact” situations has not been explained to us.

We don’t even know if such incidents as the Philadelphia one, as with Jacob Blake, as with Rayshard Brooks, and so forth have occasioned any action within the department — any refresher training, any consciousness raising.

The silence from the City and our willingness to accept the silence is puzzling and troubling to the Gadfly.

to be continued . . .

 

“I didn’t hear anything that I wanted to hear or anything that I felt I needed to hear”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Committee of the Whole meeting, October 29, 2020

Meeting documents here

view meeting here

“We’re not talking about things, it seems to me, that really matter.”
The Gadfly

The City Council Committee of the Whole meeting called by the Administration last night turned out as Gadfly feared.

The most number of people tuned in on the live-stream at one time was 9.

Truly, it wasn’t worth tuning in for.

The four City department heads made nice presentations, but, literally, they “phoned their reports in,” in the negative colloquial meaning of that phrase.

They pretty much read their reports.

Gadfly did learn a lot, but it was marginal stuff, and Gadfly could have read the reports himself in 1/8th of the time or less.

There was no reason to bring people together to hear those reports read.

A reason to bring people together would be meaningful discussion of core issues.

There was no meaningful discussion of core issues.

Council was polite, there were a few soft comments and questions, and much genuine backslapping for work done.

But Gadfly cannot see that anything of substance was accomplished.

Gadfly was disappointed with the Council members, each and every one of them.

And Gadfly has to feel that an opportunity was squandered.

Listen to what Gadfly had to say at the meeting and decide for yourself.

Mrs. Gadfly, mother of six boys and the family peacemaker, thinks his shorts must have been too tight.

to be continued . . .

Police handling children with care

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: “Police department involved in a student trauma program”

Gadfly attended an interesting meeting yesterday about a pilot “Handling with Care” program involving our police department in which law enforcement officers are encouraged to advise the schools of children who have been involved in any sort of trauma, so that the schools can be on the lookout for any problems and are ready to provide care. No details of the traumatic event are given to the schools. And nothing goes on a student’s record. And so the “Handle with Care” report is not about students who have committed crimes but, for instance, can be about students who have witnessed traumatic events that might have an effect on their behavior or progress in school work.

Here Bethlehem Officer Robert Nicholson explains the program (7 mins.)

Great idea!

Gadfly thinking about Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

“We should take this opportunity for self-reflection and to critique ourselves, and if necessary implement constructive recommendations that will continue to make the Bethlehem Police Department the best in the Lehigh Valley.”
Mayor Donchez, August 11, 2020

“Capt. Kott will no doubt bring a new perspective and energy to the department. . . . She’s a strong advocate of community policing, partnerships, and she has additional training in the areas of mental health, cultural awareness, de-escalation tactics, implicit bias training and crisis intervention.”
Mayor Donchez, September 23, 2020

The Mayor has requested a City Council Committee of the Whole meeting for this Thursday October 29 at 6PM.

The topic: Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development.

Gadfly is not sure what the Mayor has in mind for this meeting. He assumes it is at least in part if not totally a response to the murder of George Floyd. And he looks forward to the meeting being productive.

Gadfly can’t be sure, but he doesn’t think it will be the kind of meeting (or series of meetings) he has been thinking about, one which is a more in-depth conversation about the Police Department itself.

Both the Mayor and the then Police Chief quickly made good statements subsequent to the Floyd murder, and the City was quick to produce relevant statistics and reports.

But neither statement indicated using the moment of the murder for an internal taking stock of the way the department does its business. There was no indication that this was a time for internal self-analysis. The Mayor indicated that he would be listening for good ideas, by which he seemed to mean from the outside. Gadfly, in fact, remembers the Chief ascribing the level of violence used by officers to the level of violence offered by subjects, which completely missed the point of the “mental health” issue in some subjects where tragedies occur that the Floyd death has foregrounded.

Gadfly implies nothing negative about our police department. Indeed, the fact that our department undertook a rigorous review and reform subsequent to the Hirko case a generation ago and now has a rather unique dual accreditation is very impressive and much to be applauded.

But Gadfly envisions a more “politic” statement subsequent to the Floyd murder along the lines of “we” (the City/Police Department) feel confident we are ship-shape but still “we” (from the inside) are going to take this cultural moment of public concern to do self-analysis anyway just to be sure and to be able to further instill confidence in the public about the way we do business.

And Gadfly can envision a City Council saying we recognize the accredited stature of the department and we imply nothing negative about its policies and procedures, but it is our responsibility to respond to this cultural moment by holding the kind of public conversation about issues that the Floyd murder have highlighted and which we have never had before.

So in his statement above about new Chief Kott, the Mayor indicates some specific topics for self-analysis and for those conversations: community policing, partnerships, mental health, cultural awareness, de-escalation tactics, implicit bias training, and crisis intervention.

A syllabus to which you have seen Gadfly in past posts adding recruiting and diversity hiring, promotion practices, internal discipline, residency incentives, the role of the Union in personnel matters, a citizen review board.

The department made various statistics public. Gadfly, remembering that Prof Ochs saw things there that others didn’t, wonders about seeking outside professional viewpoints on those statistics.

And Gadfly would certainly like to hear a detailed plan for involving the police in the Community Engagement Initiative since they are the “key factor” in its success.

Gadfly hopes that any changes that might be contemplated during Thursday’s meeting are more than just cosmetic.

Gadfly hears the tough words by a commenter at Council (was it July 7?) to the effect that we don’t need more pizza parties.

Your ideas, as always, invited.

Police department involved in a student trauma program

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

This is really the first that Gadfly has heard about the doin’s of the Citizen Advisory Board, an alliance between the City and the NAACP. Gadfly has tried to get agendas and minutes through Right-to-Know but no dice. The CAB is not considered an official City body. Sigh.

This looks good! Wonder why there isn’t more info coming from that group.

register here