Kott: “There’s no denying this is a critical time in law enforcement”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem mayor asks council to approve first female police chief.” Morning Call, September 23, 2020.

Mayor Robert Donchez has recommended Capt. Michelle Kott as Bethlehem’s new police chief.

Council will vote on the recommendation next month, though five of seven council members who could be contacted Wednesday evening said they are pleased with Donchez’s choice. If approved, Kott — who also was the department’s first female captain — will become the first woman to lead Bethlehem’s police department. The base salary for the position is $106,000.

“Capt. Kott will no doubt bring a new perspective and energy to the department,” Donchez said Wednesday during a news conference to announce his choice. “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.”

Kott, 38, graduated from DeSales University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She received her master’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in 2010.

Last May, she was among the first group of students to earn a doctorate in criminal justice from California University of Pennsylvania.

She has been with the department for 16 years, serving in various roles including patrol officer, crime scene detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, detective lieutenant and captain. She is also a member of the department’s professional standards division and is a team leader for the city’s crisis negotiation team.

“There’s no denying this is a critical time in law enforcement, one that calls for strong leadership, coupled with empathy, compassion, respect and responsibility,” Kott said Wednesday. “I believe I am more than up to the task and I look forward to taking on the challenges and working together with the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department and the community.”

Kott also thanked her family — wife Kristin Snyder, with whom she just celebrated 10 years of marriage, and children Noah, 6 and Allie, 2.

A hiring committee that included Cichocki, Donchez, city solicitor William Leeson, business administrator Eric Evans, and retired Upper Macungie police Chief Edgardo Colon conducted interviews last week.

Reached after the news conference, several City Council members, who will vote on Kott’s appointment at their Oct. 6 meeting, said they were pleased with the recommendation.

“I think it’s a great choice and a historic choice for the city of Bethlehem and our police department,” Councilman J. William Reynolds said.

“I think in every conversation I’ve had with her, she understands the value of trust between a community and police department, and I think she understands that a police department needs to listen to the community and be an institution people feel they can trust,” Reynolds said.

Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt said she was impressed with Kott’s answers when Kott presented a recent report on the department’s use of force to City Council.

“She was calm, insightful and her training was evident. She is someone who will help Bethlehem’s police department become the finest it can be,” Van Wirt said.

Other council members reached for comment, including Michael Colon, Grace Crampsie Smith and Council President Adam Waldron, also praised Kott.

selections from Sarah Cassi, “Meet the choice for Bethlehem’s new police chief. She would be the 1st woman to lead the department in city history.” lehighvalleylive.com, September 23, 2020.

After furor over a Facebook post led Bethlehem’s police chief to retire, the city’s new chief will make department history.

Capt. Michelle Kott, who serves in the professional standards division and leads the department’s crisis negotiation team, was nominated as chief on Wednesday. If approved, she would be the first female chief in the department’s history.

“I’m very humbled. I look forward to the challenge, and leading the men and women of this department, and hoping to inspire other girls that may be interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement,” she said.

The 38-year-old Kott has been with the department since 2004 and started as a patrol officer, before rising through the ranks of crime scene detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, and then a detective lieutenant. She was most recently promoted to captain in February 2019.

Kott noted it is a critical time for law enforcement, and that it calls “for strong leadership coupled with empathy, compassion, respect and responsibility.”

“I believe I am more than up to the task and I look forward to taking on the challenges in working together with the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department and the community,” she said.

Kott and her wife, Kristin, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary on Wednesday, live in Macungie with their 6-year-old son, Noah, and 2-year-old daughter, Allie.

“They’ve all stood by me throughout my career and they’re my ‘why,’ for who I am and what I do,” Kott said.

Bias training: leadership must walk the talk

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.

———

The question for the program panel in this short section is “How would you suggest getting this [anti-bias] training not only to the line officers but specifically to the leadership?” And Bethlehem’s Guillermo Lopez, who runs anti-bias programs for police, is the main respondent.

This question is quite pertinent at this precise moment when Bethlehem is considering applicants for the Chief position.

And Gadfly is reminded that two people over the past year told him in confidence that the past Chief did not himself take the training that his officers did.

If true, quite interesting.

  • Nationally, there’s a difference between the police chief and the line officers.
  • A lot of times you’ll see line officers taking this training and the Chief doesn’t.
  • In most cases you’ll see that most Chiefs are aligned in a different political alignment than the line officers.
  • We know how important it is for leadership’s buy-in.
  • If we don’t have buy-in from leadership, we’ve turned down jobs. It just won’t work.
  • If you don’t have leadership walking the talk, why should the rest of the body follow?
  • We actually train leadership . . . in a more intense kind of way than we do the regular officers.
  • And we actually do a slightly different version for cadets, younger officers.
  • [Younger officers often told by older officers to forget what you learned in the Academy]
  • We have to strengthen the young officers to be able to resist that.
  • I am not condemning the officers that say that. I think we don’t treat them well enough.
  • [Suggests no more than 3 years on the street at a time for officers, then taken off for a year in social service, etc.]
  • We don’t treat police human enough and expect a lot.
  • In my best thinking there should be a kind of rotation.
  • Leadership, you train them first. . . . to determine whether this [the training] is going to be legit or not.
  • If the message gets distorted from the top . . . it’s a done deal.
  • They [leadership] have to unpack their own historical biases.
  • You come through the ranks and you can’t think that all of a sudden you put stars on that that was not you.
  • There’s a self-reflective piece that has to be inserted into leadership for them to understand that you lead by example.
  • Not just officers, but the organization has to be held accountable.

It takes a very special type of person to want to be a police officer

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

Gadfly:

We are living in a time (Fall of 2020) where our City and our nation are experiencing an unprecedented health crises, one of the worse economic circumstances of the past 100 years, and a level of civil unrest that exceeds any in my lifetime.

Police across the country have been a target of the civil unrest with new language being used to described the situation: “defund the police” and “systemic racism” – both are generalizations, but are the flashpoints for so much civil unrest.

Some, like the authors of the report Gadfly references, are suggesting “more training” and “better screening of new police officers.” OK, more and better is always good. Reference the same about school teachers a few years ago.

The question of “what kind of person wants to become a police officer” is a question beyond my knowledge. Yes, we all want:

  • the “Officer Friendly” of our youth,
  • the kind and forgiving traffic cop who let’s us go with a warning, and
  • the social worker who comes to the door of the domestic or neighborhood disturbance call.

Let me relate a story about another characteristic of a police officer.

Around this time last year, I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 4th street on the Southside of Bethlehem. It was around 11 pm, and I watched as the Bethlehem Police were handling a situation of 3 white kids, one a female, and I figured they were possibly students from Lehigh.

The female was the most drunk; she was literally kicking and screaming at the police. I watched her spit at one of the cops. Fortunately, the two males were relatively calm. The language and arrogant behavior of that young woman was, in my opinion, disgusting.

The police restrained the young woman, despite her amazing resistance and taunts, “do you know what my Dad is going to do to you?”

Restraint and patience were the police behaviors I observed, firsthand. I could never be that patient.

So, in addition to:

  • the boredom of being a cop – just waiting for the next call,
  • the uncertainty about what is going to happen when “they roll up to the next call,”
  • the cell phone videos in their face when they walk up to a disturbance,
  • the anger, drunkenness, fentanyl abuse they encounter,
  • the insanity of the domestic disturbance,
  • the occasional situation when they must deal with a very hurting person with a gun, sometimes pointed at their own head, and
  • the increasing situation where guns are at play with gangs and other crazies.

. . . I really wonder why anyone would do the job, but I do hear police officers say, in earnest, “to protect and serve.”

I, for one, think police are very special people, you have to deal with the worst of the worst in our society, they have a very special combination of skills and values. We’re lucky anyone signs up for the job.

Bud

Is anti-bias training effective?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.

———-

Is anti-bias training effective? Now there’s a key question. We may be putting a lot of stock in it here.

Gadfly was impressed by the qualifications made in the early part of the discussion to this question. Nobody was saying that anti-bias training is a magic bullet. One-off training not effective. Training can have short-term positive effects but it can (will?) succumb to the outside forces that have formed an individual over a long period of time. Not all programs are good. Success is in the delivery. Science tells us that there are mixed results. Officers don’t understand the need. Effectiveness depends on the officers “bringing something” to the table.

  • the training needs to be more than a one-off
  • there’s short-time awareness and effectiveness but that is fragile
  • need to talk about racism, it won’t go away if we don’t
  • adult learners need to know why the training is relevant
  • people tend to get offended at the need for discussion because it sounds as if we are saying that they are racist
  • such training can be effective but it’s all in the delivery, the approach
  • the science tells us that the training gives mixed results
  • effectiveness is not just about delivery, but each officer has to be self-reflective
  • people are exhausted and tired trying to make people feel ok about this conversation
  • where we get stuck is with people offended by the conversation
  • the effectiveness of the training needs to be measured but we are reluctant to do that
  • officers don’t understand why this conversation is important and necessary
  • the officers have to understand why
  • effectiveness depends on what the officer brings to the training

The conversation took a bit brighter tone in the latter part of this section when Bethlehem’s Guillermo Lopez described an anti-bias, police/community program he runs. Lopez co-directs the Law Enforcement Partnership Program for the National Coalition Building Institute. The key insight he conveyed from his experience is that we must understand that the police are working class people. If we don’t understand that, we will never gain officer trust.

  • training works when all the parts are in place
  • must assess the group, not one-fits-all
  • department has to trust the facilitators
  • need skills about relationships and listening
  • needs assessment > trust > than can go to hard stuff
  • has worked in this training 15 years, partnering with a police officer
  • key thing he figured out: officers sound just like steel mill workers, they are working class people, must understand that if you want to gain their trust
  • not every officer will respond to training but significant number will change the culture
  • must recognize that police have a culture, and that must be appreciated
  • you must listen to their stories, give sense they can trust you
  • must separate being uncomfortable and being unsafe
  • safety training must be primary
  • but lean in to uncomfortable, where we learn the most

“Maybe the best way to improve the problem of biased policing is to improve our recruitment process”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.

———–

The keynote speaker posed five basically rhetorical questions before focusing on recruitment as perhaps “the” place that attention should be paid if we are going to see improvement in bias problems within departments.

  • how rational is it to think that 4hrs. of anti-bias training will have significant impact?
  • how logical is it to think that there will be improvement if there is no accountability?
  • do incident reports require the kind of relevant information that equips supervisors with ability to assess?
  • is it reasonable to assume that without consequences there will be compliance with standards?
  • is it possible that we can train our way out of the problem of bias policing?

That last (rhetorical) question is the most challenging, for it calls into question any efficacy in training at all.

And it leads to this statement: “Maybe the best way to address the problem of biased policing is to improve our recruitment process.”

So, for instance, the keynoter questions whether the small amount of training that officers are now given and, moreover, a small amount of training without accountability and disciplinary consequences (which, it appears, she assumes as a common circumstance) is of much value. And she goes further, questioning whether even increased training (which has been mentioned by several of our Council members) is of much value either.

The keynoter pushes the focal point further back to the beginning — to recruitment and hiring. Though she doesn’t go into detail, Gadfly assumes that what she means is that we need to assess applicants and recruits for bias and attempt to weed out potential problem people at that point.

Seems like something for us to keep in mind. The only talk Gadfly remembers on recruitment and hiring at the August 11 Public Safety meeting had to do with the difficulty of doing so these days and especially the difficulty of hiring minority officers.

Cancel Culture Wins in Bethlehem Police Chief Case

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

Gadfly:

Two weeks ago Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio resigned, with much pressure from the Mayor and City Council, after he posted something stupid on his Facebook page.  He never should have posted an opinion on the optics of the National Basketball Associates (NBA) championship games. If you’ve watched the games, as I do, they’ve become become extremely political.  OK, their right to do so.

Problem is Chief DiLuzio seemed to be a pretty good police leader. I’ve never met him but did observe him in the past month as he and his team responded to City Council’s anti-police questioning in a series of meetings, including the August 7 City Council Public Safety Committee public meeting.

For those not aware of the developments, Bethlehem City Council had drafted resolutions, inspired, and delivered by the self-proclaimed radical left, held hearings, and generally appeased those groups wanting to “defund the police” in Bethlehem. More on City Council’s “pandering” in subsequent posts.

In preparation for the August 7 Public Safety meeting, Chief DiLuzio was asked to prepare three reports to explain police activity in the City – lots of data, ie., facts, about every aspect of police activity. Most observers of the presentation, as well as many Council members, thought the report was pretty good. In my opinion “Council was looking for problem with the police, and not finding a problem” in the Police presentation of the data and three reports.  I, for one, was happy to hear the presentations and felt our police are doing a pretty good job.

Chief DiLuzio made one of the most interesting comments of the 4-hour long meeting. In response to a comments/questions from Councilperson Mr. Reynolds, Chief DiLuzio departed from the prepared remarks and said something to the effect of “we need to look at the problems in a holistic way; economic conditions, health care, mental health issues, gangs, substance abuse – these are the underlying problems that cause people into actions that require police action” (not direct quote) . It was an “ad lib” comment from a 40-year police professional, someone who has probably “seen it all.”

DiLuzio showed an understanding of crime and bad behavior in the City that was truly insightful. A police leader with that kind of understanding is probably not the person you want to cancel. Yes, he is an older white male and that is not the profile of the politically correct looking police chief but that kind of insight and experience is a shame to dismiss.

Bud

Police reforms included in the Breonna Taylor settlement

Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting

Louisville just settled the wrongful death civil suit with the family of Breonna Taylor for a record amount of money, but the settlement was not entirely about money. The Taylor family wanted police reforms. Since we hope that locally we will shortly be publicly discussing possible reforms and new systems of public safety, we are more interested in those “other” terms of the settlement. Here on Gadfly we’ve been trying to open our minds to all good ideas and the pros and cons about them.

What do you think of these reforms negotiated as part of the Taylor settlement?

“These are all the police reforms included in the Breonna Taylor civil suit settlement.” WLKY TV, September 15, 2020.

Community related

  • a housing credit program to encourage officers to live within the community
  • adding social workers
  • encouraging volunteering with community organizations while on duty

Search warrants

  • new request procedures
  • require EMS presence for forced entry warrants

Accountability

  • new procedures when money is seized
  • an early warning system to flag officers with disciplinary problems
  • random drug testing
  • new policy on records in an officer’s personnel file
  • new policy on cases where officer leaves the department before a personnel investigation is complete

We look inside the department for a new Police Chief

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

The Mayor is moving quickly to hire a permanent Chief of Police from a pool of four current officers. Council will vote on the Mayor’s choice at their next meeting October 6. Among reasons for hiring from inside were the department is “not dysfunctional,” there are qualified candidates, and hiring an outside candidate might be unfair to the candidate since a new Mayor is on the horizon. One can assume that Deputy Chief, now interim Chief Scott Meixell and Capt. Michelle Kott are two of the four. Perhaps insider followers can provide Gadfly with the names of the other two. Former Upper Macungie Police Chief Edgardo Colon is Latino, but one wonders if, besides the usual suspects, the search committee shouldn’t have contained 1) someone deeply conversant with some of the new ways of policing that are being discussed nationally and 2) someone from the general public. In offering the search committee the best of luck, Councilman Colon said, “Obviously we are having a lot of discussions, meetings, groups getting together, community groups to talk about policing.” That caught Gadfly, who’s been whining about the lack of visible movement after the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting, by surprise. For it sounds like a lot’s been going on. Sigh. Nobody tells Gadfly nuthin’.

selections from Christina Tatu, “Who will be Bethlehem’s next police chief? City looking at four internal candidates, expects to decide by Monday.” Morning Call, September 15, 2020.

An internal search is underway for Bethlehem’s next police chief and a decision is expected next week, said Mayor Robert Donchez, who has accepted applications from four city officers interested in the job.

A hiring committee that includes Donchez, city solicitor William Leeson, Human Resources Director Michelle Cichocki, Business Administrator Eric Evans and retired Upper Macungie police Chief Edgardo Colon will conduct interviews this week.

Third Class City Code requires Bethlehem officials fill the position internally unless no qualified candidates can be found. It will be up to Donchez to recommend one of the candidates for approval by City Council, which will vote on the recommendation at its Oct. 6 meeting.

A letter went out last week inviting anyone with the rank of lieutenant, captain or deputy chief to apply. Applications were due Friday, Donchez said.

Donchez did not name the four candidates for the permanent job.

Donchez is confident the police department already has qualified candidates who know the city. In addition, Donchez’s term as mayor ends in 15 months. He thinks it would be unfair to ask a national candidate to relocate right before a change in administration.

“I don’t believe we need to go outside. There’s always room to improve, but we are not a police department that’s corrupt. We aren’t a dysfunctional police department,” Donchez said, noting the department is accredited at both the state and national levels.

Councilwoman Olga Negron previously told The Morning Call she thinks the city would be prudent to look beyond its own for leadership.

“This is a great opportunity to rethink how we police, and this might be a good opportunity to bring in someone from outside,” she said Sept. 4 when DiLuzio announced his retirement.

Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt said it’s most important to bring in a chief who is on board with creating a more diverse police force that can address the community’s concerns and work toward change.

While a person of color or a woman would offer some symbolic change, Van Wirt said during a Sept. 4 interview that can’t be the sole purpose for selecting an individual.

“This really is about finding the right person. They have to understand the issues and grapple with the issues and not just be a symbol,” she said.

Esther Lee, a longtime civil rights activist and president of the Bethlehem NAACP, said her group was not consulted on the city’s search for a chief, but she believes hiring someone already in Bethlehem’s ranks would be best.

“I think communities ought to have police and their chiefs be more local,” she said, adding that most people in the community aren’t familiar with the city’s police officers, and hiring someone through a national search could add to that disconnect.

Lee hopes the city will include a member of the Black community on its hiring committee.

Donchez said he talked to Lee about who would be on the hiring committee and went with Colon, who is Latino, because of his experience as a police chief and because Colon grew up in Bethlehem.

Protests have a wider reason than raising awareness

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd killing

Gadfly:

Thanks for the great job you do promoting discussion and thought about local issues.

I saw the transcript of my City Council recording [the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting]. To facilitate accuracy I am including the original text.

But first, let’s talk about the group promoting defunding the police, “Black Lives Matter.” While many of the recent protestors are truly interested in supporting minority rights, “Black Lives Matter Inc” contrary to its name, is at i’s core, a Marxist organization admittedly led by trained Marxists easily verified by a quick web search. It is funded to the tune of $1.3 billion by organizations from around the globe as well as by well-intentioned but misled corporations. Much of the money raised because of the George Floyd video just as easily may be funneled to French radicals or to the Congo, but not, you notice, to the devastated local black communities. It is international and has connection to the TIDES Foundation and others. By the way, Marxist movements historically are responsible for the deaths of 170,000,000 civilians, not counting deaths during war.

The violence you see today didn’t begin with the death of the vicious felon George Floyd , it began in 1999 or maybe even earlier when Marxist-Socialists protested the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle demonstrating in what was called a “black box”. This is a collection of radicals all dressed in black with masks and helmets or head coverings. They paraded down the main streets damaging businesses, setting fires in trash cans, and smashing windows. Because of the complicity of the elected officials there, the police were regularly restrained from intervening and when they did the mob mingled and dispersed, their nondescript clothing making it impossible to arrest the vandals among them.

This type of activity went on occasionally for years since then. ANTIFA was the next progression. Same outfits, same tactics, but even more violent attacking individuals, often including the same radicals. Twenty years BEFORE George Floyd!

They were waiting for a video like George Floyd’s.

If raising awareness of injustice was the reason for the protests, how long would it have taken to raise awareness? But if the overthrow of our government is the goal then arson, destruction, intimidation, violent confrontation, and even extortion as we see in many cities is in order.

THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.
THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.

This may seem far-fetched  . . . I’m sure it did to the people in Portland and Seattle too. But things eroded little by little.

First the language changed. They started using phrases like social justice and systemic racism. If we’re going to have discussions let’s define the words and discuss whether the problem is real or imagined. What is social justice? There are about 18,000 police departments in the US. There were 13 or 14 unarmed blacks killed in 2019. Does that sound systemic? When 4.4 million random stop and frisks were conducted in New York City, during the period from 2004 [to] 2012, even though Blacks were disproportionately singled out, the incidence of further police action was less for Blacks than for whites. Is that SYSTEMIC racism??

If you are rightly willing to condemn actions like those of ANTIFA and reject strategies of BLM like the dissolution of the family and defunding of police, say so, strong and clear at the beginning of this process Otherwise you are complicit in the lawlessness.

Socialism has a unwavering pattern. Venezuela was a prosperous country with rich oil supplies but with a lot of problems in their government. They saw Socialism as the solution to their problem. About 6,000 people a year are murdered by Venezuelan “law enforcement” in a country 12 times smaller than the US that has banned private gun ownership. There are no zoos, starving citizens have slaughtered the animals for food. There are no pets for the same reason. One of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, praised and posed with Venezuela’s Marxist Socialist Nicholas Maduro.

If Black Lives Matter wanted to be inclusive and healing they wouldn’t bristle at the phrase All Lives Matter. While many of the young people in good faith have responded to the BLM slogan others engaged WITH EVIL INTENT, let me leave you with a question. Would an organization whose goal is the empowering of black citizens trash and burn its black community to the ground?

Thanks again,
George Roxandich

Lawmakers should make it easier for body cam footage to be seen (and some thoughts on a new Chief of Police)

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

One hopes this issue is on the agenda when we discuss possible improvements in the way we do public safety. Perhaps a resolution to the state legislature?

And Gadfly’s been thinking about how Chief DiLuzio’s retirement might affect such discussions about the way we do public safety. Gadfly the Whiner has been looking for quicker action. Will the fact now of an interim chief further delay such discussions? Will some voices want to delay till a new Chief is hired, perhaps making his or her views on changes part of the interview process? Hmmm, let’s think further about a new Chief — hire from inside or outside? Is interim Chief Meixell a “natural” choice for the permanent position, or will we want to go outside the department? And then there’s Capt (“Dr.”) Michelle Kott — female and now leading the professional standards division in the department, certainly an area on which attention needs to be focused these days. Interesting time ahead!

selections from Paul Muschick, “Daniel Prude’s death illustrates why police videos should be public.” Morning Call, September 12, 2020.

The moments that led to the death of Daniel Prude remained a mystery for six months. He died after struggling with police in Rochester.

It turns out, Prude was held to the pavement with a hood over his head. That was revealed this week only after officer body camera video was released.

His final moments may have remained a mystery forever, if he had died after struggling with police in Pennsylvania.

That’s because it’s much more difficult to obtain body cam footage here.

Unlike in New York state, body cam and other police videos are not subject to Pennsylvania’s public records law, the Right-to-Know Law.

Our lawmakers should make it easier for these recordings to be seen by the public.

The release of audio and video recordings are governed by a 2017 law that authorized police to wear body cameras. That law allows police and other law enforcement agencies to withhold recordings for many reasons.

Agencies can deny a request if a recording contains potential evidence in a criminal matter; information pertaining to an investigation; or confidential or victim information, and if “reasonable redaction” wouldn’t remove that information.

Those are broad categories, which makes it rare for footage to be released.

It’s not even easy to ask for a video.

You can’t request one via email, letter or fax. The law requires requests to be made only by “personal delivery” or certified mail. If a video was recorded inside a residence, the request must identify everyone who was present, unless their identities are unknown and aren’t “reasonably ascertainable.”

And you don’t have much time to ask — only 60 days from when the recording occurred.

There is an appeal process if a police department refuses to release a video. But there’s a financial hurdle to take that road. It costs $125 to file an appeal with the county court.

Legislation is pending that could make it easier to obtain police videos in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it has not been considered since it was introduced nearly a year ago.

House Bill 1903 by Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, would make videos not recorded by body cameras, such as dashboard cameras, subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

Regarding body cam videos, the bill would give people 180 days to request them, and allow requests to be made by regular mail, email and fax. It would change the appeal process, giving jurisdiction to the state Office of Open Records instead of county court.

That’s important, because it removes the matter from the criminal justice system.

Miller said in a legislative memo that allowing body cameras was a positive step toward protecting police and citizens, but the “lack of transparency” undercuts the law’s benefits.

It does. It’s time for Pennsylvania to change that.

Further thoughts on Chief DiLuzio’s retirement

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Reprinted from Councilwoman Van Wirt’s Facebook page:

I think this is absolutely the right question. “The real question is if the mayor has confidence in the chief to lead the conversation between our community and law enforcement,” Reynolds said. City Council has no power in appointing the Police Chief- this lies exclusively with the Mayor. But I do think it is important for City Council to give voice to legitimate concerns over the Police Chief’s leadership ability. My confidence in the Chief’s ability to not just lead his force, but to even want to participate in helping Bethlehem find a path forward through these serious and very real problems, has been further eroded. I do not think social media situations like this one are just a matter of a ‘poor choice’ but rather lets us see into the unvarnished truth of Chief’s Diluzio’s real feelings about protesting structural racism, (nobody cares) and his ability to embrace and understand Bethlehem’s modern day challenges and issues.

Morning Call, September 4

“Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio abruptly retired Friday, five days after reposting an offensive Facebook meme that prompted a public scolding by the mayor. ‘I do agree that it compromised my position. I figured, the hell with it — I’ll just retire now,’ DiLuzio said, noting he had planned to retire at the end of the year.” (Gadfly notes that the Chief suggests that his reason for re-posting the image was that “Both the movie and Seinfeld are two of my favorite shows.” Neither in his apology letters to Council, the message on his Facebook page, nor in this interview several days later does he recognize and acknowledge that the image itself is racially insensitive and apologize for his original choice.)

Councilman Callahan tries to get a political hot potato on the table

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“We are the people who approve the police budget. We say, ‘yes put your
money toward yet another gun,’ or we could say we would like to scale
back on that funding and put some social workers in here.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

Gadfly has earlier noted this “what the hell” moment by Councilman Callahan, hoping it doesn’t presage petty conflict on Council that impedes the serious discussion about public safety that needs to take place. Gadfly would also repeat that, while an unfortunate term, what is meant by “defunding the police” is not scary. It means reallocating resources with a concomitant reallocation of duty in order to better carry out the mission of public safety. It is a proposed solution to a problem. Defunding/reallocation has honorably happened in various model cities around the country, as previously detailed in these pages. No Councilmember here has yet publicly advocated defunding/reallocating as far as Gadfly knows, but two Councilmembers have already announced firm positions against it before any public discussion has taken place and without reasons to substantiate their positions. That can smell of “politics.” Gadfly expects that all Councilmembers have an open mind and avoid prematurely foreclosing discussion.

selections from Douglas Graves, “Defunding police issue continues.” Bethlehem Press, September 8, 2020.

Councilman Bryan Callahan tried to get a political hot potato on the table for discussion during the city council virtual meeting Aug. 25, but was overruled by the Council President Adam Waldron. At the end of the meeting and during the new business portion of the agenda, Callahan asked Councilwoman Dr. Paige Van Wirt if she is “in favor of defunding the police.”

Callahan did not ask other council members for their opinions, but focused his interrogatory on Van Wirt. He insisted, to no avail against Waldron’s objection, that his question was within the purview of Robert’s Rules of Order, but Waldron refused to let him continue.

Callahan had reduced a much more nuanced statement previously made by Van Wirt to a shorthand suitable for pointed sound-bytes, and has insinuated the subject during recent meetings.

Council has struggled with Callahan’s confrontational style before, as he has attempted to get specific issues discussed publicly.

Van Wirt declined to respond to Callahan’s question, but Callahan’s effort highlighted one of most contentious demands being pushed by the local Black Lives Matter activists who came before the council July 7.

An inflated or mischaracterized call for defunding the Bethlehem Police Department seems to be creating a fissure in the solidly Democratic city council.

While discussing the proposed community Engagement Committee, when Jonathon Irons of West Market Street spoke in person (most members were attending virtually), saying he supports what he described as the people who recently marched through Bethlehem calling for “defunding of the police.”

“We need to freeze the budget for the police department, including any new training initiatives coming out from this conversation must come from existing funding,” said Irons, as recorded in the official minutes of the meeting. “We need a hiring freeze with no new officers. We need to end the use of paid administrative leave, all these things to defund police.”

Councilwoman Van Wirt declined to elaborate further in a recent request by the Press.

As reported in the approved minutes of the July 7 meeting; “It was such a profound thing for her [Councilwoman Van Wirt] and she has to say until she really started listening throughout this whole engagement with Black Lives Matter and understanding what people of color go through, she did not understand what defund the police means. Of course, we all know it does not mean exactly that but it means looking at where we are spending our money and how can we do things better.”

As reported in council’s minutes, Van Wirt said, “Our power of the budget is huge here. We start our budget talks in the fall … to have any impact to what happens. We are the people who approve the police budget. We say, ‘yes put your money toward yet another gun’ or we could say we would like to scale back on that funding and put some social workers in here.”

While clearly there is no desire by any council members or administrators to actually defund the Bethlehem police department, that hasn’t stopped the idea from becoming a rallying point for citizens who have been led to believe that it is an issue being considered.

City council has passed a resolution calling for the community to be engaged in dialog with residents, police, schools and others seeking, as the Pledge of Allegiance says, “justice for all.”

A recent “Back the Blue” rally organized by Lehigh Valley Tea Party chairman and local attorney Thomas Carroll focused on a perceived threat to defund the Bethlehem Police. In a recent interview, Carroll conceded that no Bethlehem council member nor the mayor have called for defunding the police, but said he found the response by the council to demands of activists who attended the July 7 meeting to be “shocking and deceptive.”

Carroll, who is also the chairman of the Bethlehem City Republican Committee, said he didn’t want to see council make a “knee-jerk reaction” in responding to activists and start defunding the police department. Carroll said he supports the idea of council and the mayor funding social councelors to support the police.

Why do they shoot (including shooting themselves in the foot)?

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“Lust lays another good man low!”
John Irving, The World According to Garp

Psycho-babble alert!

Gadfly just has to talk this out.

See if you haven’t been thinking along the same lines.

In a previous post your philosophical Gadfly tried to answer the question Why do they run?

The “they” was George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake.

And “run” was metaphorical. Only Brooks ran. Floyd inched along like a running back dragging a swarm of defensive linemen toward the goal line. Blake walked with firm, determined stride, like he was leading a group of unbelieving officers to where the body was hidden.

Maybe the question should have been better phrased as “Why did they resist?” And so irrationally. Against such odds. But the point is that they were moving away. Let’s call it running.

Gadfly gave you some psycho-babble as answer.

Not to be deterred, Gadfly ventures into psycho-babble territory again.

This time he asks the question “Why did they shoot?”

And the “they” this time is Derek Chauvin, Garrett Rolfe, Rusten Sheskey — and Mark DiLuzio.

Well, Chauvin didn’t shoot. And we’ll get to DiLuzio in a moment. Just play along.

Gadfly is willing to bet that when all is said and done we will find out that “they” all had all the kind of good de-escalation and other kinds of training we would hope for.

But look at the blank stare on Chauvin knowing he’s being filmed and even hearing bystanders detail the horror he is in slow, deliberate motion enacting.

Listen to Rolfe chatting with Brooks for 20-30 minutes as casually as he might with a Wendy’s clerk before he sheds blood in the Wendy’s parking lot in such a reckless manner that hitting “innocent” people was a reasonable possibility.

Count the steps as Blake walks away from Sheskey around the front of the car to the driver’s door while Sheskey impotently follows — seven steps? Would that then be seven shots for seven steps?

You have to wonder, don’t you, how after the inter-galactic furor over the treatment of Floyd — a din even the deaf could not escape hearing — that Rolfe and Sheskey did what they did? They were real knuckie-heads, weren’t they? — to use a favorite phrase in the Gadfly house.

Critics of the critics of the police, critics like our Individual-1, for instance, claim that this furor, this din is “making law enforcement officers hesitate and second guess.” Which would be logical. But we sure didn’t see that here. Just the opposite, in fact. It’s as if they haven’t heard anything, as if they didn’t get the Floyd memo to be careful because the world is watching.

How do we explain what happened in these three cases? How will we know what to do now to lessen the possibility of such future happenings in our town? How will we know what to propose when our discussion of how we do public safety commences?

The question draws Gadfly like a giant magnet. Why did they shoot?

Which brings us to Mark DiLuzio and perhaps to an even more perplexing question. Why did Chief DiLuzio shoot himself in the foot? For that he did.

Until Last Friday Mark Diluzio was our Chief of Police, the head of a department he called the best in the state.

Chief DiLuzio said good things during the opening City conversations in the post-GeorgeFloyd reckoning with race that Bethlehem has been engaged in like the rest of the country. Listen to his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” statement at the June 3 City Council meeting, the first meeting after Floyd’s murder. And Gadfly can’t put his finger on the audio right this minute, but he remembers in a subsequent meeting the Chief memorably agreeing with Councilman Reynolds about the reality of systemic racism, specifically about how many Black people lack the early life advantages that he and Reynolds enjoyed.

Many liked Chief DiLuzio and supported him in this recent situation. Gadfly published praise from a typical supporter yesterday.

But not everybody liked and supported the Chief. Gadfly would sometimes hear negative stories about him whispered or shouted in confidence. And, in fact, Gadfly recently found in his Facebook news feed mention of a case pending in Federal court involving him and troublesome activities under his watch.

Gadfly himself, in the “Hayes St. traffic stop” case, the only specific example on which he could judge, did not form a particularly good opinion of how the Chief acted to support an officer who was possibly racially insensitive.

So the Chief knew he and his department were in the spotlight, on the hot seat, under the microscope — calling for rigorously circumspect behavior.

And yet he’s not only on the “Keep America Great” Facebook page (which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean he subscribes to the political and racial sentiments expressed there in abundance), but he re-posts a racially charged post he finds there.

What was he thinking? What was he not thinking? Did the instinct for self-preservation just evaporate?

And the rationale for his action, the rationale for the re-posting, rings hollow. Gadfly will grant the however unlikely and remote possibility of missing the explicit text above the Facebook image when spontaneously clicking the share button below the image. But, as Councilwoman Negron pointed out, the image on its own is offensive. The Chief’s racial radar doesn’t seem to have recognized that even days later and even after intense public scrutiny of the image.

How explain shooting himself in the foot? Chief DiLuzio is a knuckie-head like the others.

So why do they shoot?

  • outright racism
  • implicit bias, the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner
  • the indelibility of the deep-seated default character of the “Warrior” rather than “Guardian” style of policing
  • original sin (Gadfly was Jesuit trained), “In Adam’s fall, we sinn-ed all”
  • the “Imp of the Perverse,” from the Edgar Allan Poe horror story, the inner urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done
  • “a Jungian shadow-self rearing its head to get out and reveal his true feelings,” per a chatterer around Gadfly’s water cooler
  • Facebook disease

When it comes to Chief DiLuzio, Gadfly’s first thought was from a scene in John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp, in which a wrestling coach dies from over-excitement watching porn and his peers render the verdict “Lust lays another good man low!”

Facebook lays another good man low.

But, seriously, if we don’t know the cause of the problem, how can we solve it?

Where did the training go, where did commonsense go at these moments of engagement? Doesn’t give you much faith, much confidence in “more training” as the answer to mitigating such tragedies in the future, does it?

Training is no panacea, but maybe it’s all we got.

Unless we subscribe to the nihilism of the Black lady in the video we watched a while back who said, “You know, there’s really nothing at this point that they could do that would make me feel any safer with them without them just point blank clearing them all out and starting all over from scratch.”

Sigh.

“It would be appropriate for NAACP to pay more attention to the modern meaning of ‘colored people’.”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: “The study does not help us to understand the experiences of people of color” (plus, Gadfly adds his two-cents)”

Gadfly:

It would be appropriate for NAACP to pay more attention to the modern meaning of ‘colored people’. The case of Mendez v. Westminster School District in 1945 laid the foundation for later civil rights decisions that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. When César Chavez & Dolores Huerta organized the United Farmworkers Union in the late 60s, they not only benefited the primarily Latinx farmworkers, they benefited all who were exploited on the basis of race or skin color.

We all need to remember that the term ‘White’ is a construct for uniting people against BIPOC. It is used to unite people who are mostly of European descent against others, and even manages to include those who were formerly excluded (such as Jews & Italians) to create a dominant majority.

Peter Crownfield

According to the police Union, officers following their training in the Rochester case

Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting

Gadfly continues his self-inflicted tutorial in police/community relations, taking you along with him. Trying to wrap his mind around all aspects of the subject before us.

Daniel Prude, a Black man, died March 30 in Rochester, NY, after an encounter with police March 23. Prude had mental health episodes traveling by train to Rochester. He had an episode in Rochester March 22. On March 23 he left his brother’s house suffering another episode. His brother, seeking help, called the police, identifying his brother’s problem as a mental health episode. Police located the naked Prude in the middle of a street, handcuffed him, and in attempting to control him, applied a “spit hood.” Officers held his face down on the street. Eventually he was given CPR and taken to the hospital, where he died a week later. The case blew up just a few days ago when video was released. Gadfly feels the best version of the footage is below in the Democrat & Chronicle article. The seven officers involved have just been suspended, and a Grand Jury has been empaneled. The police union says the officers followed their training.

Now ponder this. This was clearly a mental health call. The officers are responding to a mental health call. It was identified as such by the caller. And the officers do not seem at first look by this viewer of the video to engage in any of the obviously bad behavior that we see in the Floyd, Brooks, and Blake incidents. The “spit hood” certainly looks bad, very bad. It evokes lynching images immediately. But it may well be true that the officers were following their training. And that the training failed. Gadfly heard CNN Talking Head Charles Ramsay (chief of police in Philadelphia, Washington, and another big city, I believe) say that he did not particularly see any egregious violation of training in the video. So, you might be naturally led to wonder if training is at fault here. And also you might naturally wonder — given calls to defund the police and divert funds to mental health response teams — if the outcome would have been different if the Prude call were answered by a joint police/mental health team or by a mental health team by itself. For now The City of Rochester’s response was not to defund the police but to add funding to mental health agencies.

Gadfly likes the complete and thorough walk-through of the events and the clean video in this Democrat & Chronicle article:

selections from Steve Orr, “How Daniel Prude suffocated as Rochester police restrained him.” Democrat & Chronicle, September 2, 2020.

A Black man died of asphyxiation earlier this year after Rochester police officers trying to take him into protective custody pinned him to the ground while restraining him. The curtain was lifted on the death of41-year-old Daniel T. Prude at a late-morning news conference Wednesday at which Prude’s family and local activists called his death a murder and demanded that the officers involved be fired and charged in his homicide. “We are in need of accountability for the wrongful death and murder of Daniel Prude. He was treated inhumanely and without dignity,” said Ashley Gantt, a community organizer from Free the People Roc and the New York Civil Liberties Union. “These officers killed someone and are still patrolling in our community.”

The case also brought calls from activists for changes to policing, including an end to the practice of having police officers respond to mental health calls. “The Rochester Police Department has shown time and again that they are not trained to deal with mental health crises,” Gantt said. “These officers are trained to kill and not to de-escalate. Daniel’s case is the epitome of what is wrong with this system and today we stand firmly seeking justice for Daniel and his family, and for all the victims who have been murdered and terrorized by the Rochester Police Department.” Unlike that and some other recent police-death videos, the one compiled about the Prude case is not a graphic depiction of officers shooting or beating a suspect. Rather, it depicts at least three officers holding Prude prone and forcing his head and chest into the pavement for several minutes until, apparently unnoticed by the officers, he stops breathing.

The events are indicative of how the rules of engagement that police use can result in harm to a suspect or a person in the throes of a mental-health episode.

selections from “Rochester Officers in Daniel Prude arrest followed training, police union president says,” CBS News, September 4, 2020.

The officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, were following their training when they put a “spit hood” over his head and pinned him to the ground before noticing that he was no longer breathing, according to the president of the police officers’ union.

[The officers were following their training], “raising serious questions about whether police are best equipped to deal with people suffering from mental illness.”

Prude’s family believes that he was suffering from a mental health crisis.

People with untreated mental illness are 16 x more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached by law enforcement.

“There needs to be an engaged mental health team that goes out for mental health calls.”

The officers were following their training.

“I absolutely believe that we need more help. . . . I don’t have all the answers, I didn’t think anybody does.”

The city has committed more money to mental health partnerships and law enforcement. . . . the first steps toward addressing a long-neglected issue.

The Kenosha alarm clock

logo Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting logo

Kenosha 3

 

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner, listening to those seven shots. The news cycle speeds on. We rarely hear George Floyd’s name any more. We’ll forget Blake’s. But I think I will always remember that there were seven shots. Seven.

Ex-Chief DiLuzio: “I figured, the hell with it — I’ll just retire now”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

from Sarah M. Wojcik and Jennifer Sheehan, “Pennsylvania police chief steps down after reposting offensive Facebook meme.” Morning Call, September 4, 2020.

Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio abruptly retired Friday, five days after reposting an offensive Facebook meme that prompted a public scolding by the mayor.

“I do agree that it compromised my position. I figured, the hell with it — I’ll just retire now,” DiLuzio said, noting he had planned to retire at the end of the year. “I served honorably, and the people that truly know me know that I have no regrets about my career and no regrets about my retirement.” DiLuzio reposted a meme that mocked NBA players protesting police violence against African Americans. He then deleted it and apologized, saying he didn’t realize the offensive nature of its message.

In a prepared statement Friday, Mayor Robert Donchez — who elevated DiLuzio from lieutenant to chief in 2014 — called credibility in leadership paramount in government, adding, “these are times when those qualities are critical to managing the numerous challenges we are facing.” Donchez noted that the city, including DiLuzio, has been engaged with citizen groups to deal with complex issues of systemic racism, police conduct and social justice that cities across the country are addressing. “This has happened at a time when the citizens of Bethlehem justly expect the effectiveness of their chief of police to be beyond reproach,” the statement said. When news of DiLuzio’s social media post made headlines this week, Donchez was unequivocal in his rebuke. He vowed that should DiLuzio break his promise to avoid a repeat incident, it would be met with a consequence “of the most severe nature.”

Bethlehem Councilman J. William Reynolds called the day a “painful” one for the city, since he believes DiLuzio “cares deeply about the city.” But Reynolds believes the departure is necessary to help the city move forward with conversations about racial inequity and police reform that “many in the community desperately want to have.” Never before has police chief been such an important and justly scrutinized role, he said.

Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt was more critical, saying she felt DiLuzio has shown a lack of understanding ever since the discussions about police reform and institutional racism began in the city in earnest this summer. “He took on the bad apple philosophy, that this was all about bad cops. I never heard him say the word ’racism’ or even acknowledge that there was a structural problem,” Van Wirt said.

Councilwoman Olga Negron said she doesn’t think DiLuzio meant anything malicious by sharing the post on social media, but said his apology, which focused on text that accompanied the photo and not the image itself, showed a disconnect with what people found offensive. She hopes the moment serves as a lesson for other city employees, officials and police officers. “We have to do better,” she said.

Activist organizations in the Valley, such as Lehigh Valley Stands Up and Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley, also took to social media to react to the news of DiLuzio’s retirement. The groups say his announcement demonstrates a new level accountability for leaders and police when it comes to “racism and bigotry.”

When there’s a cloud over you, there’s a risk, said Esther Lee, president of the Bethlehem’s NAACP. “In times like these as we assess our police departments and their activities, we always have to be very careful about who is handling the information,” Lee said. “You want to make sure there is no doubt and that we have no doubt as a people about the information we get from the police.”

When asked about DiLuzio’s sharing of the meme, Lee said she doesn’t believe DiLuzio is racist. “I don’t put that on him and not on the department,” Lee said.

In looking back at his near four decades in law enforcement, DiLuzio, 60, said he has no regrets about his choice in career and his time in Bethlehem. “I was interested in law enforcement because I wanted to be involved in my community,” DiLuzio said. “I wanted to help people out when they were in the worst conditions of their life.” “The focus was always to get closure for [the victim’s] family,” DiLuzio said. “It didn’t matter if the victim was white, black, green or orange. It didn’t matter if they were a normal guy or a criminal. This was someone who was killed and that person and his family needed to see someone brought to justice. That’s the way I worked my cases and that’s the way I trained my detectives.”

But the last few months have been exhausting and frustrating for those in law enforcement, he said. Advocates for police reform have encouraged people to get rid of prejudiced views against people of color, which DiLuzio said he agrees with, but the criticism has painted all police officers negatively. “I’ve always told new officers that you work for the citizens of Bethlehem. Don’t ever forget that,” DiLuzio said. “But now when you put that uniform on you’re immediately labeled a racist, a thug or someone who will use police brutality at any point.” He said it was his highest privilege to work with people committed to bettering the community, and has developed long-lasting connections with residents he was sworn to protect. But he worries if the current climate will result in fewer people seeking careers in law enforcement. Police, he believes, are “fighting an uphill battle” with fires being stoked by the extreme left and right. With fewer recruits, his greatest fear is that departments will lower standards and make matters worse. “I still believe this is an honorable profession,” DiLuzio said. “I still think those who do the job are the finest people around.”

The Kenosha alarm clock

logo Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting logo

Kenosha 3

 

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner, listening to those seven shots. Recent events in the Bethlehem police department suggest that we need to keep our eye on the ball.

NAACP head on the Chief: “I personally have not experienced any kind of racist attitude from him”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly published on this yesterday with the Facebook post, the Chief’s apologies, and the statements by the Mayor and Councilman Reynolds. Now the incident is totally out in the open. Have you been thinking about it like Gadfly has? NAACP head Esther Lee gives the Chief an “F” for paying attention but gives him a pass on racism.

from Andrew Scott and Peter Hall, “Bethlehem police chief called out for reposting meme mocking athletes protesting police violence.” Morning Call, September 3, 2020.

A Bethlehem resident called out city police Chief Mark DiLuzio for reposting a meme that mocks professional athletes protesting police violence against African Americans.

DiLuzio, who has been meeting regularly with a citizens advisory board on how police can avoid being racist and using excessive force, reposted the meme Sunday on Facebook and then apologized after deleting it, saying he didn’t realize the offensive nature of its message.

The meme spoofs a scene from the movie “Jurassic Park,” using images of Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James to suggest that nobody cares about last week’s strike by NBA players and other professional athletes.

Beneath the images, the person who originally posted it states, “Truth … I just saved a bunch of money by canceling my sports package with DirecTV and I don’t have to hear all the racist, anti-white, complaining, leftist, divisive hatred from a bunch of multimillionaire spoiled little brats.”

The repost prompted apologies by DiLuzio on his personal Facebook page and in a letter to Bethlehem City Council. Mayor Robert Donchez told council in its meeting Tuesday that he had met twice with DiLuzio to discuss the incident.

“Chief DiLuzio has been justly criticized and embarrassed by this incident. He has promised that nothing similar will happen again and accepts [that] the consequences of breaking that promise would be of the most severe nature,” Donchez said.

In an apology on social media, DiLuzio said he reposted the meme and later, “learned there was a message attached to it that does not represent me and which I find offensive.

“I immediately deleted the post after it was brought to my attention,” he said. “This message does not represent what I have stood for over the past 40 years as a law enforcement officer.”

To City Council, DiLuzio wrote: “Several of you know me, know my stand on fairness and issues, and you know I admit when wrong. I’m sorry, if this re-post caused anyone any concerns.

“I will not be posting or re-posting anything in the future. The lesson learned here is don’t trust what is on Facebook when you post and/or re-post. It may not be what you actually see or want posted,” DiLuzio’s memo says.

DiLuzio did not return calls for comment. Donchez’s chief of staff, William Karras, said the mayor’s statement to council speaks for itself.

He ”gets an ’F’ for not paying attention to what he reposted,” [NAACP head Esther] Lee said. “It gives the impression that he has a problem with diversity, though I personally have not experienced any kind of racist attitude from him.”

Lee noted DiLuzio was “very apologetic and sorrowful” about the post at Monday’s advisory board meeting. She said Donchez was also at the meeting.

The meme uses still images from a scene in “Jurassic Park,” in which character Dennis Nedry calls out the name of the villainous Dr. Lewis Dodgson, portrayed by actor Cameron Thor, to show that none of the other patrons in a crowded outdoor restaurant recognize Dodgson. “See, nobody cares,” says actor Wayne Knight, who portrays Nedry in the movie.

In the meme, Lakers star James’ head is superimposed over Thor’s. At the top of the image are the words, “We’re not going to play anymore,” At the bottom are the words, “Hey everybody! They’re not going to play.”

A second still shows Knight delivering his “nobody cares” line to James.

Others on social media became aware of the post, despite DiLuzio deleting it.

“This is NOT a social media problem, this is a racial problem,” Michele Ryder of Bethlehem tweeted at Donchez when sharing a screenshot of DiLuzio’s post. “I have to wonder if [DiLuzio] didn’t read it prior to posting, what exactly about the photo was so funny it was worth posting?”

The Kenosha alarm clock

logo Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting logo

Kenosha 3

 

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner, listening to those seven shots.

Look at what Allentown’s talking about — a citizen board — what are we talking about?

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

Gadfly’s doing a lot of whining these days. Trying to meet his 3rd quarter quota set by the national Gadfly headquarters.

So Gadfly also whined Tuesday night at City Council about lack of visible plan, time-table, direction for discussion of police issues.

The 6-hour Public Safety meeting was August 11 (George Floyd was murdered May 25). Long presentation by the police. 27 members of the public weighed in — vigorous point-counter-point. No response at August 18 Council. Basically no response at September 1 Council. Gadfly senses no visible plan, no visible process.

Council listened. Gadfly would like to know what they heard.

More whining to come.

from Andrew Wagaman, “Allentown officials debate how much power to give citizen body focused on police reform.” Morning Call, September 2, 2020.

Allentown officials are poised to create a citizen body to keep tabs on its police department, but it remains unclear whether they will — or even can — give it any teeth.

City Council’s public safety committee on Wednesday reviewed the first draft of a bill that would create a Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board. At this point, the board would, among other things:

    • Provide city residents and business owners a forum to voice concerns about specific police interactions, identify “critical, systemic or recurring issues,” and facilitate necessary changes to local police practices.
    • Recommend new programs, activities, policies, or policy amendments that would benefit public safety or help improve the relationship between police and the community.
    • Strive to increase access to police data and other police-related public information, and promote a better understanding of police’s responsibilities.
    • Issue annual reports on its activities to elected officials.

Council will introduce a formal bill Sept. 16, and more progressive council members hope to give the citizen board additional investigatory powers.

Council members Ce-Ce Gerlach and Joshua Siegel initially called for the creation of a citizens police review board to independently investigate police use-of-force incidents and improper police conduct, among other things. While acknowledging that state law prevents such bodies from imposing disciplinary measures, both Gerlach and Siegel argued Wednesday that the advisory board should still investigate incidents and make disciplinary recommendations.

“I don’t want this to be a board of placation or platitudes. I want it to have at least some kind of authority,” Siegel said. “There’s got to be some catharsis at the end of the day, some kind of outcome.”

The public safety committee consists of Council President Daryl Hendricks, Councilman Ed Zucal and Councilwoman Candida Affa — the three most vocal supporters of the police department on council. Only those three can vote to advance bills or resolutions for a full council vote, though other council members can propose amendments prior to a final vote.

Zucal said the working bill creates a board that complies with state law and with the city’s police union contract. Hendricks called the first draft a “great step forward.”

“This becomes another tool for transparency between the community and law enforcement,” he said. “It’s a great start for the community to have more direct input with the police services we provide.”

If Allentown creates such a review board, state law would limit its investigatory powers, Martin argued. The city police department’s Office of Professional Standards remains best suited to conduct personnel investigations, he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, in its own letter last month to City Council, disputed Martin’s interpretation. It argued that police forces can in fact share certain information with citizen bodies for personnel or administrative purposes, and that information related to compliance with a use-of-force policy is for such purposes.

Martin and the ACLU also disagreed over the release of body camera audio and video footage, with Martin arguing that a 2017 law prohibits departments from sharing such recordings with the public if they include information relating to an investigation, among other things. The ACLU maintains departments have fairly broad latitude to share recordings.

Allentown’s board would consist of five to seven voting members who have lived in the city for at least three years, plus the city police chief or a designee, and possibly, the public safety committee chairperson.

The mayor would nominate voting members, and council would confirm them. Five of the appointees will specifically represent the city’s West End, Center City, East Side, South Side, and the Hamilton Street business corridor.

According to the draft bill, board members must complete a police department-provided “orientation and education program” within six months of being appointed, unless they’ve previously completed an Allentown Citizens’ Police Academy course. Each board member must participate in at least one police ride-along a year, and at least one board member must be a licensed social worker or have recent training in social services.

Gerlach also said she wants the final bill to require the board to be racially and ethnically representative of the city, and floated the idea of including a youth representative. In addition, she suggested that if board members are required to participate in police ride-alongs and a police education program, then they should also be required to attend a restorative justice seminar or something similar.

“The study does not help us to understand the experiences of people of color” (plus, Gadfly adds his two-cents)

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

ref: “A 2017 Bethlehem Police Community survey”: “Response Rate: There was an overall response rate of 12%. While the sample of surveys distributed mirrored the distribution of households within each Bethlehem city zipcode, the responses from 18015 were under-represented. Additionally, the majority of the sample were older and white, thus there was a relative under-representation of younger and ethnic minority residents.”

Gadfly:

I think it is clear from the first bullet about “Response Rate” that this study is problematic, at least as it relates to our current situation. If the 18015 zipcode was underrepresented (this is the part of our city where census tracts show the greatest concentration of Latinx and Black residents), and if the majority of respondees were older White people, then this study does not help us to understand the experiences of people of color in our city as they have interacted with the BPD. It’s definitely interesting to see one part of our community narrative through the study above. Now it is time to seek out and listen to the perspective of community members who were missing from the original study . . .

Kim Carrell-Smith

Gadfly has whined in these pages several times about what seems to him a missing link between the City and our sizeable Latinx population. He whined again at City Council Tuesday about the almost immediate post-Floyd formation — apparently at the request of the NAACP — of a Community Advisory Board (CAB) at which African American NAACP leader Esther Lee sets the agenda. African Americans are 7% of our city population, Latinx 29.5% — why are we not devoting more of our limited time and resources directly to the Latinx community, which, Prof Holona Ochs pointed out, is rather suspiciously underrepresented in citizen complaints in the statistics provided by the BPD. Now there are 4 “Latino Advisors “ on the CAB — good. But still this lack of direct interface with a Latinx group setting an agenda seems very, very odd to the Gadfly. Councilwoman Crampsie Smith answered the Gadfly Tuesday night, saying “The NAACP is for the advancement of Colored People, and it means people of all colors. It just does not just focus on the Black Community” (min. 3:10:45 — yes, that meeting went over 3 hours!). Go to the NAACP web site. Gadfly is not sure you will see any reference to the Latinx community. One can not tell for sure from simply a list of names, but it sure looks like the officers are Black. The NAACP began, of course, long before there were any Latinx presence or issues in the country, and the history of the organization (the local chapter web site links to the national web site for the history) seems to clearly indicate that “colored people” has always referred to African Americans. He sees no mention of widening to other colors (does the NAACP represent Asians?) in that official history statement. Was there a Latinx speaker at the recent Payrow Plaza marking of the 57th anniversary of the famous King speech and march on Washington? (Gadfly would be pleased to learn there was.) It just seems a very, very, very, very, very, very far stretch to Gadfly to say that since the City is engaged with a CAB that is an NAACP initiative that the City is in direct communication and dialogue with the Latinx community.