Let it go, Gadfly, let it go

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Martin Tower site looking south from Eaton Ave.

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Gadfly’s camera can’t match the magic of the Grubb and Yoshida lenses. Somehow this picture doesn’t adequately capture the glandular response he registered as the South Mountain horizon opened up to him coming up the hill toward 8th Avenue last night. Such a feeling of delightfully open space filled his lungs. Thinking he was as he impulsively stopped the car how awesome it would be if this site were a park or other kind of recreation area sweeping down on the left to the Monocacy from whence you can trail and trail and trail. But, instead, 548 apartments, medical buildings, a gas station — and much, much imperviosity. Another paradise paved.

Grumpy ol’ Gadfly.

The pandemic blues?

Underfunded districts educate over half of Pennsylvania students and the vast majority of Black and Hispanic students

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from Karen Beck Pooley, “Your View: Pa. school funding far from fair.” Morning Call, July 22, 2020.

On June 21, a Your View appeared in The Morning Call written by Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera in which he noted “Our education system is not without fault in perpetuating the systemic inequities and institutional bias that many of our communities have accepted as normal. Education is an institution rife with historic inequities in resourcing, inequities in discipline, and inequities in opportunity. These structures must be dismantled.”

He discussed important work underway: equipping schools to prevent or address racist incidents, training teachers and administrators to recognize inherent biases, recruiting more nonwhite teachers. But he made clear that much remains to be done to dismantle black and Hispanic students’ barriers to opportunity. And he tasked all of us with pressing “our elected officials to equitably resource our schools.”

Here’s how far we are from equitably resourced schools:

Pennsylvania currently ranks 47th (out of all 50 states) in terms of its share of public schools funding. . . . According to data from the education-focused Research for Action, several districts in our area receive even less of their budgets from the state: roughly 30% in Easton and Whitehall-Coplay, roughly 25% in Bethlehem, East Penn and Nazareth, and roughly 20% in Parkland, Salisbury and Saucon Valley.

This pushes more of the burden for funding public schools onto local communities, which, in Pennsylvania, cover 62% of the cost. And this means that disparities between communities become disparities between schools.

Given these dismal disparities, it is shocking that the resources the commonwealth distributes to local school districts are still not allocated in an equitable way despite careful study by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission and the passage of its recommended Fair Funding Formula into law in 2016. The formula works like this: It considers several “student-based factors” (such as how many children are enrolled in a district and what portion are in poverty or are English Language Learners) as well as several “school district-based factors” (such as low densities in rural districts that might increase costs, as well as how districts’ local taxing effort and local taxing capacity (the market value of local real estate and residents’ combined personal income) compare to state averages). Taken together, these factors were meant to determine what portion of state funding each district should receive.

Standing in the way of allocating money to districts according to the Fair formula, though, is “hold harmless,” or Pennsylvania’s practice of ensuring that school districts receive no fewer state dollars in one year than they did the prior year.

The commission acknowledged these “changes in enrollment … bring additional funding challenges” for growing districts, forcing many to “absorb increasing educational expenditures with local revenue” as their state allocations fail to keep up. But the Basic Education Funding Commission and state Legislature ultimately showed a greater concern for those districts with declining enrollments, currently receiving more basic education funding than the fair funding formula suggests. Redistributing resources, the commission argued in its final report, “would have a significant negative impact on many school districts” and so proposed only distributing “new money” using the fair funding formula.

This “new money,” or the increase in basic education funding since 2016, accounts for just a fraction (roughly 10%) of all basic education dollars.

So while “hold harmless” sounds benign, it glosses over the fact that many districts are “held harmed.” These underfunded districts educate over half of Pennsylvania students and the vast majority of Black (78%) and Hispanic (82%) students. Most Black (51%) and Hispanic (52%) students are in districts that are underfunded by at least $10 million annually.

As Secretary Rivera stressed, “we need to use this moment, this outrage, this commitment to move forward.” Multiple bills that could be a start are currently sitting with both the Senate and House Education Committees: House Bill 961 would implement fair funding in full immediately; Senate Bill 362 and House Bill 1313 would do so over the next four years. It is long past time legislators focused on those “held harmed” by our methods for funding public schools in Pennsylvania.

Gadfly doesn’t cover education matters as much as he should — and appreciates the calling of this article to his attention.

“Black Lives Matter . . . it’s an awakening”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is just a trend, and what are you as youth leaders going to do to insure that this work continues?
(min. 1:05:05)

  • I’m a black woman in America, and I have to face all these problems and injustices on a daily basis.
  • I make sure I’m always vigorous in educating and holding people accountable for what they are saying.
  • We’re the future, we have to have our heads on straight.
  • Use your voice.
  • Address the things that you hear but maybe usually don’t talk about.
  • I’ve been very timid in the past . . . because of the backlash.
  • People fall into performative activism and get on the moral high ground . . . and the feel like I did so much.
  • I am actually in the process of starting a podcast . . . for girls my age who deal with micro-aggressions.
  • . . . clout-chasing off of our lives, our struggle, and it’s not a joke.
  • We’re not going to stop fighting . . .
  • When it comes to protecting us . . . y’all have a problem.
  • Just because you do black people things doesn’t mean you’re not racist.
  • I will go to every protest, to every town hall or zoom . . .
  • This is what I do for my people, and until there is change, I won’t stop doing it.
  • Black Lives Matter . . . it’s an awakening.
  • Racism . . . I live it every day.
  • It’s just hard to go through life knowing you have a target on your back every single day, the way you were born, the way God created you to be.
  • I find it disturbing that racism is being treated like some new revelation.
  • Why did it have to reach this point, why did so many people have to die?
  • Because you put a commercial on tv . . . that’s going to make things better? No.
  • If we got out of that mentality, and we actually came together . . . do you realize how many things we would change?
  • [the video ends with a student recounting a bad experience with a teacher and with another directing remarks to the Allentown police chief].

Tip o’ the hat to Ce-Ce Gerlach for arranging this gathering.

“We encourage Council not to proceed recklessly”

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Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation.
Glen Ragni

I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation.
Carrie Fitzgibbons

Gadfly knows nine uses of the comma, but he also knows that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The strongest and starkest negative and cautionary comments about the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution at the July 7 City Council meeting came from the members of activist groups who came in person to the meeting. You might want to go back and refresh yourselves on that commentary.

So, at the July 21 City Council meeting we had the pushback.

Good conversation builds community.

The callers oppose defunding of the police and see the humanity and value of the police, but what Gadfly hears, over all, is a call for good, wide-ranging, multi-perspective’d conversation.

Please listen to the voices of your fellow residents here. Don’t just skim and scan Gadfly’s notes. Always go to the primary sources

Glen Ragni

  • I’m calling today out of concern about the quality and diversity of the recent public statements made about defunding, disbanding, and abolishing the Bethlehem Police Department.
  • During the Bethlehem City Council’s last meeting all of the speakers repeated almost exactly the same demands and were affiliated with the same few political organizations.
  • They do not represent our entire community.
  • Many of the speakers insisted that the time for conversation was over, that they’ve already had the relevant conversations amongst themselves, that they have their own initiative and they don’t want any more input from any members of our community, or even the involvement of the democratically elected Mayor or the police . . . we just want your money.
  • Another speaker . . . we don’t need to hear from any more whites.
  • Appallingly, several members of Council seemed extremely tolerant of these demands and even agreed with most of what was said, that centered around the abolition of the entire police department.
  • Over the past several months we have initiated conversations with hundreds of residents and stakeholders in our community. . . . The majority of those we have spoken with have expressed strong reservations about defunding . . . the police.
  • . . . abolishing the police department represents reckless public policy . . . experimented with this path . . . and the results have been deadly.
  • We encourage Council not to proceed recklessly . . . we encourage everyone in our community not to proceed recklessly.
  • Our community is diverse in our makeup, but we are one community.
  • We must learn to either live together respectfully as brothers and sisters, or we will surely perish together as fools.
  • Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation.
  • It’s troubling to hear that some community members say they have no interest in the exchange of ideas.
  • How are we going to proceed when the police have reached out in solidarity, the Mayor has reached out in solidarity, the Council has reached out?
  • Where does that leave the other 75,000 members of the Bethlehem community whose concerns haven’t even been heard yet?
  • How do we proceed when only one side wants to have a conversation. and the other side is only issuing demands?
  • That attitude doesn’t come from a sense of respect for the community.
  • . . . that all community members listen to their own hearts and characters . . . the quest for peace and mutual understanding.
  • That quest for mutual understanding begins by genuinely listening and truly hearing each other’s troubles and concerns, so that we can better search for balanced solutions and choose policies that respect our common humanity.

Carrie Fitzgibbons

  • I’m still trying to gather and process information from many points of view, and I imagine you are as well.  Clearly this is a complex issue that requires such nuanced thinking and much research.
  • And my concern is that I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation around this topic. Instead, what I’ve heard doesn’t qualify as conversation at all if conversation is a free exchange of ideas from multiple perspectives building toward some workable solutions that can be tried and tracked to see how really effective they are.
  • In public debate thus far we’ve only heard how one group of people view policing, and their perspectives deserve to be heard.
  • Some very broad, absolute statements have been made, and we would humbly ask Council to actively reach out to everyone in the community to seek out as many perspectives as possible. There will be many different constituencies that will be affected differently by any changes that are made.
  • And we would also ask before public policy is set that rigorous research is conducted  backed by statistical evidence.
  • Some people say the police shouldn’t have a voice in this process. I disagree. . . . their unique perspective of what could possibly improve our system.
  • This report [the recently published 2019 police report] . . . . If we have to go through all those [65,000] calls . . . to better understand what the police do for us, so be it.
  • So far we haven’t discussed any real statistics . . . unbiased understanding of the value our police department contributes to our daily lives.
  • I also feel it is important to realize that our police officers are human. Police have been referred to of late in any number of insulting and threatening ways. At the last Council meeting they were called an “evil machine” and when we start referring to groups with demeaning names, you make it easier to treat them as less than human, and you invite in hatred and violence.
  • Police risk their lives every day balancing [our] rights . . . and they are legitimate members of our community.
  • I find it sadly ironic that groups who are combating their own marginalization would attempt to marginalize other groups who are a legitimate part of our community.
  • If people truly want a conversation, they must welcome the contributions others make. Otherwise, this movement begins to feel it’s less about justice and more about revenge.
  • Some are not interested in balancing their rights with the rights of others.
  • We are all human, and we all have flaws, and everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions.
  • In any relationship, both parties bring 50% to the interaction. . . .Perhaps part of that education should be to teach citizens how to respectfully respond to the legitimate requests of police officers.
  • We only achieve compassion for each other by understanding the other side’s perspective.
  • We can separate the truth from the errors that are part of everybody’s belief system.
  • If there is genuine dialog . . . we can truly hear others, and to truly hear others is to value what other persons say. Not just talk at each other but really listen.

Bruce Haines

  • I was compelled to call in because of [residents Ragni and Fitzgibbons above]. I thought both of them eloquently spoke to the need for real dialog and not one-way demands.
  • I have no demands tonight. I simply want to compliment them on the quality of thought that went into their presentations, and I support what they had to say completely.
  • I moved here to Bethlehem, made an investment, live in the downtown. I moved here because of the safety and quality of life in Bethlehem, and I have experienced the Bethlehem police on multiple occasions . . .
  • I have the utmost respect for the Bethlehem police department and what they do and also the Bethlehem Fire Department. I think we have two of the finest public safety departments anywhere in the state, and I encourage you not to jump to any conclusions, especially in regard to defunding.

Bethlehem Moment: First Lehigh Valley Gay organization forms

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Bethlehem Moment 25
City Council
July 21, 2020

Mary Foltz, Lehigh University
Susan Falciani Maldonado, Muhlenberg College
Kristen Leipert, Muhlenberg College

audio

Bethlehem Moment: June 22, 1969

Le-Hi-Ho, the first organized group for gays in the Lehigh Valley,
held its first meeting

As the Lehigh Valley concludes the celebration of Pride month and looks forward to Allentown’s Pride Festival in August, the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive has engaged with uncovering the deep history of LGBT organizing in our region. While many will know about activism at Stonewall in New York City, few in our region will recall 1960s LGBT organizations that paved the way for social change in Pennsylvania and the larger nation. We are grateful for this opportunity to share a short narrative about one such organization that originated in the months prior to the Stonewall uprising. It is our hope that this story will give residents of Bethlehem and the larger Lehigh Valley a glimpse of the vibrant contributions of LGBT leaders to our region. And we affirm here that the Lehigh Valley has important stories to tell about LGBT history from the 1960s into the present.

In the early months of 1969, a group of friends tuned into activist groups in major urban centers envisioned bringing the energy of the Homophile Movement to the Valley. The Homophile Movement gained support in the U.S. in the 1950s and continued to make progress through the 1960s; its primary aims were to fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian people, to counter discrimination in housing and employment, and to counter negative medical, educational, and social understandings of homosexuality. As LGBT people in the Valley faced rampant discrimination, this group of friends believed that a local homophile organization could help to make civic change that greatly would impact our community.

gay 1

LeHiHo members summer 2019 with student archivists

Their dream became a reality six days before the raid at the Stonewall Inn, which served as a catalyst for the gay liberation movement.  On June 22, 1969, a gathering of twenty-seven individuals met “on the north slope of the blue mountains” in Bloomsburg, PA to form a “homophile movement” in the Lehigh Valley. The meeting drew participants from a sixty-mile radius, and fifteen charter members pledged dues, time, and energy to foster the new organization. Leaders of the burgeoning organization included Ron Seeds, Joseph Burns, and others from the city of Bethlehem.

One of the primary decisions the members faced was whether or not to become an affiliate of the nationally-networked Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States. Ultimately, the Lehigh Valley’s relative distance from New York City and Philadelphia, which presented challenges for attending meetings and events, prompted the founders to lean towards an independent organization, and the Homophile Movement of the Lehigh Valley was born. Nicknamed “Le-Hi-Ho,” the organization wanted to secure a more central location for their meetings so that many in the Lehigh Valley could attend. During the summer of 1969, Le-Hi-Ho approached the Unitarian Church of Bethlehem about holding its meetings in their building, and, after a review of the organization’s bylaws, the Church approved meetings beginning in 1970.

From its first month, Le-Hi-Ho became a hub for information about national gay liberation struggles and their regional counterparts. For example, they published their first newsletter in June 1969 and continued to offer relevant reportage about protests and activist efforts in our region and NYC and Philadelphia as well as needed discussion of social events. Even as they provided rich resources for the LGBT community, Le-Hi-Ho leaders sought to protect members from discrimination by securing mailing lists and the names and addresses of those who received newsletters. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people could be fired or lose housing because of their sexual or gender identities, leaders needed to ensure the privacy of members. All communication and correspondence was conducted through a Bethlehem post office box in the name of Ron Seeds, a manager at Bethlehem Steel who was the founding director of Le-Hi-Ho. Ron Seeds was the only keeper of the Le-Hi-Ho mailing list, thereby ensuring that names of members were not revealed. The August ‘69 newsletter stressed the importance of discretion, recommending best practices for not revealing too much about other members of the organization.

According to Joseph Burns, the original editor of the newsletter, Le-Hi-Ho was primarily a social organization even as their members were invested in politics. Monthly meetings often featured an invited speaker, such as “Dr. Bob” in September ‘69, who spoke about health concerns of LGBT people, or Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, who visited in January 1970. Still, the most anticipated part of the meetings was the social hour that followed the conclusion of the official agenda. Le-Hi-Ho provided an alternative to the bar scene, according to Burns, as many LGBT people wanted the opportunity to meet outside of noisy taprooms and dance halls.

While social events continued to be a huge draw for members, political organizing became the focus for others. Le-Hi-Ho members, like Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, LeHiHo 1were involved in starting the Lambda Center in Allentown, the first LGBT community center in our region. Others were involved with the regional chapter of N.O.W. and participated in the important fight for an anti-discrimination ordinance in Allentown. The political activity of Le-Hi-Ho members shows the value of social organizations for fostering spaces in which to build community, to dream of social change, and to create relationships that fuel the difficult work for social justice.

In the late 1990s, Le-Hi-Ho’s membership began to decline as other LGBT organizations took the lead in the Valley, building on the foundation created by our earlier organizers. Still, their work on behalf of our community is an important part of Lehigh Valley history, which we are proud to celebrate.

We are fortunate to have insight into the early days of this (necessarily) private organization thanks to archivally-minded members of the group, Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, who deposited the records of Le-Hi-Ho at the Allentown Public Library, where they are available for researchers. The collection contents can be viewed by visiting the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive at http://trexler.muhlenberg.edu/library/specialcollections/

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

Public Safety meeting August 11

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video City Council meeting July 21, 2020

We know that the public comment on the Community Engagement Initiative at the July 7 City Council meeting was, as the newspaper report characterized it, “lukewarm at best.” There was, for instance, a series of what we might call “activist” comments in favor of various ways of what we might call defunding the police — the need for radical change.

A balance of a sort was struck at last night’s City Council meeting when we at last heard several calls from the “other side,” indicating that those comments at the previous meeting did not speak for the whole community, counseling Council to go slowly, and to have broader dialog.

Gadfly will get to that later today, focusing on that “other side.”

Go to the City Council video of last night’s proceedings if you can’t wait for Gadfly to get his life in order today. Start about min. 15:00.

But let me jump to the big news, the long anticipated big news.

Chair Colon announced that the Public Safety Committee will be held in three weeks, August 11 at 6PM (video min. 1:15:15).

It will be a virtual meeting.

An announcement with instructions and details will be forthcoming “soon.”

The agenda for the meeting, said Councilman Colon, will be “Policing, to go over the use of force policy that the city released, The Mayor, and we’ll talk further before the meeting, but the presentation that has been presented at different meetings by the police department I think would be good, for members of Council to see that presentation about the use of force, and then also have the discussion about the Community Engagement Initiative and that resolution that was passed. . . . I encourage anyone to reach out prior to a Public Safety Committee meeting, after a Public Safety Committee meeting. . . . As we move forward through the process and as we tackle different meetings, and this Public Safety Committee meeting is going to be the first of what would be many since the goal isn’t to have a bunch of Public Safety Committee meetings but to move forward that Community Engagement Initiative which I expressed last time will be something that will be gaining shape and something that’s going to be dynamic moving forward.”

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, sensing confusion that, frankly, Gadfly feels, followed Councilman Colon in an attempt to bring clarity (min. 1:21:50): “There seems to be still a lot of confusion about the Community Engagement Initiative. . . . I feel like some of the callers . . . are not feeling what I’m feeling about what it’s going to look like. The Community Engagement Initiative is really to allow another avenue for public input beyond City Council meetings or a Public Safety Committee meeting. And from there to provide some framework to the City and the Council and the police to move forward to address systemic racism as well as build bridges and build better relationships within the community and with our police department. I’m going to read what the resolution states . . . time to create a consistent public space for the long-term discussion of issues surrounding systemic racism, discrimination. . . . A community-wide coalition. . . . People need to feel validated and that they matter, and I hope this Community Engagement can help to meet that goal at least partially. . . . A way to engage all members of the community.”

Gadfly, again, frankly, is still in a bit of a muddle.

We have the Mayor participating in an NAACP “Community Advisory Board.” Gadfly expected a report on a major meeting of that Board last week with a presentation by the Police. Now this is not the Mayor’s Board, so maybe he feels that it’s up to the NAACP to make commentary. But no mention at all? Gadfly is still confused about where this CAB fits in. And the Mayor didn’t say anything about anything regarding this whole ball of systemic racism wax and the City’s response to it. Is Gadfly the only one who feels this is odd? What is our leader thinking, doing?

We have the Public Safety Committee. We now have a date for a meeting. And details will follow. Gadfly assumes that Chair Colon is in charge. But, to Gadfly anyway, he felt so tentative. He will talk “further” with the Mayor about the format of the meeting but “thinks” a reprise of the police presentation would be a good thing. We know Gadfly is impatient, but it doesn’t sound like there’s a clear idea of an agenda. And there’s been plenty of time to think. And Gadfly feels vague focus — the meeting will be about policing, the use of force directive, ok, but also about the Community Engagement Initiative? What role does the Public Safety Committee have regarding the CEI? Does the Public Safety Committee meet once, then it morphs into the CEI? Wasn’t the CEI turned over to the Mayor to create? Policing . . . Community Engagement initiative — two huge issues. Gadfly is not a young man anymore. He has to pee every time he stands up. But to him these two topics feel much too big for a single meeting.

And then there’s the Community Engagement Initiative. Councilwoman Crampsie Smith certainly sensed Gadfly’s confusion, but, frankly, her attempt at clarity failed him. She repeated the rhetoric of the resolution. Gadfly gets it, gets the concept, and loves it. But he can’t “see” the CEI yet. And he’s not sure who is in charge of its creation. Yes, Gadfly gets the concept. He’s heard it over and over. Now he’s looking for the road map to that goal and wants to hear from the driver. It’s time to be on the road. Didn’t the Council resolution “urge” the Mayor to set up the CEI? And yet aren’t both Councilman Colon and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith talking and acting as if Council is in control?

Gadfly feels precious time passing and doesn’t feel firm direction.

I know, I know, poor Gadfly.

Police peacekeepers need peaceful resolution as their initial focus

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly,

Thank you for providing this insight into Professor Ochs’ work.

I’m nowhere near an expert in any of this, but from a common sense viewpoint there are three points that jump to the front for me and in no particular order.

First, mental health services have suffered a severe decline over the last nearly 40 years. Instead of cuts, counties and the state should be boosting their financial commitment to this area.

Second, and this was mentioned, I believe, by one of the speakers at the most recent City Council meeting, is the need for de-escalation training. Circumstances can change quickly in a civilian and police officer interaction. Officers trained to ratchet down a situation benefits everyone. Training is the local government’s responsibility.

And, third, crisis intervention training should also be part of an officer’s training. Along with de-escalating a situation, it makes sense to have an officer prepared to assess and make a determination as to the best course of action when handling a person going through a difficult time.

This training should also be a local responsibility. Perhaps higher level government funding support could assist communities with limited resources on training issues.

If we want our police to keep the peace, then it makes sense to have them arrive at each call with a peaceful resolution as their initial focus.

Dana

Prof Ochs on the police use of force

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Democratic policing is paradoxical in that force is used to maintain peace. Therefore
it
is highly problematic if the lives at hand are not equally valued.

Many studies over the years have demonstrated that the protection provided
by the police is not applied equally across all communities.

Ample research suggests that police use of force is more likely when police
encounter persons with mental health issues or individuals  who are
members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

The police use of force can be immoral if it is inequitable.

We are introducing you to Lehigh Prof Holona Ochs whose team has just completed 124 interviews on the subject of policing in the Lehigh Valley and whose report we look forward to in the fall. Consideration of this research is part of the Community Engagement Initiative passed by City Council at its July 7 meeting.

selections from
Holona Ochs Police Use of Force (2020)

The President’s Task Force on 21st ­Century Policing, appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama to study policing, was a response to increased public anger
and media scrutiny concerning the use of force by law enforcement, especially in
interactions with African American individuals and communities.

As the Task Force noted, however, the use of force by the police is not in itself misconduct. In fact, the use of force, even lethal force, may be both legally and ethically justified in the protection of the public.

Understanding the distinction between moral responsibility and culpability in a particular incidence of lethal force is determined by the policy on the use of force and the validity of the rationale for using force. For example, an officer may be morally responsible for the use of force but not to blame based on the physical threat a suspect posed. The officer’s use of force in the performance of law enforcement duties may also be found to be legally justified if enacted in accordance with policy.

However, the validity of the rationale and the estimation of threat are subject to a considerable degree of interpretation. Democratic policing is paradoxical in that force is used to maintain peace. Therefore it is highly problematic if the lives at hand are not equally valued.

Many studies over the years have demonstrated that the protection provided by
the police is not applied equally across all communities. A 2015 report by Amnesty
International demonstrates the increasing rate of the use of force by police officers
in the United States and highlights a pattern of racial disparities in deadly force
exercised by the police.

Given moral and legal concerns about the use of force by law enforcement, police
departments follow a use of force continuum—policies that guide officers in the
use of force. Officer training conditions officers to estimate and respond with a level
of force deemed appropriate in a given circumstance based on an escalating series
of actions. These strategies range from the mere presence of an officer exerting
authority by verbal command to deadly force.

Organized movements aimed at restraining the police use of force argue that
physical force is too often used and more likely to be wielded against nonwhites.
They identify several policies that have the potential to constrain the use of force
and reduce harm, and they outline what are referenced as “meaningful protections
against police violence.” They contend that police departments that are more restrictive of the use of force have fewer incidents of police violence and that this also results in fewer incidents of violence toward the police.

When considering the appropriateness of force and the validity of threat assessments, mental health and race are principal factors. If some segments of the population are disproportionately subjected to police surveillance and the use of force, the moral support for using force to protect citizens is weakened. Ample research suggests that police use of force is more likely when police encounter persons with mental health issues or individuals who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups

A 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center argues that, partly as a result
of cuts to the mental health treatment hospital system dating back to the 1980s, 1
out of every 10 law enforcement responses address a person in mental health crisis, and one-fourth of the fatal encounters with police end the life of a person with mental illness (Fuller at al., 2015). Research suggests that police officers are now the most likely to deal with mental health emergencies and are the main sources of referral to treatment. In fact, evidence suggests that people with mental health issues face a risk six times greater than the general public of deadly force at the hands of police.

Furthermore, “get tough” policies and “hot spots” policing contribute to officer misconduct and focus police efforts on communities of color, particularly low income communities.

Many observers believe, however, that the political incorporation of black people in local politics reduces the frequency and severity of use-of-force incidents, reduces policing costs, mitigates legal risks, and enhances the legitimacy of law enforcement.

The differential crime hypothesis claims that blacks are subject to the law more
often because they are more criminal. This speculation regarding the likelihood of
criminal behavior mistakes the history of oppression in the United States with the
character of its subjects.

The community violence thesis is another way of understanding how police–
public interactions shape the relative risk of lethal force. Poverty isolation and racial
segregation are structural inequalities with complex implications for people living
in such communities. Some argue that police violence is a response to higher rates
of violence in some communities. Certainly, those communities deserve police protection as much as any other in a democratic society. At the same time, communities that are densely populated, that lack economic and educational opportunities, and where incidents of domestic violence are often more commonly reported to the police represent threats to the community, as well as presenting some of the most difficult challenges for police work.

Historically, movements aimed at addressing the immorality of the disproportionate execution of deadly force (such as Black Lives Matter) have been met with considerable resistance from law enforcement agencies as well as from sectors of the public whose primary sympathies lie with the police.

We grant the state the authority to exercise the legitimate use of violence to protect citizens and to maintain social order. As such, the legitimate use of force by the state is morally justified. Police officers and other law enforcement officials thereby morally use force in the name of the state when they are protecting citizens. However, the police use of force can be immoral if it is inequitable. The evidence suggests that may be the case in the United States, inspiring calls for reforms of policing.

Body cameras alone will not address biased patterns in deadly force.

The implication is that bias—perhaps often implicit bias—exists in policing and that training must be implemented to reduce such bias and restore equity. The implementation of the training has been associated with a decline in police use of force. 

Likewise, crisis intervention training (CIT) is one measure to address the criminalization of people with mental health issues and to direct these people to resources for help rather than sending them to jail.

Plastic-Free July: Takeout and Delivery

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

from Steele’s “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Back near the beginning of the pandemic, when restaurants began shutting down for dine-in, and grocery stores started banning reusable bags, several of my friends were asking me what I was doing in those situations. I was incredibly flattered when one of my best friends said she had a “what would Ali do?” moment. The truth is that I have been struggling with these things myself because when public health becomes a factor, it’s harder to make what would otherwise be relatively simple choices.

My previous Plastic-Free July and Zero-Waste Lent challenges were each a comparative piece of cake because I could buy in bulk with my own containers or take reusable mugs to coffee shops. Those things are, understandably, not options at the moment. I would love to say that I’ve gotten creative, but mostly I’ve just been cutting back back: opting out of meals from certain restaurants and foregoing certain ingredients when grocery shopping.

continue on “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Gadfly got some take-out Sunday, and there was so much plastic he wondered how the business made any money.

Reminder: Touchstone’s Songs of Hope and Resistance Thursday July 23

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always support your local arts institutions

SONGS OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE

Touchstone 4

In a time of unrest, uncertainty, and difficult changes, join Touchstone for a celebration of community and connectedness with a social-distance safe outdoor party in the Touchstone parking lot.

July 23, 7pm

SONGS OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE

“We are programmed to shut up. When you stand up, they want to tell you how to stand up”

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

“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Gadfly would specifically ask you to pay attention to min. 50:15 and following, the story of the student who is silenced during Black History month and the response it gets from the others. Dr. Roy has recently committed the BASD to “reform secondary American history courses to honestly and accurately include the realities of racism, the progress we have made and the long, difficult road that lies ahead.”

What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently
being used in your schools?

(min. 40:33)

  • We need to decolonize the school curriculum.
  • It shapes how we see ourselves and the positions that we can fill in this world.
  • I never felt I was going to be no lawyer, no doctor. I didn’t see no people of color doing that.
  • All I saw was people of color in the streets and rappin’. I had no people of color to look up to.
  • They’re making white people, right?  It seems like they did all these great things, they’re so smart . . . all they did was oppress our people, enslave our people, terrorize our people, brutalize our people, keep our people down and that’s what they continue to do.
  • I want to learn about people who look like me.
  • About the greatness of my own skin, about the greatness of my own blood.
  • I want to know about great leaders, I want to know about Marcus Garvey . . . I don’t want to just hear about Martin Luther King.
  • I don’t want to hear about slavery for one month . . . The thing that continues to affect us now . . . That’s what I want to learn year-round . . . Black History month . . . like some sort of celebration.
  • That’s our lives, and we’re still suffering because of it.
  • Martin Luther King did not come in and save the day, like they teach us, and end racism.
  • Racism is still here, we’re still segregated, and we’re still slaves to our own mentality.
  • I didn’t think I could be anything . . . Sports is an option . . . I guess I’ll be a thug . . . That’s how we think. We’re still a slave to our own mindset 400 years later.
  • I want to learn about the Black Panther Party, I want to learn how we was in Africa, great Kings and Queens — give me somebody to look up to, give me somebody who I want to be like. Believes in me, show me people who have done it.
  • Everyone should have a right to know their history.
  • The school system is very much colonized. It is not candid talking about Black history . . . how Africa was this beautiful place, they don’t talk about that.
  • When I heard about Black people, it was regarding slavery . . . I never heard about the mid-passage and how horrible it was.
  • I never knew about Bayard Rustin, or Angela Davis, or anybody like that.
  • We have to take it upon ourselves to know about our history and our culture.
  • Our white counterparts have the luxury and liberty of knowing their history.
  • America doesn’t want to confront themselves in history.
  • The history that we’re learning is extremely white-washed.
  • We idolize all these white figures . . . Thomas Jefferson . . . but not Sally Hemings . . .
  • History is written by the victors . . . but the victors are the oppressors.
  • Our white counterparts are being taught . . . that racism is over.
  • Our education system fails to teach that all this is still going on.
  •  . . . need to lessen the ignorance that plagues our generation . . .
  • We’re taught to be the bottom, we’re not taught to rise above and be the top.
  • Everybody’s history deserves to be spread.
  • I feel they wave the Black History flag a little too much.
  • I learned about the Boston Tea Party [during Black History month].
  • They brainwash us still to this day.
  • [When given a chance], nobody knew their history, nobody knew what to do.
  • I was told that it [a Maya Angelou poem] was too strong to read and that it would start issues in the school [teacher wanted her to read his choice], we’re always being told to shut up.
  • Silenced.
  • Black History month . . . Martin Luther King . . . Harriet Tubman . . . they’re taking the black parts out of history.
  • A lot of people don’t know what happened before slavery.
  • To see somebody in a position of power, holding you back, questioning your truth . . .
  • Uncomfortable to them, we are always uncomfortable.
  • The whole year about the Holocaust?
  • It baffles me to see how corrupt our curriculum is.
  • We are programmed to shut up.
  • When you stand up, they want to tell you how to stand up.
  • I don’t give a damn how I do it! I don’t need to be nice. You are killing my people.
  • When I go out there [see a cop], I’m scared for my life.
  • Black people aren’t dying, we’re being murdered.
  • Martin Luther King was a great guy, but I want to learn about Nat Turner, who stood up . . .
  • When I hear Malcolm X talk, I feel electrified.
  • We’re programmed to shut up, but we’re not going to shut up.

Alliance for Sustainable Communities looking for all types of writing and art

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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.

Alliance 1
https://www.sustainlv.org/

We are making some big changes to our Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet.  We’re going to use the space now used for detailed listings to feature more writing and art — and we  are also open to hybrid forms such as graphic stories or essays.  [Read the Guidelines!]  
 
One reason for this is that while the sciences can provide facts — we need to make some key decisions — they don’t really help us understand the ethical & moral dimensions at all — and many people ignore scientific writing or studies.  We also know that good writing and art can catch people’s attention and make a real difference in raising awareness.
We welcome submissions from all ages and backgrounds, and we’re looking for:
  • Writing —  short storiespoemsdescriptive features, and essays 
  • Visual art — drawings, photographs, and other forms that reproduce well
  • Hybrid forms — including graphic stories or essays, editorial cartoons, and more 
It has to be related to sustainability, of course — but nearly everything is! The Alliance’s view of sustainability has always been very broad, extending far beyond traditional environmental concerns.     [See our  Vision, Mission, & Goals.]
Please consider submitting something yourself — and please spread the word about this new opportunity to help raise public awareness.  (I am sure you also know others who also have the talent and skill to express themselves in one of these ways.)
We are now accepting submissions for our new fall issue!  Please contact peter@sustainlv.org or slv-editors@sustainlv.org if you have any questions.
Peace,
Peter

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, July 21

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, July 21, at 7PM.

The last meeting was open per social distancing but seems not so this time. Public comment now by phone again.

DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council July 21, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on July 21, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.

NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Before the meeting there will be a public hearing about the definition of bed & breakfasts that has been an issue of some concern.

We hope to learn much more about the Community Engagement Initiative, the Public Safety meeting, and a report on the new Community Advisory Board.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

Our good luck

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

Just thinking how lucky we are in Bethlehem.

In this time of national conversation about the people/police relationships, we have two wonderful local resources on which to draw (notice how deftly Gadfly avoided ending with a preposition?).

Prof Holona Ochs at Lehigh whose team has conducted 124 local interviews as part of a research project on police/community relationships and whose report should be out in the fall.

The International Institute for Restorative Practices, 531 Main St., who has conducted police/community summits in Detroit.

Wow! A lot of practical experience and know-how to aid us as we feel our way through tricky conversations ahead.

“They’re not treated like they are something, they are treated like they are nothing”

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

“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Does your education matter to you, and do you feel it matters to the people
in charge of educating you, such as teachers, and school district
administrators, and etc.?
(min. 25:25)

  • It doesn’t mater how they see us learning or how they feel about it.
  • Our education matters just as much as the next white kid.
  • I’m probably smarter than some of the people who go to . . .
  • It shouldn’t matter where you come from, it shouldn’t matter what you bring to the table, because at the end of the day we’re all trying to be great. It shouldn’t matter where you come from.
  • My education’s extremely important to me  . . . I’m an immigrant . . .
  • Black and brown kids are really overlooked in the education process.
  • There’s only one black teacher, and that’s really a problem. It’s really hard to connect when they don’t have experiences like you.
  • The school board doesn’t really try to cater to the POC community at . . .
  • I feel our voices really should still be heard, and our needs should be accommodated.
  • I really don’t think we are being seen and considered.
  • My education did not matter to them.
  • There was always a level of disconnect between People of Color and teachers.
  • You look at us a thugs, you look at us as criminals, you look at us a bums, you look at us as dumb, you look at us as if we’re not smart, you look down upon us.
  • I’m supposed to think you care about me, I’m supposed to think you’re here for me.
  • I’m not learning anything because you don’t care about me.
  • We might not know how to put it into words, but we see the level of divide between student and teacher.
  • We see how you look at us, we see how you treat us.
  • Not every teacher, there’s good teachers.
  • The school system is not set up for us, it’s set up for them.
  • [gives credit to good teachers]
  • I feel everybody should have an equal education . . . equal opportunity.
  • I feel that the curriculum . . . is not equal.
  • They get to do higher things [honor students], why shouldn’t everybody get that?
  • Why make the other people go dumb?
  • We see it . . . we talk about it all the time . . . how they categorize us.
  • It’s almost like where you live is how you’re being taught.
  • The kids on 4th St. will be taught differently than the kids on Randolph St.
  • You’re categorized into those classes, and you can see that, and it’s so sad.
  • I do feel like we’re not being taught right, that we’re not being cared about.
  • I feel like we’re not understood, and I feel like we’re not equal.
  • Why are they [People of Color guidance counselors] in those positions if their voices aren’t mattering.
  • There are two people I know who will not say anything.
  • We should have teachers who understand us, to come from us  . . . community-wise . . . people who understand us and who won’t call us like animals, thugs, ghetto, trash, the underbottom.
  • We need to be talked to like we are scholars, like we are something.
  • They’re not treated like they are something, they are treated like they are nothing.
  • Until they continue to treat us as if we’re nothing, then we’ll feel like we’re nothing and worthless.
  • I just feel like the teacher won’t care . . .
  • You don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors . . .
  • . . . teachers too lazy to do their jobs, this isn’t a movie . . . I just need you to do what you’re paid to do.
  • We need to fix this.

Let’s meet Prof Holona Ochs

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Holona Ochs has been mentioned prominently in our recent discussions about the police department as part of the national conversation on systemic racism precipitated by the murder of George Floyd.

Councilwoman Negron distributed information about her research prior to the July 7 Council meeting that took up the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution on the Community Engagement Initiative, Anna Smith and Al Wurth mentioned her favorably in public comments relative to the resolution, and Councilman Reynolds reported at the July 7 Council meeting that, in fact, he spent an hour and a half in discussion with her.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution was amended to recommend consideration of her research: “The Administration should work with and incorporate recommendations by research experts including Lehigh University’s Core Grant team who recently conducted a large research project on policing in the Lehigh Valley.”

Looks like we’re going to hear more from Prof Ochs.Ochs

Time to meet her.

Prof Holona Ochs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University and heads the department’s graduate program.

Prof Ochs describes her research on democratic policing in the United States:

I am also working on a constellation of projects on democratic policing in the US. The first study is a time series analysis of the police use of lethal force. This project explores the impact of mental healthcare investments across states on deadly encounters with the police and the potential for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to make policing safer for the police and the public. The second study examines the aggregate patterns of bias in the execution of lethal force across various demographic groups and geographical regions. This project includes case studies to further identify factors that may reduce the potential for bias the police use of force. The third research project on policing is an interdisciplinary study of the perspectives on policing that the police and various communities have in order to identify potential disjunctures. We expect that differences in the understandings of the challenges and complexities of policing and in expectations of the police may serve as opportunities to improve police-public relations.

The specific work that brings Prof Ochs to the forefront of our attention at this time is a study of local policing: “Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions.” This study was just coming to a conclusion when the pandemic suspended activity at Lehigh in March, and now we look forward to a final report on the 124 interviews conducted, with a bit o’luck, in the fall.

from Sara K. Satullo, “How Lehigh Valley cops could help change U.S. policing for the better.” lehighvalleylive.com., January 2, 2019.

A team of Lehigh University researchers are digging into public perceptions of law enforcement in the Lehigh Valley and looking into ways to reduce biases on all sides.

The research is still in its early stages with the team gathering data through surveys and focus groups with a wide swath of Lehigh Valley residents, including police officers, community groups, Lehigh students and folks who have served time in jail.

The idea for the project — Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions — sprung out of informal conversations about bias amongst Lehigh faculty in the psychology, criminal justice and political science departments.

“The real motivation here is to learn about those institutional factors that we can affect that will make policing safer for the police and the public,” explained Holona Ochs, Lehigh associate professor and graduate director in the political science department, who has been studying policing since 2009.

While the use of force by police in the Lehigh Valley is pretty rare, researchers think the region’s unique geography and demographics may result in real life applications across the country.

The team wants to know how participants view their community’s relationship with police and what they think an officer’s job actually is. And they want to hear from officers about the challenges of modern policing.

“We’re trying to understand where are people’s perspectives aligned and where are they misaligned,” said Dominic Packer, associate professor of psychology and associate dean of research and graduate programs in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences. “They are really exploratory focus groups.”

Adjunct Lehigh professor and recently retired Bethlehem police Sgt. Wade Haubert thinks inherent bias is a fascinating research topic with real world applications.

“Start off acknowledging what we all know: every single person in this country has grown up in some environment where they ultimately have bias,” Haubert said. “It doesn’t mean that it is bad, that you are a bigot. Let’s just all acknowledge, we have some stereotypes. Let’s identify through a study why those things might occur and we can look at what we can do to potentially recognize that and factor that in as a conscious factor in how we make decisions.”

Informal conversations about police tactics and procedures in the wake of high-profile police shootings started forming the questions that are now the basis of the research, Haubert said. His own concerns about the direction of policing attracted him to the project.

“I was very frustrated with the way the profession of policing has changed over the last 20 years,” Haubert said. “…When I first got hired, community policing was a big thing and the Bethlehem Police Department was one of the poster children for good community policing.”

This was lost nationally in the wake of 9/11.

“We lost our ability to put the citizens first and have the ability to communicate with them and understand that most people support us,” Haubert said.

“Different communities have different expectations of the police and relate to the police in different ways and it affects the complexity of policing and whether people think the police are doing a good job,” Ochs said.

But as the region changes demographically those differences could potentially be problematic if a “past practice of acceptable policing behavior is applied to a diverse community,” Haubert said.

If a brown skinned family moves into a largely white and homogeneous borough, the police might be called as they are moving in, Haubert said. Or if you’re driving a certain type of car while gawking at mansions in Upper Saucon Township you may get stopped.

Researchers hope these focus groups can spur wider conversations among communities with the police, so residents can gain a better understanding of ins and outs of policing and how to communicate with police.

“The bigger goal is to bring different communities together with the police and talk about the challenges and complexities of policing and how different communities can better relate and interact using the police as intermediaries,” Ochs said.

“If we can build this research further we’d like to create Center of the Study of Democratic Policing — that center would be an online forum and a public space where we would organize conversations about maintaining peaceful relations without the use of force,” Ochs said.

If police departments are interested in specialized training or resources, the center could offer that as well, she said.

We’ll devote two or three more posts to getting to know Prof Ochs’ work.

“The time for action where public safety is concerned is upon us”

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Gadfly:

I’m guessing that your home was built well before the comprehensive building codes that are applied today on new construction.

Why are these current codes in effect? Because we learned through trial and error (fires where there was no firewall, for example) that we had to do better to protect the health and safety of those who live in shared structures.

Like buildings, life circumstances create the demand for updated societal structure, action, if you will.

We know the time for action where public safety is concerned is upon us. Delays only create more issues and potentially more danger.

Dana Grubb

School resource officers: “They’re not there to help us”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and
the policing in schools?

(min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)

  • The money that’s being used to place police in our schools should be used to get more counselors, more people there to help the kids.
  • We’re there to learn . . . there’s a certain disconnect between teacher and student in the school that people don’t understand, and that fact that you have police there, I already don’t feel comfortable.
  • I think there needs to be more counselors to help these kids.
  • These kids grow up in harsh environments, these kids have trauma, and you look at them, and you just blame them for acting out.
  • You don’t need police, you need help, the kids need help, the police aren’t doing anything, they’re just standing around getting paid for nothing.
  • We need help, we need counselors to talk to.
  • Those funds should be used for the community . . . not for the police to do nothing.
  • I really think schools should consider . . . hiring POC counselors . . . probably don’t feel comfortable talking to a counselor not of their race, feeling that they can’t relate.
  • Our counselors aren’t even trained properly to address these situations. Literally all they do is help schedule our classes and help get a study hall and basically saying, O, my job’s done.
  • That’s not what we need. We come to them trying to confide in them, trying to have them help us when they don’t know how to, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Because it’s not to them in their job description.
  • Your life at home affects your life at school . . . and that’s not fair to students that they don’t have anybody to come to.
  • All that money could go into helping students becoming better.
  • Allen is notorious for fighting and there aren’t that many to justify that amount of money for SRO’s to be in that school.
  • We need to give our counselors that proper training so that they are able to adjust the situations that their students bring to them.
  • “Resource” officers? They don’t give us resources. They’re not there to help us.
  • They’re literally to just track us from the school to the prison . . . You are written up . . . arrested on paper . . . labeled for the rest of your life.
  • They’re not nice, they’re looking down on us . . . They can’t relate to us, they don’t know the type of anger we have, the type of things we go through at home.
  • They say that they help, but they don’t help.
  • What if a child does resist, because they’re scared, they’re going to retaliate like that, put a knee on a kid’s neck . . . somebody who has no knowledge about how to control their actions because they are not taught to.
  • There are literally examples of officers in school to protect the students doing absolutely nothing.
  • If you’re constantly in my face . . . harassing us . . .
  • I don’t feel safe with you here.
  • You’re not distributing the money evenly or fairly.
  • Give me facts, give me data that they have helped improve the safety.
  • I feel safer at home than I do at school.
  • What would they teach us? How when you are stopped by the police you can try not to be killed?

Gadfly’s roof isn’t leaking — yet

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Gadfly lives cozily nestled in the middle of a triple.

When his neighbor’s roof leaks, he gets water.

Since there is no firewall in the open shared attic crawl space, if one neighbor has a fire, that fire will rise up to the attic and then down on Gadfly’s side.

These facts were on Gadfly’s mind as he posted thrice this morning before now.

And as he thinks about the missing Public Safety Committee meeting.

Catch Gadfly’s drift?

Public Safety Committee chair: mcolon@bethlehem-pa.gov

 

“A person who is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t need a guy with a gun”

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from Christina Tatu, “Allentown City Council divided over controversial police video and calls for reform.” Morning Call, July 17, 2020.

Allentown City Council is divided over whether a police officer acted correctly when he restrained a man outside of St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head.

Polled Friday before the Lehigh County district attorney announced that the takedown was “reasonable” and that the two officers involved would not be charged, three council members said they believe the police acted appropriately, while two others said they acted too harshly. In addition, Joshua Siegel, who did not return a call or email, has proposed police reforms, and on Wednesday apologized to Edward Borrero Jr., the man the police restrained.

Council President Daryl Hendricks and Councilman Ed Zucal, both former Allentown police officers, said they believe officers acted correctly when they restrained Borrero, 37, of Allentown, who was stumbling down Chew Street around 6:30 p.m. Saturday. They said the officers did not put Borrero in any danger.

“When a subject is on his stomach, that is exactly where an officer needs to be positioned, right next to his head near his shoulder. Your knee is supposed to be at the center of his shoulder blades,” said Zucal, who believes that is what a silent, nine-minute surveillance video of the incident showed.

“The leg will be near his head but not on his head. That’s the big difference between this and George Floyd,” Zucal said, recalling the May 25 death in Minneapolis that kicked off nationwide protests when Floyd was pinned beneath the knee of a police officer for nearly nine minutes.

“At no time, according to the expert, and from what I could see, could this man not breathe,” Affa said. “From what I see and what the experts see, it’s so much different than George Floyd. That officer wanted to kill him. He didn’t want to restrain him. What we saw at Sacred Heart and George Floyd is apples to oranges.”

Councilwomen Ce-Ce Gerlach and Cynthia Mota both had concerns about the way police responded to Borrero.

“He was in front of the hospital, so he was looking for help. I don’t think handcuffing him was the right thing to do. I don’t think putting his neck in the middle of the sidewalk was the right thing to do,” Mota said. “How are we able to handle a person in crisis other than putting him in handcuffs?”

Gerlach said she was “deeply concerned” after seeing video of the incident and speaking with Borrero, who joined protesters outside Allentown City Hall during a City Council meeting Wednesday night. “We need to hear audio that corresponds with the visual to see what, if any, de-escalation tactics were used or if there was was anything escalating the situation,” Gerlach said. “I’m disturbed by the fact we were told the officers and the gentleman fell to the ground and then it appears something else happened and he was tripped,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gerlach and Siegel proposed a police oversight resolution on a number of reforms, including requiring officers to intervene to stop any excessive use of force, making body camera footage available to the public and removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use-of-force policy.

Council members polled on Friday said they are open to reviewing the proposal. Zucal, however, said he doesn’t think any council members should try to “micromanage” the police department. “If we could get an outside group that’s objective, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. However, I won’t let a certain group try to minimize and micromanage the police department.”

Gerlach said she doesn’t necessarily agree with everything protesters want, but supports transferring some money from the police department to address community issues like homelessness and drug addiction.

“I think people have a misconception that this means abolishing the police department. … I don’t want to get rid of police officers entirely because there is a role for them, but a person who is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t need a guy with a gun,” Gerlach said.

Knee to head brief emergency immobilization according to D.A.

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DA: No evidence to support charging Allentown police officers in restraint of man.” 69News, July 17, 2020.

After observing these actions both officers concluded that Borrero was in distress and in need of medical attention and a danger to himself and possibly others, Martin said. They also concluded that he was likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene to provide aid to somebody who is in distress, Martin said.

Mr. Borrero began pointing aggressively toward a St. Luke’s security officer who was walking toward him with a vomit bag, Martin said. The officers concluded that his actions were aggressive and they determined that they needed to detain him for his own safety as well as for the safety of themselves and others, including medical personnel. They intended to place him into detention so that he could be taken into the hospital, Martin said.

One of the officers, based upon his training, approached Borrero from behind and slightly to his left, in an effort to handcuff him, Martin said. The officer was able to place a handcuff onto Borrero’s left wrist while both of his hands were clenched against his head. The other officer tried to take control of Borrero’s right hand and arm and to bring the left handcuffed wrist to his back in order to place both wrists into handcuffs, Martin said.

Borrero resisted the attempt, began lurching forward and tried to pull away from the officers, Martin said. In order to gain control, one officer took Borrero to the ground. While on the ground, Borrero continued to resist and during this time was yelling and spitting, Martin said.

An officer then moved his knee to Borrero’s head in order to place him into emergency immobilization so as to safely, efficiently and effectively keep him from moving his body to avoid being handcuffed and placed into custody, Martin said. The officer moved his knee to Borrero’s head, not his neck, Martin said. After that, the officer immediately removed his knee from Borrero’s head, but, very briefly, had to put it back on his head again, while Borrero was spitting at the officers, Martin said.

At the officers’ request hospital personnel provided and placed a breathable spit shield on Borrero. Both officers then attempted to calm him and assure him that they were attempting to help him, Martin said. He was speaking incoherently but appeared less agitated, according to the news release.

He was placed into the “recovery position,” and one officer conducted a search of Borrero, during which an uncapped hypodermic needle was found in his right cargo short’s pocket, Martin said. Although Borrero continued to yell, he was no longer resisting or spitting, and based upon his compliance, he was then helped to his feet, and walked by the two officers into the Emergency Room, according to the release.

Martin said any determinations on whether the officers should be disciplined, suspended, or fired from their positions are internal personnel matters of the Allentown Police Department. However, he said that based on the evidence he sees no basis for such actions.

Allentown Police Department Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr., in a statement Friday, said he reviewed Martin’s decision. He said the police department’s internal review by the Office of Professional Standards, as well as the department’s use of force review process has determined, along with Martin’s findings, that there is no basis for any discipline of the officers involved.

In the statement, Granitz said that at no time during the incident did either officer place their knee on Borrero’s neck, and that there was never a point when a chokehold was applied. A review of video evidence and the interviews with witnesses corroborates this, Granitz said.

“The men and women of the Allentown Police Department remain committed to protecting the public and we take that responsibility seriously,” Granitz said in the statement.

“I pledge to continue to work closely with community stakeholders and members of our department to ensure the safety and quality of life of the residents of the City of Allentown.”

Allentown Mayor Ray O’ Connell also released a statement following District Attorney Martin’s findings. “I thank District Attorney Martin and APD’s Office of Professional Standards and Use of Force Review team for their respective inquiries into the incident outside St. Luke’s Sacred Heart. Public safety is my top priority,” O’ Connell said. “That reaches its highest level when there is trust between the police department and the residents. As mayor of the city, I am committed to strengthening the relationship between the department and the community. I take my oath of office seriously. I remain committed to the protection of the public and to improving the lives of all our citizens.”

Knee on head restraint reasonable according to the D.A.

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from Manuel Gamiz, Jr., “DA: Allentown police officers were justified in takedown. Protesters: ‘We do not accept it’.” Morning Call, July 17, 2020.

An Allentown police officer who restrained a man on the ground last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head did nothing wrong, said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin on Friday, finding that the force used was not excessive. Martin said in a news release that he found the takedown by two Allentown officers “reasonable.” “I have concluded that there is absolutely no evidence to support filing criminal charges against either of the Allentown police officers involved in this incident,” Martin said.

Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley responded immediately in a Facebook video, with Justan Parker, one of the founders, saying, “This is not OK. This is not right. We’re going to continue speaking about this.” Parker said the investigation should have been conducted by an outside agency and promised to mobilize the community in response. About an hour later, the Lehigh Valley Coalition of Equity, a patchwork of representatives from Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley and other organizations, held a press conference at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown. “We do not accept it,” Parker said at the press conference with fellow protesters holding signs behind him.

Parker said the coalition demands an external investigation headed by the state attorney general’s office, the release of the names of the officers involved in the July 11 incident, and the officers’ suspensions pending the external investigation’s outcome. “We’re also demanding the officers’ body cam footage be released, as video footage from St. Luke’s Hospital has not been sufficient,” Parker said. “This goes along with our other demands of defunding the police and reallocating those funds back into the community. “The use-of-force police [recently] made public has already been violated with regard to the neck restraint and officers not intervening,” he said. “We will continue to push and fight for this until our demands are met.”

Bystander Glendon Hall of Allentown gave his take after watching the press conference. “It’s a very precarious situation,” Hall said. “The police are under extreme stress. The measure of force used was excessive, obviously, and folks have every right to protest, but police work long hours and are under even more pressure now than they were just 10 years ago. We have to find a way to come together and heal.”

The Congressional Black Caucus on Friday also called for “a full independent investigation” into the Allentown arrest, and for the officers involved to be “punished to the fullest extent of the law for the use of the banned chokehold.”

“I am satisfied that given Mr. Borrero’s obvious intoxication and his actions, he was clearly a danger to himself and potentially to others,” Martin said. “He was clearly agitated and noncompliant, and in order to gain control of him so that he was no longer a danger, and could be medically treated, it was necessary for the officers to restrain him. That restraint was reasonable.” Martin said the Allentown officer only briefly put his knee on Borrero’s head, and noted that it was not placed on his neck. “The officer’s knee remained in that position for about eight seconds and was removed as soon as he was handcuffed,” he said.

On Friday, after Martin announced his decision, POWER Lehigh Valley posted on its Facebook page, “Every. Word. of Jim Martin’s statement is an outrage.”

Martin said he would not be complying with demands to release the officer’s name, saying it would be “improper” to identify a person who was under investigation but not criminally charged. The criminal complaint says Borrero was vomiting, yelling “in an aggressive grunting style” and lobbing obscenities at emergency room staff, five of whom were interviewed by Martin’s office. In his report, Martin noted that Borrero stumbled into the street, where at least one car swerved to avoid hitting him, and that police intervened to get him into the hospital. “Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene pursuant to the community care-taking doctrine to provide aid to an individual who is in distress,” Martin said.

The problem with this blog

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

Gadfly,

This blog faces the same problem as the city — it’s almost all white voices. Can you reach out to Olga Negrón, Esther Lee, Victoria Montero, Melanie Lino, teachers, and others to encourage participation by minority voices, especially young people?

Peter

Peter calls attention to a problem. Mindful of his mortality, his day job, and temperamentally averse to merchandise, self-promote, and sell himself, Gadfly has always hoped that the blog would find its audience by word of mouth. So if you see value in the blog and if you see the real problem to which Peter calls attention, would you right now, right this minute send to everybody on your contact list: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/ — to follow, click the button at the top of the right-hand sidebar.

Viva la diversidad!

“It’s time for us as adults to shut up and listen”

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Michele Downing is a Social Worker and RN, a grandmother of two, interested in social and environmental justice, a resident of the Lehigh Valley for fifteen years, the last six years a resident of West Bethlehem.

Gadfly is sharing his “journey” as he is opening himself up to viewpoints and perspectives relevant to “the nation’s searing reckoning with racial inequality” spurred by the murder of George Floyd.

Viewpoints and perspectives that should inform the important discussions we hope to have in Bethlehem.

Michele passed this link on as “Gadfly worthy,” and I am so thankful.

Gadfly has spent the early morning listening to students-of-color voices. And tremendously moved.

Ce-Ce Gerlach, member of Allentown City Council and prominent voice on racial issues, organized “Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and Parkland School District speak their truths!”

These are not Bethlehem voices, but there is no doubt shared consciousness.

You gotta listen.

It’s easy enough to listen to a short segment at a time.

Begin minute 1:48 with Gerlach intro.

The students were posed several questions to prompt discussion.

  • What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and the policing in schools (min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)? Remember that BASD boss Joseph Roy as recently stated, “We will undertake a review of the purpose, rationale and outcomes of our School Resource Officer program.”
  • Does your education matter to you, and do you feel it matters to the people in charge of educating you, such as teachers, and school district adminsitrators, and etc.? (min. 25:25)
  • What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently being used in your schools? (min. 40:33)
  • Do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is just a trend, and what are you as youth leaders going to do to insure that this work continues? (min. 1:05:05)

Gerlach conclusion: 1:27:27

One hopes that the two youths on the NAACP Community Advisory Board are similarly articulate.

Emerson, “Self-Reliance”:  “Do not think that the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! In the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.”