My only question is why it took nationwide rioting to prompt it, since police killing unarmed people — especially people of color — has been going on for years*. Most police officers are good people who would never commit acts such as the murder of George Floyd. At the same time, the ongoing violence makes clear that it is more than a case of a few “rotten apples”; it’s a pervasive, systemic problem that raises many questions.
Here are a few of the questions I see:
Why do police agencies tolerate such rotten apples instead of rooting them out and firing them? (The officer who killed Floyd had 17 or more previous complaints about use of violence and excessive force.)
Why is it common practice for police to close ranks and protect officers who commit such offenses?
What does “law enforcement officer” even mean when more than just a few police officers commit crimes ranging from theft to assault to murder?
Why haven’t police been leading the charge to demand that police officers who commit crimes be charged as criminals and prosecuted?
Why do police, as a group, have a higher rate of domestic violence and spousal abuse than almost any other demographic?
Why are there more black and minority drug arrests than white, even though drug crime is much known to be higher among whites?
Is it any wonder that people in many big cities see police as more of a danger than a solution?
* Last year, police killed about 1100 people, many of whom were unarmed and innocent of any crime. Available statistics indicate that police shoot in the US and kill an average of about 2 Black people every week.
Latest in a series of posts on the George Floyd killing
Gadfly is bunkered in because of the virus. He would appreciate followers attending local BLM events today 3-5 at Town Hall and over the weekend sending pictures, audio, video.
Our Mayor and our Police Chief made powerful statements deploring the country’s racist climate and the actions of the police in the killing of George Floyd.
Which is good.
But Breena Holland has asked us to push beyond the rhetoric to self-examination and to action.
Which is good.
This is no time to be self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, smug, back-patting, complacent, resting-on-laurels, etc.
It’s a time for rigorous self-examination even if we think we are doing a good job.
Holland reminds us of discussion barely three months ago of an incident at a traffic stop that is exactly the kind of incident that can blow up like Minneapolis did and that might only be the tip of an iceberg here. (See Police on the list of topics on the right-hand sidebar to refresh your memory. Gadfly will come back to this incident in another post shortly.)
“Does the mayor really think there are no problems with how our police department is dealing with people of color?” Holland asks, “The Bethlehem police may not be killing people, but that does not mean that they treat black and brown people the same way they treat white people.”
Hard words, Gadfly said, but a necessary tonic at this cultural moment.
Through the good offices of Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith, the Mayor was connected with local protest organizers Matty Fall and J. C. Lustre Villanueva. The Mayor reported that they had a 90-minute meeting yesterday and will meet again.
Which is good.
The Chief reported that there will be another Black Lives Matter event today 3-5 Town Hall and perhaps one Saturday and Sunday.
Which is good.
(Gadfly is bunkered in because of the virus. He would appreciate followers attending and sending pictures, audio, video.)
These are important next action steps after the rhetoric.
Public comment at the Council meeting last night by Alex Dobyan focused precisely on the need for self-examination — and making police policies transparent to us.
Dobyan asked about Bethlehem Police policies designed to reduce the likelihood that events that transpired in Minneapolis would happen here, mentioning the Use of Force project. Do we have policies to exhaust all options, warn before using deadly force, criminalize choke holds, report all threats to use violence with weapons, forbid hiring officers being investigated elsewhere, mandate use of least amount of force, etc.? All of these are examples that protect police and citizens and help reduce racism.
Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith elicited answers to such questions later in the meeting when she asked the Chief about the training our officers receive.
The Chief expressed confidence that the department already had in place the kinds of policies Dobyan was asking about, saying that the department was accredited both by the state and nationally, a dual accreditation that only 4% of departments have, that the department followed guidelines by such organizations as the NAACP, and that officers must qualify every year — training is continuous, the Chief said.
Dr. William L. Estes, first Superintendent, Director, and Chief Surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital , was a figure of immense importance in Bethlehem’s history. Born in 1855 on a plantation in western Tennessee, he embarked on a career in medicine while still in his teens, eventually making his way to New York City to complete his medical training. His intelligence and diligence quickly brought him to the attention of some of the best clinicians of their day. Luckily for Bethlehem, in 1878 he was one of only two students selected for training at Mt. Sinai Hospital. His training there would have a profound impact on medical care not only in Bethlehem but nationally and internationally.
Medicine in America in those days was more craft than science. It was only in the1860s that Dr. Joseph Lister took Pasteur’s theories of bacterial contamination and applied them to surgical infections –- soaking surgical sponges, spraying wounds with antiseptic solution, washing surgical instruments, and wearing appropriate surgical gowns. These ideas were controversial and not widely adopted outside of Germany. In fact, the famous 1885 painting by Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic, shows renown surgeon Samuel Gross surrounded by assistants who hover over a patient, all in their street clothes, without masks, and the patient wearing socks. Even through the 1880s and 1890s there was no general agreement about the causal role of bacteria in wound infection –- at least in the US and England. That was not the case in Germany, though, which was an early adopter of Listerian practices and Robert Koch’s theories of bacteriology, and applied them to medical practice.
At Mt. Sinai, medical training was influenced by German theory and practice. In fact, business at the hospital was actually conducted in German. As a result, Dr. Estes was an early confirmed practitioner of Listerism (asepsis), much earlier than most other clinicians in the US. This placed him on the forefront of the revolution in medicine that resulted in a more scientific approach and better clinical and surgical outcomes.
In 1881, when he was just 26 years old, Dr. Estes was recruited to be St. Luke’s first superintendent and director. Thankfully for the people of Bethlehem he brought this scientific orientation to the fledgling hospital. Over the course of the next 39 years, until his retirement in 1920, Dr. Estes created innovations that not only saved lives in Bethlehem but were also adopted widely in the US and overseas. Many of these innovations arose from the industrial environment that motivated Bethlehem’s business leaders to establish the hospital.
The Lehigh Valley of that day was the hub of four railroads as well as home to a growing number of mines and mills. Industrial accidents, especially those associated with coupling and uncoupling rail cars by hand with no safety equipment, were a growing problem along the rail lines that stretch out from Bethlehem. The closest hospital was fifty miles away in Philadelphia.
One of his early innovations, which became a national standard, followed his appointment in 1882 as Chief Surgeon of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He promptly organized the disconnected group of medical men who served the communities along the railroad lines into the Association of Lehigh Valley Railroad Surgeons. In 1886 he devised a uniform first aid kit to be carried on locomotives and cabooses of every freight train, established a course of lectures and demonstrations for first aid, and required conductors, engineers, station agents, and clerks to come to St Luke’s for instruction.
Among Dr. Estes’ most significant innovations was the founding of St. Luke’s School of Nursing. Training women to serve as nurses was controversial at the time, but Dr. Estes’ training in New York exposed him to the fledgling movement founded by Florence Nightingale and convinced him that appropriately trained women could be a vital adjunct to patient care. Not long after coming to St. Luke’s, he began to lay the ground work for a nurse training program modeled on the Nightingale Plan. The school was established in 1884 making it among the earliest schools in the country. Today, St. Luke’s School of Nursing is the nation’s oldest nursing school in continuous operation.
Dr. Estes’ experience treating injuries led to a subsequent innovation that revolutionized the treatment of compound fractures with the “plate and peg” method of splinting. His scientific approach to the study of treatment methods as a leader of a study for the American College of Surgeons led to the permanent establishment of the Committee on Trauma. As a result, the standard of fracture care in hospitals in the US and Canada improved immensely.
Dr. Estes was a remarkable man, an exceptional administrator, and medical visionary whose leadership greatly benefited the people of Bethlehem.
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
Dr. William L. Estes, 1855-1940: the first superintendent, director, and chief surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital: an autobiography, published 1967
Asepsis and Bacteriology: A Realignment of Surgery and Laboratory Science Thomas Schlich Medical History, Jul 2012, 56(3)308-334 Published online 2012
The Listerian Revolution, the Gross Clinic & the Agnew Clinic; Thomas Jefferson University, Historical Profiles, http://www.jefferson.edu
Latest in a series of posts on the George Floyd killing
Mark DiLuzio is the Bethlehem Chief of Police. This statement was delivered at City Council last night June 3 (min. 1:15:45) and appears on the Police Department Facebook page.
At Council last night as well, the Chief announced a Black Lives Matter event today 3-5 at Town Hall and perhaps one Saturday and Sunday. Gadfly is not clear about these events, however, and hopes that anyone with more details will let him know.
George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America
Last Tuesday, when the video of George Floyd’s death was aired, I was horrified at what I saw. Like all Americans across this nation, I was outraged at the callous actions of the Police Officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck. I was also shocked at the actions of the three other officers who stood idly by and did not attempt to intervene even though it was their duty to do so.
Since last week, many police officers across this country have watched the video of George Floyd’s death. We as police officers condemn what happened to Mr. Floyd. I have not met one police officer, either BPD, or other agency, who viewed this video and justified the actions of ex-officer Derek Chauvin. I have heard from officers comments of “disgust,” “this is not what we stand for,” and “this is plain wrong.”
Every police officer I have spoken with has said that ex-officer Chauvin should have been fired and arrested for what he did and that the other officers should have been fired. Many officers indicated that the other three should be investigated and charged if appropriate. They failed to stop what was taking place. Just like our citizens, our police officers are rightfully outraged at what happened and also at what is happening now across this country with the violence, rioting, and looting by certain radical criminal groups using this incident to further their agenda of violence, destruction, and hate.
On Saturday, in Bethlehem, a rally and march was held to protest George Floyd’s murder, to condemn racism, and ask for justice. My Deputy Chief and I were there. BPD Officers were present to assist with the large protest and march from the Rose Garden on 8th and Broad, down Broad Street, to New Street, to City Hall on Church Street, and back. The march was peaceful. The protester’s message about what happened in Minneapolis, the injustice that took place, was loudly heard. Unlike other cities across our nation, our protest was peaceful, not marred by violence, rioting, and looting.
Over the weekend, as I watched media and social media accounts of what was transpiring nationwide, I saw a photo of a black woman holding a large sign that read “Not All Blacks are Criminals. Not All Whites are Racist. Not All Cops are Bad. Ignorance comes in All Colors.” After reading the sign, I said to myself “It’s so very true.” Human beings are an imperfect species. We are all different in some ways but all the same in other ways. There is good and bad in all groups of people. We should not group people into certain broad categories. To do so is plain wrong.
Police Officers are no different. What occurred in Minneapolis was 100% wrong. What the four Officers did was wrong. What Officer Derek Chauvin did was criminal. The horrific events of that day that lead to Mr. Floyd’s death should be investigated thoroughly, and if additional criminal charges are needed, they should be filed accordingly immediately.
The type of force used by ex-officer Chauvin is never an acceptable use of force by any properly trained officer. In my 40 years of law enforcement experience and training, I have never had anyone ever advocate this type of use of force. I know many officers, and from talking with them, they too from their experience and training agree that a properly trained officer would never use this type of force under the circumstances. Police departments across the country this weekend joined with protesters. In Los Angeles, Flint, Michigan, Orlando, Miami, and other places, police departments engaged and even marched with protesters to state together what happened to Mr. Floyd was wrong and criminal.
We are currently at a serious set of crossroads in our country. We can peacefully protest for change, to stop the violence, work together in our communities like many police departments are, or we can riot, loot, create anarchy, and create more pain and suffering for many innocent people. About 200 years ago, Edmund Burke stated “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That quote is so very true today, especially now.
All Police are not the same. All people are not the same, and all protesters are not the same. We must come together under our common belief that what transpired in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of George Floyd was 100% wrong. We also must state together that the violence, the looting, and rioting by some groups and individuals is also wrong and has no place in a civilized society. Only when we work together towards common ideas, communicate peacefully, and work out of differences without violence, can we achieve overall mutual change. And in that change, due justice for George Floyd and his family.
Mark A. DiLuzio
Chief of Police
Bethlehem Police Department
In light of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American who died at the hands of a Minnesota police officer, Lehigh Valley residents took to the streets in Bethlehem Saturday, marching for Floyd, for other African American police victims, and for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Activists Matty Fall, J. C. Lustre Villanueva and Michael Henriquez led the march, which gathered at the Rose Garden in Bethlehem at 3 p.m.
“It really weighs heavy on my mind and on my heart,” Fall told a park full of protestors, “when another black brother or sister has their life taken by someone in uniform.”
“This whole thing leaves me with so many questions,” Fall said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I know that we can do better. We really need to vote. We need to vote for people that care.”
Hundreds of protestors marched for nearly two hours, crossing the West Broad Street bridge, weaving through the streets of downtown Bethlehem, and rallying beside the Bethlehem Area Public Library before making their return to the Rose Garden.
Protesters from across the valley chanted “No justice, no peace,” “Say their names,” “Silence Is compliance.”
Pennsylvania residents are no strangers to questionable police actions against people of color. According to a press release by march organizers, of the more than 1,000 incidents where people were killed by police in the United States last year, 165 of them happened in Pennsylvania.
“It’s our job — our duty as a community — to protect one another,” Lustre Villanueva said, “because when the government fails to protect its people, who else is going to take care of them?”
“Today we’re marching in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Fall, who hopes to prevent violence towards the black community.
“People like me are in danger all the time,” she said. “It’s extremely uncomfortable.
“Today, with everyone uncomfortable in the heat, I don’t think that even equates to what a black person goes through on a day-to-day basis,” she added.
The turnout was like that of a Super Bowl parade, but while those participating in parades may celebrate a victory, those who marched both mourned a loss and shared a hope.
“We’re out here raising awareness, spreading the word, and using our voices to try to get justice for all the black bodies that America has on its hands,” Fall said.
The event concluded at the Rose Garden, where the crowd knelt down, raised their fists in the air, and listened as Ashleigh Strange read some names from the list of over a thousand Americans killed by police in 2019.
Fall said she helped plan the rally sort of at the last minute, thinking maybe 30 or 40 people would show up.
“I never thought it would get this big,” ”she said. “I feel so overwhelmed. I’m just so excited and happy that this many people care about my life, every other black life here, and every other black life in America.”