About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, November 05, 2010

Did Bethlehem Police Over-React?


On Wednesday night, I walked into what I thought was a Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board meeting. Idiot that I am, I had my dates mixed up, and walked into what was actually a Public Safety Committee hearing. But I arrived just in time to see two Bethlehem cops escort a man from the podium. According to Morning Call news account penned by Matt Assad, it's the first time this has happened in at least twenty years.

What was this guy doing to warrant an ejection? He was reading the Constitution and citing Black's Law Dictionary. Loudly. Very loudly. Scary loudly.

In fact, after a previous performance in front of City Council, Bethlehem officials asked for a police presence, which also exists at Allentown, Lehigh County and Northampton County meetings.

What disturbs me about this ejection, which I do think was appropriate, is that no member of City Council made the request. A police officer took it upon himself to make a call that really should have come from the Chair.

I caught the actual ejection on video, but Tony Simao caught the entire incident. What do you think? Did this gentleman go too far? Should the police have acted on their own, withot direction from the Chair?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Causing a scene?" That guy was like Miss Manners compared to the wild ranting and raving Ron Angle does at most meetings. This guy was actually reading facts, Angle just screams crap.

Amazing we silence citizens yet office holders like Angle can scream like banshees.


Factual Fred Flanders

ws w said...

Escort Angle out
I'll buy the coffee and donuts

Mystery said...

Should not have been ejected. The cop(s) should not have stepped in.

What was his motive for speaking, anyway? That GOD gives him his rights?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Apparently, it is God's fault. Somebody issue a warrant.

Patrick McHenry said...

Bernie -

The police officer was wrong for pulling the guy out of council chambers.

I heard no one on council make a request to remove the man, I didn't hear a timer go off to indicate the man had exceeded any time limit, and the councilman shown hardly seemed threatened by what the man was saying.

What type of recourse is there to make sure this doesn't happen again? I think at the least Bethlehem council owes the man an apology. At worst, he finds a lawyer and sues them.

Tony Simao said...

Mr. Schantz was speaking at the courtesy of the floor on the issue of new fees being tacked onto alarm systems. He was basically pointing out that the ordinance is infringing on his personal rights to have to give his house keys to two people so that police may enter the house in case of an alarm. As well as having the God given right to be able to protect his own property.

Regardless of how he was attempting to make that point, Mr. Schantz's rights were trampled on. I'm only glad I was there to capture this type of behavior from the current leadership of the city. I hope it never happens again. I also hope he doesn't reach out to the ACLU!

Anonymous said...

"I'm only glad I was there to capture this type of behavior from the current leadership of the city"

What city leader directed the police officer to act?

What type of behavior are you referring to?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I cannot answer for Tony, but can ask why the police acted on their own, instead of waiting for a signal from the Chair? The guy was screaming, and it's understandable that some Council members might be concerned, but i saw no indication that anyone was in immediate danger. Were there threats?

Wayne said...

About a minute later they could have said, "Your Time is Up!" and then escorted him out if necessary. Dumb move IMHO, but then I wasn't there.

I understand the unease that was probably generated by the increasing volume and excitability but not everyone is a smooth public speaker. I wouldn't want him speaking on my behalf...

If they had waited another minute they probably would have never seen this gentleman again. But now, who knows?

Anonymous said...

The police have a duty to preserve the peace. This guy was talking (yelling) when it served no purpose to do such.

The cop doesn't need or take orders from the board or chair, he did his job.

No harm No foul. If the guy wants to come back, have manners and speak like a human all power to him.

Tony Simao said...

"I'm only glad I was there to capture this type of behavior from the current leadership of the city"

What city leader directed the police officer to act?

What type of behavior are you referring to?


I was referring to the type of behavior that will most likely cause the city to be sued. The Chair could have just told the police officer to let the man finish out his time. The police dept. does NOT run meetings, they are there to protect only if called upon. This police officer (even if he felt he was doing the right thing) did not have the right to stop anyone from exercising their constitutional right to address his elected officials.

So, while nobody in the city's leadership visibly or audibly told the officer to intervene. You're correct in that, they failed to instruct the officer to stop and not infringe upon someone's rights. The behavior I speak of is an arrogance that they can do what they wish, and don’t have to answer to anyone (other than once every 4 years).

Anonymous said...

Why was an officer there in the first place? I will assume that he was assigned this duty "just in case". I wasn't there, but I would rather the officer react two minutes too early rather than one second too late. The guy looked and sounded like a nut case. Maybe he was just raising his voice in excitement and maybe he is completely rational...but what if he was about to pull a weapon or attack the council members.

How dare any of you question the officer's authority.

VOR

Tony Simao said...

How dare any of you question the officer's authority.

I'm not questioning the police officer's authority at all; I simply stated he doesn't have the right to pull someone away from speaking to his or her elected officials.

As a matter of fact the Police Commissioner was sitting there and he didn't engage Mr. Schantz. There was also a police officer in plain clothes and a fourth officer in uniform sitting in the audience.

They were all sitting to the left of Mr. Schantz only a few seats away. If he had been some "nut" (as it was put) I'm certain he'd have thought twice before doing anything violent.

No matter the amount of "what if" scenarios or personal attacks you may want to throw my way they will never erase the FACT that someone's rights were violated. And if that had happened to you, you'd want someone to stand up for your rights as well instead of making excuses for others.

Anonymous said...

The Chair could have ruled him out of order, but really what authority does he have to remove people. He would have had to ask the police officer to remove the person.

THe Officer is charged with keeping the peace in the city. This was a public meeting in a public building. The officer is the one who enforces the laws. If he felt this man was being unlwful and breaching the peace, then by all rights he was okay in asking him to leave.

To answer VOR's question. A police officer is generally around the Town Hall area during public meetings.

Also, this guy got loud a few weeks ago at a council meeting and Donchez asked him a few times not to yell at Council and to lower his voice.

One thing about Bethlehem City Council is that even though they may disagree on an issue, it is very rare that people get out of order or raise their voices. It is one of the most civil boards in the area. Additionally, the regular attendee's act in a civil manner.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How dare any of you question the officer's authority."

I believe we all have an obligation to question an officer's authority. Some dude in a police uniform and wearing a gun can often abuse his authority. In fact, there's a Bethlehem officer undergoing a hearing for that very reason right now. We all have a right to question the authority under which this officer took it upon himself to interfere with a speaker at a Council meeting. I believe the officer should never act unless (1) he is requested to do so by the chair; or (2)there are exigent circumstances.

Now this fellow was loud enough to prompt some concern, but I think it should have come from Council. How loud is too loud? How long before officers begin removing people who are being "uncivil" by criticizing Council members?

I am a veteran of many meetings in many municipalities and never saw a cop take it upon himself to remove someone without first being asked to do so.

But It could very well be that the cop had instructions to use his own judgment, and there may have been threats made that we know nothing about.

I respect the officers, who did not arrest this gentleman and spoke to him outside. I do not fault them for doing their best, but I do not think an officer should stop someone on his own volition unless he perceives a clear and present danger. In this case, the officer only decided to act when the gentleman challenged him, telling him to sit down.

Anonymous said...

I cannot stand police...He overreacted, and should have gotten punched in the face.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not questioning the police officer's authority at all; I simply stated he doesn't have the right to pull someone away from speaking to his or her elected officials."

The officer has the authority to act when he/she feels there is a disturbance and peace needs to be kept. He does not have to wait until he is "told or directed" by someone in a suit.

Anonymous said...

"I believe we all have an obligation to question an officer's authority. Some dude in a police uniform and wearing a gun can often abuse his authority."

You Bernie are the last to be able to question anyone's authority. You lost that right back in the 80's.

After all some dude in a suit carrying a briefcase can often abuse his authority and be disbarred.

You have NO RIGHT to be the "moral police" after the damage and harm you have done in your ugly past. I say we leave that the the honest citizens.

Anonymous said...

"The guy was screaming, and it's understandable that some Council members might be concerned, but i saw no indication that anyone was in immediate danger. Were there threats?"


Funny thing is if there were in NorCo Chambers you would have referred to this guy as a goon. But that is not the "juicy" spin you are going for.

I can only hope when a lunatic like this is speaking to your boy Angle and goes after him, the police wait for direction from someone who has no clue as to what the officers are trained to do, that they a a few seconds to late.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anonymous cowards.

eckville press said...

The Chair could have ruled him out of order, but really what authority does he have to remove people.

Their adopted parliamentary authority governs the procedure to remove a speaker, not the local Gestapo.

To quote Henry "Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty."

Anonymous said...

I guess your right to freedom of speech only applies to "nice" speech, when people "make a scene" discussing their legal rights to their government they are no longer protected.

Gimme a break, this guy was clearly within his rights, he wasn't threatening anyone, and he wasn't saying anything that was "irresponsible." At the very least that police officer and the city should publicly apologize to that man.

Anonymous said...

Tony Simao said...
Mr. Schantz was speaking at the courtesy of the floor on the issue of new fees being tacked onto alarm systems. He was basically pointing out that the ordinance is infringing on his personal rights to have to give his house keys to two people so that police may enter the house in case of an alarm. As well as having the God given right to be able to protect his own property.

From:" Lehigh Valley Ramblings "Did Bethlehem Police Over-React?"
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=9299655&postID=1760391685144700034

Tony and Bernie the Penna. Constitution says:

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE INHABITANTS OF PENNSYLVANIA

1. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, amongst which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Getting a permit and paying a yearly fee to the city makes a right into privilege! NO?

In the second article of the Declaration of Rights, which was made part of the late Constitution of Pennsylvania, it is declared: 'That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding; and that no man ought or of right can be compelled, to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, contrary to, or against, his own free will and consent; nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments, or peculiar mode of religious worship; and that no authority can, or ought to be, vested in, or assumed, by any power whatever, that shall, in any case, interfere with, or in any manner controul, the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.' (Dec. of Rights, Art. 2.). . . (The Judge then read the 1st. 8th. and 11th articles of the Declaration of Rights; and the 9th. and 46th sections of the Constitution of Pennsylvania. See 1 Vol. Dall. Edit. Penn. Laws p. 55. 6. 60. in the Appendix.) From these passages it is evident; that the right of acquiring and possessing property, and having it protected, is one of the natural, inherent, and unalienable rights of man. Men have a sense of property: Property is necessary to their subsistence, and correspondent to their natural wants and desires; its security was one of the objects, that induced them to unite in society. No man would become a member of a community, in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labour and industry. The preservation of property then is a primary object of the social compact, and, by the late Constitution of Pennsylvania, was made a fundamental law. . . The constitution expressly declares, that the right of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property is natural, inherent, and unalienable. It is a right not ex gratia from the legislature, but ex debito from the constitution. VANHORNE'S LESSEE v. DORRANCE, 2 U.S. 304 (1795)

Creating governments is the instrument to maintain them--all Individuals composing the self-governing people impliedly and in effect consent to some degree of limitation of their freedom to have order in society. This does not involve the surrender, or the alienation, of any of these rights but only the partial, conditional and limited relinquishment of Liberty to exercise a few of them and solely for the purpose of insuring the greater security and enjoyment of all of them; and, moreover, such relinquishment is always upon condition that public officials, as public servants and trustees, faithfully use the limited powers delegated to government keeping within prescribed limits written in the contract AKA: A Constitution .


Tony and Bernie this was my point but I got tossed !