Monday, November 15, 2010

Growing Police Presence at LV Municipal Meetings

No matter how controversial the topic, there was never a police presence at Northampton County Council meetings. Loud and angry people vented in Courtroom One when a 911 Center was the hot-button topic, and nobody needed to call the cops. All that changed after Glenn Reibman became County Executive. Now there are at least two Deputy Sheriffs at every session, sometimes more. In fact, this is part of a growing trend I see in other municipalities throughout the Lehigh Valley. Is it really necessary?

In Lehigh County, where I'm a less frequent visitor, I've always seen at least one Deputy Sheriff. He wanders in and out of the meeting room from time to time. Allentown City Council began using police officers this Summer, and Bethlehem's police just began "babysitting" a few weeks ago. I was surprised to hear the crackle of one officer's radio during a Zoning Hearing Board meeting last week.

One Bethlehem officer took it upon himself to interrupt a public speaker who was getting louder and louder, eventually escorting him out of Town Hall. Tony Simao, who films these meetings as a public service, captured the ejection on video. I believe that call should have come from the Chair, and not from a police officer, but have no quarrel with the removal.

But is it really necessary to send cops to a Zoning Hearing Board meeting? The unspoken message is that the public can't be trusted to behave.

Just two years ago, during a Kirkwood City Council meeting, a regular came in with two guns blazing, shooting a police officer, Public Works Director, two Council members, the Mayor and a reporter. Six people died, including the shooter. It's a tragic story that demonstrates that there are nuts out there who will get violent. But a police presence was no help in that instance.

People have spoken at municipal meetings in their boxers, KKK garb. One wiseass actually used a "fart machine" during a Medina, Ohio Council meeting. That's fine. But when a person interferes with the rights of others (e.g., holding up a sign while someone else speaks, or refusing to leave the podium), Courts get annoyed.

I believe this police presence is unnecessary for three reasons: 1) It has a chilling effect on First Amendment rights; 2) Kirkwood City Council's experience reveals that this presence is largely ineffective against any real danger; and 3) police officers have better things to do than be overpaid babysitters.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The unspoken message is that the public can't be trusted to behave"


well.....yes, precisely. that's generally the primary reason we have governments in general, no?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mitch Cumstein said...

As someone who has attended a variety of municipal mtgs., it's amazed me that we haven't had more violent incidents given some of the controversial topics.

Anonymous said...

notice ohares prejudice. it was only "babysitting" when bethlehem did it. Bernie don't you ever tire of showing your foolishness?

as for an officer present....but safe then sorry

Anonymous said...

Different question - are the police / deputies being asked to attend? Or are they just showing up? Is this another way to rack up needless overtime and no one has the stones to question them?

Anonymous said...

I applaud your courage Bernie..If there was no presence at Norco meetings those mean evil union thugs would probably eat you alive, no?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"it was only 'babysitting' when bethlehem did it."

I love Bethlehem. I lived there for a number of years, and if I could move anywhere now, it would be there. But that's the word that a Bethlehem police officer himself used to describe what he was doing. I'm sure he had better things to do than sit in on a ZHB meeting.

As for the "better safe than sorry" argument, then you might as well ban the public from attending meetings at all. That way you'll be safe. Under the First Amendment, we want you to be sorry at times. We want people to come in and say things you are not going to like, whether it is the fellow in Bethlehem or the Gracedake goons in NC.

I certainly don't want any violence but do not think the presence of an officer deters people from acting out. It might actually encourage that kind of behavior.

Bernie O'Hare said...

An anonymous comment posted at 6:35 AM was deleted at 10:30 AM. It took me 4 hours.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"it's amazed me that we haven't had more violent incidents given some of the controversial topics."

I don't believe we've every had ANY violent incidents here in the LV, except for Ivan Nusic in U Mt Bethel rolling around on the floor, but that was 20 years ago when there was no TV up there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Different question - are the police / deputies being asked to attend? Or are they just showing up? Is this another way to rack up needless overtime and no one has the stones to question them?"

They've been asked to be there. It's not their decision and most of them would rather be somewhere else. I think they are in the clear.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If there was no presence at Norco meetings those mean evil union thugs would probably eat you alive, no?"

I have never been threatened or physically intimidated during a Council meeting by anyone, except for the phony preacher who is now comparing Angle to Saddam Hussein. He did start getting physical, and I will say a Deputy stopped him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"hat's generally the primary reason we have governments in general, no?"

No. Government has a primary obligation of protecting us, but is actually protecting itself from us. Perhaps they should, but I question the need here in the LV.

Anonymous said...

The "Man of Peace" wanted a piece of you Bernie.

Anonymous said...

RCN's payment center has a bullet-proof glass window separating "customers" from RCN associates.

Polls show government is held in lower esteem than cable companies. Better safe than sorry until government improves its standing with its constituents.

c said...

People can do crazy things at public meetings Bernie. When I served as an elected official there were several times that the police had to attend meetings. I was glad that we had them there.

Anonymous said...

Bernie why don't you tell the truth about what really happened with you and the Reverend?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sure, the first time I saw the fake Reverend, he was cutting in front of people to get into Council. After that, I heard him claaim to be a preacher and he offered to show his credentials to Angle later that evening. But when the time came, he had no credentials. I've read him claim, like other fake preachers that God is on his side, instead of worrying about whether he is on God's side. And on the day of our encounter, the fake preacher overheard me questioning his credentials, got angry, and blocked the doorway out of Council. When I slipped thru despite my impressive girth, he wagged his finger in my face and told me, "You're lucky I'm a man of God." A deputy had to settle him down. Did I miss anything, fake Reverend?

Anonymous said...

Bernie your perception of what happened in the hallway outside of chambers is very different from what other witnesses saw. Even before you left the room you were calling out "where's that phony reverend." After the meeting was over the Reverend was speaking to Rev. Dowd when you came out and loudly demanded to know where the fake preacher was."I want to see his phony credentials" He's a liar you said. You then shoulered your way past him not once but twice. He moved backwards out of your way the first time and you again assulted him by butting your shoulder into him a second time. The Rev then walked away and you followed him to the elevator. You once again got in his face demanding to see his credentials. Then a man and woman got between the two of you. At this time the sheriff's deputy escorted YOU into the elevator. Later Mr. Stoffa was shown the Reverend's credentials. They were offered to Angle but he chose not to look at them. The Rev. had no obligation to show his creditials to you. If this is not the scenario you recall perhaps you were in one of your stupors.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, My "perception" is different than yours. It's called the truth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:03, that is exactly how it went down. O'Hare is a pathological liar much like his patron Ron Angle. Bernie initiates conflict and then cries foul and blogs some hate about the person.

Some believed O'Hare a year ago but most people have caught on to his game by now. He is nothing but a mouthpiece for Angle and Stoffa. If Angle and Stoffa wanted to keep Gracedale, he would be condemning any who tried to sell it as inhumane. He did that in the past with other pols who wanted to privatize services.

O'Hare's picture is in the dictionary next to the word hypocrite. His picture takes up 80% of the page.

Anonymous said...

What kind of credentials does a reverend carry with him?

Why would he want to show them to Stoffa and Angle, but not Bernie? Sounds like he wanted to start some trouble by teasing Bernie?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The fake Rev, whose most recent trick is comparing Angle to Saddam Hussein, never offered to show his credentials to Angle. I was with him. I doubt he showed them to Stoffa, but will ask. What seminary did he attend, or did he get his "Reverend" status out of a crackerjack box?

He is the kind of person who buts in front of others, who attacks people in the name of Holy Jeeeeessuuus, and was looking for a physical confrontation. A deputy had to move him away. Now the Gracedale Goons will have fabricated another story, but that's OK. If I were the physical type, I'd be fighting ten years ago. I know what happened, and so do you. You people have revealed wjhat you're like. First, you are anonymous cowards. Second, you personally attack Angle, even to the point of comparing him to Saddam Hussein. If this is what we are to expect from a Man of God, then it's time to think twice about God. But in truth, this is no Man of God. This is the fake preacher, a false prophet.

Anonymous said...

He is more a man of God that the fake minister Rev. Dowd. The most Rev. Dowd sits by and lets innocent citizens be attacked and maligned in front of County Council. A real man of God would interject himself to restore dignity and peace.

Dowd is a fake.

Anonymous said...

perhap if you had asked the reverend in a civil way he would have shown you his proof of ordination. If you called me a fake , a liar, a phony etc. I wouldn't shown you anything either. Bernie there were at least seven people who witnessed this inc9ident and agree with my version of the event. Regarding Angle---when someone interfers with the freedom of speech and the democratic process then that person can be likened to a dictator.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually it is people like Rev Jones and the fake Rev who teach goons to drink the kool aid. He's a phony and the rest of you just bleed hate. I'm saying what happened and sign my name. You are an anonymous coward.

Anonymous said...

Angle's reign of terror will end soon. I hear the Judge is ready to render his decision on Angle's fake Will.

It will be bye-bye time for Ronnie boy as he goes up the river to the big house. don't drop the soap Ronnie boy.

Anonymous said...

bernie ask the officer why he escourted you down on the elevator?bernie what is in the little bottle you carry with you. If you get a drink of water from the water fountain ? the night before a groop were talking to mr. marcus you said be quiet or I will have you thrown out.

Anonymous said...

bernie why did you say my boss,my boss. when you were interviewing the talk with ron and the head of the democratic party ? If you work for Engle he should keep a shorter leash on you, oor mabee a chocker collor

Anonymous said...

Saw the entire thing and Mr. O'Hare has selective memory. The sheriff escorted Mr. O'Hare from the premises because he was harassing the Reverend.

Bernie, just because you are Mr. Angle's friend it does not entitle you to harass the public at meetings.