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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Corruption Ahead" at Allentown City Council?

"Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here," the inscription on the gate to Hell in Dante's Inferno, should be probably be required at the entrance of every government building. Until the next rainstorm, there is a warning outside of Allentown City Hall. Scrawled in chalk, "Corruption Ahead" was the message I saw as I danced between the raindrops on my way to a City Council meeting. That message was the remnant of a brief protest before the meeting, choreographed by LV Cop Block organizer Severin Freeman..

"Corruption Ahead" was the warning, scrawled in chalk, outside the entrance to Allentown City Hall last night. I was there to watch Jeanette Eichenwald introduce legislation aimed at limiting pay-to-play, but the place was packed with about 60 people. Many of them were there to complain about what LV Cop Block organizer Severin Freeman calls an out-of-control police department. "Something horrible is going to happen," he warned, as three officers quietly sat in the meeting room. Police had their defenders, too, including a woman who stated that officers are routinely taunted to provoke a reaction that can be filmed on ubiquitous cell phones.

Tensions between police and at least some citizens have escalated, especially after police arrested James Ochse, age 61, for singing The Beach Boys' Barbara Ann outside of Shula's restaurant in downtown Allentown on Friday night. A video of that encounter (viewed nearly 6,000 times on my Youtube page) shows Officer Robert Busch body slam Ochse to the ground, after which he digs a knee into Ochse' kidney.

Just days before that arrest, a lawsuit was filed against an Allentown police officer who allegedly assaulted someone for videotaping an arrest in which a stun gun was used. Officer Jason Ammary also apparently smashed the cellphone.

Ammary is the subject of another civil rights lawsuit over his use of a stun gun to the groin area of a 15 year-old Dieruff High School student.

Since 2013, Allentown police officers have been defendants in 15 federal civil rights suits.

According to Freeman, just minutes before last night's meeting, a resident was able to capture a video of police using excessive force against a pregnant woman who had previously been fighting with her boyfriend. According to the woman who shot the video, police ignored this pregnant woman when she revealed her condition. But this pregnant woman is also alleged to have tried to kick out the windows of a cruiser. Freeman indicated he will upload that video today.

Complaints to the police have become so frequent that the department has begun blocking some commenters from its Facebook page, while warning the rest, "Filing of a law suit is only a fact that a law suit was indeed filed. It does not mean any party is guilty simply because suit was filed. The facts of any allegation will be brought to light, and dealt with accordingly."

Clearly, police are feeling a bit defensive. One of the protesters admitted that some people do taunt officers. But it's hard to justify grabbing a 61 year old man from behind and then throwing him to the ground.


Anonymous said...

The guy was not body slammed. You have no idea of what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

@4:40 It wasn't a WWF body slam, with the cop jumping off the top rope of the ring, but it was a body slam. Allentown is going to pay for that one because the old geezer broke no law.

Anonymous said...

America is VERY combative these days. Different factions are at each others neck over just about everything. It's the old divide and conquer ploy that helps to emphasize the supposed need for more government regulation and control.

The media loves this type of action, even promotes it. Don't take the bait.

Our society is held together by courageous people like police officers. People who willingly walk into situations knowing their own life is at risk. Idiots now watch these everyday sidewalk interactions from places nearby. Some of these fools throw rocks, even shoot at the officers. The police are never sure what's ahead, but they STILL go in!

I don't want such heroic responders, taunted, abused, demoralized, nor destroyed by the ignorance of others less qualified. I want my OWN call for help to be answered swiftly by a law enforcement professional and plan to follow their directions when they arrive. Every alleged offender at the scene would be wise to do the same. Makes everything easier.

Things are tough enough in America. Chaos in the streets makes things FAR worse.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

You know who are true heroes? Firefighters. They constantly risk their lives, save others and they do it all without a gun.

Anonymous said...

Amen. But they don't have to arrest dangerous criminals. Everyone who complains about cops will be thankful as hell if they ever need them. We are in a violent society. They are the thin blue line that protects us every day.

Monkey Momma said...

A couple of things...
1. I see Mr. Phoenix in your photo - did you get to meet him? (After reviewing his "blog" and FB page, I started to worry about him. I don't think he understands LVR or its readers. While he did not say kind things about this blog, I would hope folks just leave him alone. I have a hunch he's probably battling some demons. I guess we all are, but he seems...troubled.)
2. 15 federal civil rights suits is EXPENSIVE. Are the parking meters paying for police overtime, or police legal fees? (God knows there are no events to necessitate overtime downtown.)
3. I really feel for Mr. Osche, as he seems to be another troubled soul in town. However, I can't help thinking that the whole thing looked like a set-up. It's the skeptic in me. Also, if the officer was telling him to put his hands behind his back, and Osche was walking away and saying presumably defiant comments, what is proper police protocol? Especially considering that Osche has a history of becoming unruly and fairly violent. The video shows what I would consider some rough handling, but perhaps taking Osche down to the ground was, indeed, necessary. You can't just point your finger at cops and act defiant and refuse orders. Osche is well known downtown - I'm quite certain this officer knew exactly who he was and what his history was. A more seasoned cop could have handled the situation in a much kinder, gentler manner. I actually think the situation called for sending two officers, since Osche is obviously mentally disturbed and unpredictable.
4. In no way is it OK for Osche to harass patrons of any restaurant with his performance. I'm quite certain that his first amendment rights do not include the right to scream songs at a private business endlessly.
5. Eichenwald is a hero.

Thanks for reporting, Bernie - I really appreciate hearing your thoughts on Allentown these days.

Anonymous said...

"LV Cop Block organizer Severin Freeman"...when I read that, I couldn't help but remember a recent article on Lehigh Valley Live where I first read about LV Cop Block. That article, however, referenced a LV Cop Block organizer by the name of Severin JOHNSON who protested Bethlehem City Hall for requiring IDs to access it. So it made me think...could Severin Freeman, who has been giving interviews to all of the media outlets claiming his last name is Freeman actually be lying about his name and it is actually Severin Johnson. A simple lookup of the names on Facebook confirmed my suspicions...Severin "Freeman" has been lying about his name and it's actually Severin Johnson. Not a big deal right? Well, it sort of is when it points toward his motivation. You see, another quick online search of the public court dockets shows Severin Johnson having been arrested for drugs, DUI, assault, harassment, and theft in the past. I guess I'd lie about my last name too since that kind of taints his view of police. I think I'd hate them too if I was a criminal who was caught and arrested 5 times.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1. I saw Mr. Phoenix at the meeting, and left him alone. I wasn't there to pick on him. Having read some of his comments, I tend to agree with your assessment.

2. There are 15 civil rights suits, but I should have looked at them more closely. Some of them are prisoner civil right suits. Those are usually nonsense and are dismissed. I am going to look at all three cities, exclude the prisoners suits and will try to determine if there is a pattern.

3. It is pretty clear that the first amendment protects artistic speech. In Reed v. Glbert, decided 6/18, the S Ct took a very expansive view of the first amendment that negates most anti-busking ordinances. Based on what I was able to see in the video, together with the comments from the person who posted that video as well as a second person who posted a second video, Ochse was violating no law. Had he been harassing customers or businesses, they would have every right to call police. But I don't see it rise to that level. A citizen has every right to be defiant to a police officer and to point a finger. In this instance, it appears that Ochse was actually complying and leaving when he was attacked from behind. I see no justification for that kind of physical behavior by a police officer against a 61 year old man who appears to have issues. Nor do I see any justification in what police call their continuum of force for sticking a knee in the fellow's kidney. Although I do not believe the officer acted criminally, it is clear to me that excessive force was used. The body language when the cop strutted up to this guy tells me this officer wanted a confrontation. Something is obviously wring with the way they are being trained. Common sense should rule out force in this situation.

4. He has the right to be annoying, but does not have the right to harass anyone. As long as he is respectful. People who choose to eat al fresco should expect to see street behavior. That is part of the ambiance of eating outside.

5. Agree 100%.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:40, That's a good catch! I asked Freeman if he uses another name and he admits he does so for his family's protection. I will be posting your observation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:40, I am checking into any criminal history and will ask and then post.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fred, I support police,bit do not support the use of excessive force. i am not going to buy into any attempt to bash cops simply because they are cops. They have a tough job. but one of their mandates is to follow the constitution.

Anonymous said...

When I'm eating a $60 piece of cow flesh I don't need to be harassed by someone singing on a nearby public sidewalk.

Anonymous said...

OK .. .

maybe a giant butterfly net would have been a better option!

Fred Windish

Bernie O'Hare said...

There you go!

Anonymous said...

He was ion private property panhandling and singing (yelling) in peoples faces. You hatred of the NIZ oozes from every story. You have zero objectivity on any of these matters.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is simply untrue. And if it were, that does not justify the force used.

Anonymous said...

Bernie for every one good cop or firefighter in allentown pa there are at the very least three that have a hidden agenda¿!($ This all to perpatrate for our overinflated bafoon of a mayor and all the bobbleheaded blunders calculated¿!($ Nothing but a gang that has ties to other gangs of pondering pontificating

In there own calculating misguided guided crews own words poverty pimps, in my words two dementional people in a three and four dementional reel world¿!($

Oooo Bernie, I know your sack is intact by the way you walked and sat last night, the sackless of allentowns entertainment administration far out numbered us¿!($

please for the weekend do a funny one on the pension package the cheif will be taking to Witchita courtosee of our fine mayors pension proCUREment procedure proclaimation that made for the capitol for the downtown development to takeoff¿!($

Let the dogs out for the human soul stench that can be smelled from pepboys in whithall?!($

patent pending

Anonymous said...

Destroying the phone is a major violation of the 4th Amendment. Illegal seizure! This clown should be fired like a chili fart!!! But what do I know, I just work in law enforcement.