Over the last year Allentown, Pennsylvania became a hot news topic, between multiple lawsuits for police brutality, corruption and the mayor's office is being raided by the FBI, it would seem that from a reporter’s standpoint all you would have to do is stand in that town to get a story.
I have a unique perspective on this nationally recognized corrupt town, due to my close proximity to it, but in this article I don't plan on breaking a story or showing you something that will shock you. In fact, quite the opposite. I would like to show you that it may be possible, possibly, maybe to change a town like this.
What first drew my attention to Allentown was the case over the summer involving a 62 year old man that was body slammed to the ground for singing in a public space. I felt uniquely responsible for the action that needed to be taken because Allentown is part of Lehigh Valley and I am the founder of Freedom Paradox. I'm known for seeking justice and being fearless in the face of dirty cops. After a few weeks of looking into the history of Allentown police and its government I realized that seeking justice in a town like this was going to be a full time job to say the least.
I was ready to meet this challenge head on. Since Lehigh Valley Copblock had grown into a group of loyal and dedicated people that were ready at a moment's notice to bring accountability to the streets. I met with Allentown City Council and told them in open chambers, in front of the Chief of Police and all the officials of the town, that they had gotten my attention and that they would regret that. I told them that Lehigh Valley CopBlock was now focused on them. Some people thought it was a joke, others took it seriously but no matter how they took it our actions show that we were serious. Every day of the week at least one member of our group held police accountable by holding video documentation of their encounters on the streets. They no longer were able to get away with anything.
Over the next several months we were able to catch so many instances of police brutality and corruption that the Chief of Police, who had kept his head in the sand and refused to ever speak out about anything involving anyone, ended up trading in his cushy position, for one many states away.
During the transition period I attended a number of protests in Allentown and came to find a new feeling coming from the local police. Their carefree, rebellious and zero consequences attitude had been replaced by an almost humbled attitude. I mean, let me be honest, even I was surprised to see the huge effect that a few dedicated bloggers with cameras could make when facing the big bad wolf. Before this Allentown had its own citizens convinced that there was zero help for any of them. The town had kind of lost hope (except for the few cheerleaders that were always jumping up and down for their brutal police).
Further proof of this new attitude was able to be seen when the Assistant Chief of Police approached me with an offer to talk about the issues that we had with the department. To some this may seem like a political move, and maybe it was, but to me it seemed honest enough. Where are we to start, if we can't start somewhere?
The next few weeks were very busy with protest after protest happening between students, teachers and regular citizens of Allentown. They were sick and tired of the corrupt system existing without accountability. City Council could barely contain the amount of people there to protest a number of their meetings. The city was bubbling over ready to explode.
But then the early Christmas miracle happened. A new Chief of Police is sworn in and he comes equipped with a suit, tie and possibly even a cape. He brings an air of justice and truth. Even a few city council members were taken in by the spirit of accountability that came with him. They actually called for their corrupt federally investigated Mayor to resign, after being silent for months about the issues with him!
The new chief of police hit the ground running. Taking a violent situation involving kids and making an example out of the youth. A number of students involved in a volatile situation with police we're all charged with numerous crimes up to and including felonies. Some of the children were as young as 14 years old. Enough was enough for me and I lost it. I took to social media and totally trashed Chief Keith Morris of the Allentown police dept. I called the man out.
Several days later I ended up in Allentown police dept filing a complaint against one of their overzealous officers. To my shock I was met by the Chief of Police. As he approached me I half expected him to handcuff me on some trumped-up charge for talking badly about him. Instead what I was met with was an open hand to shake mine. He had taken time out of his day because he heard I was coming in. He wanted to address how I felt about the Allentown officials and him. It took balls to do what he did and I respect that 100%. What he did was open a door of communication that had previously been closed by his predecessor. By offering to speak he acknowledged the issues in Allentown and acknowledged his responsibility in fixing things. He briefly set out his goals to us and his intentions. He stressed to us that he had only had his position 42 days and that he was doing the best he can to improve relations with the community. He also acknowledged that we were there for a complaint and that complaint would be taken seriously. He said he will not tolerate his officers acting out of line.
We did not see eye to eye on the students being charged the way they were. All I saw was a bunch of pumped up cops instigating an altercation with some roughhousing kids. He claims to have different evidence. He also confirmed, to my disappointment, that the case was closed that involved Officer Randy Bush (the cop that slammed the 62 yo man for singing) and that no action was taken.
Since my day with the chief I have not heard anything back about my complaint. What I have seen is news reports after news reports of him going to schools, reading and doing activities with kids. I have not seen any outreach to high school age kids though they have all been elementary age. I know investigations take time so I eagerly await accountability.
Below is a playlist of my experience over the last few months and our attempts at accountability through every possible means as well as the video of the harassment we experienced at the hands of one of their officers that we await a result for.
What I ask you all is this question…. Is the new chief of police making a change or blowing a real good PR smokescreen? Answer in the comments or on Allentown Police Department's Facebook Page
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