Video of Allentown cops restraining man sparks protest, calls for suspension

Tim Jimenez
July 13, 2020 - 7:37 am
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ALLENTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Cellphone video shows an Allentown police officer kneeling on a man’s head or neck Saturday night. With the death of George Floyd still fresh on the minds of many, activists are demanding answers as police say they’re investigating the incident. 

The video, posted online, is 23 seconds long and shows three officers holding a man to the ground outside the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart.

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The video shows one of the officers with his elbow on the side of the man’s head. And then, when he tries to help the other cops, his body shifts, and his knee is on top of the man’s head or neck.

“They had that man on the ground, and he was screaming for his life,” said Kay, the woman who recorded the video. She declined to give her last name when she spoke to NBC 10 over the weekend. 

Her video got the attention of Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley, and protesters were outside of police headquarters on Saturday night. Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell and Police Chief Glenn Granitz arrived and spoke with them. 

On Sunday night, the chief released a statement in which he describes the police account of what happened before the cellphone camera began to capture the incident.

At 6:42 p.m. on Saturday, police say, the officers were at the hospital for an unrelated reason when they saw a man vomiting and staggering in the street and then stopping on the driveway of the hospital’s emergency room. 

Granitz says the man began to “yell, scream and spit at the officers and hospital staff.” As officers tried to restrain him, they all fell to the ground, and the man continued to be “non-compliant.”

“We want immediate release of the body cam footage leading up to, including and after the arrest,” said Justan Parker, leader of Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley.

There is no mention of an arrest in Granitz’s statement, nor any potential charges against the man. The chief said the man was treated and released from the hospital.

Granitz describes the video posted online as “significant” and added, “the entirety of the interaction is being reviewed.”

He says police are talking to witnesses and reviewing more videos, and they plan to release some later in the week. The Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office is looking into the incident as well. 

Earlier this month, the Allentown Police Department released its policy for use of force. From the section on “Level of Force”:

  1. Department members shall use only the amount of force that is necessary and reasonable to control the situation, effect an arrest, overcome resistance to arrest, or defend themselves or others from harm. No officer will use unreasonable or excessive force toward any person.
     
  2. When the use of force is necessary, the degree of force that is employed should be in direct relationship to the amount of resistance employed by the person or the immediate threat the person poses to the officer or others.
     
  3. The use of force by members of the Department will, whenever possible, be progressive in nature. This force may be in the form of officer presence, verbal control, physical control, chemical agents (OC), use of a baton or other less lethal weapons, canine, or the use of deadly force.

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