Activists on Monday pressed their demand for police accountability after video emerged over the weekend of an officer placing his knee on a man’s head or neck outside a Pennsylvania hospital.
Allentown Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach said the video showed an officer violating police department policy, and that his previous job performance will go a long way toward deciding his future as a police officer.
"He violated the policy, so clearly there must be discipline," Gerlach said. "If this officer has a history of violating policy, then it’s clear cut he needs to be terminated."
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The videotaped incident occurred nearly seven weeks after the death of George Floyd. In the video, a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd’s death sparked global protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
“I can’t believe this is really happening now, and here,” said Justan Parker, founder of Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley.
Police have said their internal investigation is moving swiftly. The Lehigh County district attorney’s office assigned two detectives to the internal probe.
“Our investigation is ongoing, and as we uncover additional information we're trying to release that as we can,” Assistant Police Chief Bill Lake said.
The new video, which is over nine and a half minutes long, shows the man staggering in the street and appearing to vomit outside the emergency room of the Sacred Heart Campus of St. Luke’s Hospital on the 400 block of W. Chew Street. He also drops his cellphone and appears to have trouble walking and standing.
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Two Allentown officers, who investigators say were at the hospital for an unrelated manner, are seen watching the man for about four minutes. Police said the officers were trying to direct him towards the emergency room entrance.
The video then shows the officers walk toward the man as he drops to his knee. Staff members then walk out of the hospital as the man points at them.
One of the officers then appears to try and restrain the man who continues to kneel. The man then stands up as both officers hold him. The man then walks forward and falls to the ground. It's unclear from the video whether the man accidentally tripped over the officer or if the officer intentionally tripped him.
The video then shows the segment that was posted on social media over the weekend in which an officer places his knee on the man's neck and head area. Police said they placed a breathable spit mask over the man's head to protect the hospital staff and officers from bodily fluids such as vomit and saliva.
Prior to the video's release, police said the man was yelling and spitting at the officers and staff members, accusing him of being “noncompliant which required officers to restrain” him.
The new video also shows a hospital staff member appearing to block a person in a car from filming.
The final segment of the video shows hospital staff and police escorting the man into the hospital. Police said the man was treated and later released.
The previous video, which was released by a bystander on social media over the weekend, only shows the officers restraining the man on the ground but gives a closer look at what transpired.
It shows that one of the officers had his elbow on the man’s neck or head before switching to a knee to hold him down while other officers restrained his arms.
In a recent survey of police departments in the Philadelphia region conducted by the NBC10 Investigators, Allentown police said they have 200 body-worn cameras for their 217-officer force.
NBC10 has filed a Right-to-Know request for all police recordings of the arrest.
A St. Luke’s official said the hospital has turned its own video over to police.
A protest dubbed “Demands Will Be Met” took place Monday night in the Lehigh Valley city, with demonstrators marching to Allentown City Hall and police department headquarters.
The local Black Lives Matter group issued a list of demands, including the release of any police bodycam video of the incident, the suspension of the officers involved, the name and condition of the man, the establishment of a regional criminal justice review board and a reallocation of police funding.
Police have not released the name or race of any individuals seen in the video. Community advocates said they were trying to identify the man in the video to offer support.
“During a health crisis, whatever it was, when he should’ve been given support, instead he was criminalized and he received a knee to his neck,” said Hasshan Batts, executive director of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, an Allentown community group.