where are we as women and human beings supposed to go with this, lower merion?

A long time friend from whence I came called me this morning. Had I seen “the” video about Lower Merion Police Department? I did not have any idea of what she was talking about. She sent me a link.

I am not being a drama queen writing that this made me want to scream in outrage, cry, and be terrified. What is going on with Lower Merion Police Department?

I grew up in Lower Merion. I met so many awesome and helpful police officers who were just good at their jobs for the right reasons from the time I was growing up through to when I left Lower Merion in my late 40s. So literally over 40 years. I will be honest, however, and say I encountered some that I was a little less enthused with. Who gave me pause, right or wrong.

I never talked about Lower Merion and their police really before. I have law enforcement in my family so I am extraordinarily aware of how difficult a career path it is and I have respect for the badge. But what happens when you feel that some of those who wear the badge don’t have respect for you and others? Do your feelings matter no matter who you are? Also note from jump I am not saying police shouldn’t do their jobs. But was this thing that happened really good policing and good police?

Also, If you talk about police and it’s not 100% positive, you often put yourself at risk. Sorry not sorry that is how I feel, and surely all the TV programs that discuss things like this have to have some real life inspiration somewhere, right? What I am going to talk about is long past, but it came rushing back today when I saw this video.

Right or wrong, when I was growing up and well into adulthood in Lower Merion, you were told (in a hushed tone) as a woman don’t get pulled over as a woman alone in a car. RIGHT OR WRONG being the key here. I always thought this was like urban legend until a rainy night many. many years ago now.

We were in the thick of fighting Lower Merion Township over eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore, or maybe it was just after eminent domain was killed which was like 2006. Below is a video of a news report that aired right before we killed eminent domain. I found it as I was thinking about my timeline. It’s a bit of an aside, but what we accomplished then (at personal expense sometimes) was kind of huge.

Anyway, when you take a stand against something big, you become a target. During those years private citizens and business owners alike, we were targets. It could be unnerving. Lower Merion Township was THAT angry we wanted to air dirty laundry about eminent domain. I have never known if what I went through was related, but somehow it felt related, right or wrong.

So this one night I was driving home after a Save Ardmore Coalition meeting above Hu Nan in Ardmore (the original Save Ardmore Coalition, not what it eventually became before it fizzled out when most of us were gone away.) It was a nasty rainy night. Driving, teeming rain. I was driving home when all of a sudden I saw flashing lights behind me. I drive like grandma, so I wasn’t speeding or anything. I didn’t think the police car meant me. But then I realized it was me being all flashed at and sirened, so I put on my hazards and stopped.

A policeman came up to the window of my car, yelling. He was yelling did I know what I did? I said (quietly) why are you yelling at me? That of course made him yell louder. We did the whole license and registration request and meanwhile I am on Lancaster Avenue headed west between Ardmore and Haverford, just past Woodside Road and the other side of a light not there, but next one up. S. Wyoming or something maybe? It was a weird light.

In between the shouting and the passing off to him of my information he tells me I ran a light. Again, I drive like Grandma, so I am not your lead foot pedal to the metal kind of driver. I did not run a light, and I am wracking my brain trying to think was the light changing as I went through it or something and I simply did not know. As I am sitting there I am becoming more and more uncomfortable and scared. I could feel myself shaking but didn’t let on or tried not to. Traffic was speeding past us at such a rate that I asked if we could literally move like 20 feet maybe into the parking lot that was just slightly up to the right. It wasn’t an accident scene, and it would have been safer for all. I really thought someone was going to hit the officer in his dark uniform standing outside my car or either one of our vehicles. The officer yelled at me no we weren’t moving. I asked again why he was yelling at me, which made him yell louder again. I never yelled, he never stopped, was that right? Was that a tactic? What was that?

OK look, I wasn’t being argumentative and told him that. I was a woman alone, very uncomfortable, very unsure as to what I actually did and terrified that I was going to get hit, he was going to get hit, WE were going to get hit. This was then the end of it and I drove home with my ticket, shaking. I kept on shaking for a good while after inside my home.

This was a new experience for me. I always before this had this kind of hero thing for police and firefighters. But this? It made me never want to drive at night as a woman ever again anywhere. I did take it to court and it didn’t make me feel any better. The whole experience left me feeling unsafe, uncomfortable. You see I complained, after the fact, so I still ask was I made to feel uncomfortable for a while because of that? I lived in Lower Merion for many years after this, and I always felt apprehensive even seeing a Lower Merion officer after that. As someone who is a law abiding rule follower even if I am occasionally politically/civically mouthy, I never looked at the police force where I grew up ever the same way again. And all these years later, this makes me very uncomfortable and sad to talk about. I hadn’t thought about all this for years until today, and watching that video brought it all back. Like a whoosh.

This scenario, right or wrong is one of those things that you aren’t just looking at race, you are thinking as a woman, what if she was me? What if that was me? What if I had been tased more than once?

Then it’s the scenario of a black woman being terrified, a cop with his gun out (listen to the recording – a woman who also happens to be a lawyer who was there speaking about it), and other black people as car passengers. This woman was handcuffed while her breasts were exposed after they dragged her out of the car? And tased how many times? According to the video, the female lawyer who saw it said the car passengers said tased 3 times? In the end like MORE than the police cars we can see in the video? Like 7 they say on the video? How is this not so incredibly action movie set excessive?

Then after that one experience of mine in years that followed, I had two experiences at public events where I was photographing said events, including one as the as the event photographer where I had police yell at me for taking photos. These were clear no expectation of privacy in a public space kind of deals and in one instance, a police officer from a suburban police force actually touched my person in front of witnesses including one of the event organizers and tried to literally RIP my camera off of me for taking event photos. In the middle of a public street, at a family friendly music event.

But these incidents have stuck with me. I rarely talk about them. And a big irony I keep coming back to regarding this whole LMPD debacle? National Night Out, the annual nationwide event to bring police and community together was founded in Lower Merion.

I live in a municipality now that I think has an amazing police force. I feel lucky.

Lower Merion Police Department is I don’t know what to think these days, but after this latest thing? Change has to happen. Multiple big white guys, one black woman. Her shirt is pulled up and in disarray, and I somehow don’t think it’s a Mardi Gras celebration and there will be beads, right?

To the poor lady, I am not trying to make light of what I have seen on video. I am so not. That terrifies me. That could be anyone. And if you listen to the recording which was as the whole thing was unfolding, this was for a supposed traffic infraction and the WOMAN COULDN’T SAFELY PULL OVER IN TRAFFIC, HEAVY TRAFFIC!!! This woman pulled into a parking lot, which is one of those public place situations/reactions women are told to do if they feel unsure, or unsafe.

And then all of a sudden it’s one, then two, then three, then FOUR police officers…eventually 7 cars as per the video. If I was THAT woman I would have been terrified I wasn’t getting home alive or in one piece. Absolutely freaking terrified. ALL yelling at her. And HOW many times is it even LEGAL to tase someone? It seems from the video she was tased MULTIPLE times. But seriously, they could have thrown her into cardiac arrest or something doing it more than once, couldn’t they have? What if she had a pacemaker for example?

And yes, the woman was cussing a blue streak at them by the end. I have to say in this circumstance however, if it was you or me would you have been able to not cuss them out given what transpired? I mean Jesus. What was all that?

Lower Merion Police has had a slew of issues making the papers off and on the past couple/few years. I am putting a few articles up because I think it is timely and I have to ask is this a department in turmoil?

This scares me what happened. What happened to me all those years ago has indeed stuck with me, right or wrong. And it’s hard to talk about because we are not supposed to criticize law enforcement.

But Lower Merion needs to deal with this, as well as their commissioner police committee and their Township Manager Ernie McNeely, who used to be West Chester Borough’s Township Manager. I will note that one Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov has been on the police committee forever, and really, they need to deal with this. Something is wrong if things like this are happening.

Thank you for the brave women who put this forward in a video. That takes guts and courage. And again to the woman to whom this happened: I am really sorry. No woman black or white deserves what happened to you. It’s scary and was all unnecessary and should not be swept under the rug. I hope she will be O.K. That is enough to cause PTSD for real.

I have now walked away from this post for a while to let it simmer. I still feel quite strongly that this needs to be addressed. This is not just a race thing, this is something that needs to be dealt with for all women. And men. This is something that will outrage and sadden, and cause fear.

I found some press release thing via screen shot. Not sure to whom it was released and then I went to their website and I see a thing about George Floyd? Well what about Jane Doe from Norristown and her traffic stop 1/8/23? You as a department, can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk and this thing that has happened? This thing will also affect other police departments who weren’t part of this “event”. Not right either.

Police are here to protect us. And this is not some de-fund the police post, so we’re clear. This is a big box of wrong that needs to be unpacked, discussed, resolved. Lower Merion isn’t the Magic Kingdom even in as much as they think they should be.

What happened shouldn’t have. I end this post being so lost in thought about after all we have been through as a country that this shit is still happening. To my friends who still live in Lower Merion, please demand better from this township.

Lower Merion police lieutenant suspended for 3 days for allegedly helping candidate on exam
Sources say after the candidate “aced” the test, it was clear to other officers that the candidate knew the questions.

Chad Pradelli via WPVI
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — A Lower Merion Police Lieutenant is serving a 3-day suspension after allegedly providing help to a police candidate during an entrance exam.

Sources throughout the police department in Lower Merion told Action News the allegations have only added fuel to an already fractured relationship between some officers and police leadership. They also believe the punishment was not severe enough.

Sources inside the Lower Merion Police Department said a lieutenant, as part of a panel administering an oral exam to prospective officers, provided questions to one of the candidates before the exam earlier this summer.

Sources said after the candidate “aced” the test, it was clear to two other lower-ranking officers on the panel that the candidate knew the questions.

After an investigation, Police Superintendent Mike McGrath handed down a three-day suspension and it was approved by the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners. Action News is not naming the lieutenant.

Rank and file sources say the punishment was not severe enough, and compromised the department’s motto of integrity, professionalism and respect. They also accused the superintendent of trying to downplay the severity of the misconduct.

Township Looks for Answers in Wake of Accusations Against Lower Merion Police
Days after two separate but very serious accusations against Lower Merion’s police officers and its leadership, township and LMPD officials are still digesting what came to light Wednesday night.

Thomas J. Walsh, Patch Staff
Posted Fri, May 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm ET
Updated Sat, May 21, 2011 at 9:17 pm ET

…Regular monthly meetings of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners can be staid affairs. Presentations are made, reports distributed, ordinances amended. There are occasional raised voices from the public, and a developer might draw an unruly crowd

Wednesday night’s meeting was something else entirely, as a township police officer and resident separately accused the Lower Merion Police Department of racism and sexual assault, respectively. The ensuing local media spotlight left Lower Merion officials and the Montgomery County District Attorney to handle the allegations.

An African-American, Officer Kerry Godbold, backed by a group of township residents, said a civil service exam list, which he said put him at or near the top of the promotions list, was intentionally allowed to expire in order to avoid promoting a black officer.

“These are really some very serious allegations that have been made,” said Commissioner Jenny Brown, underscoring the commissioners’ concern that black residents felt underrepresented within the police department, and the audience applauded when commissioners said it was an issue that needed to be addressed further.

Later, an unnamed Bryn Mawr woman appeared at the podium and claimed she was sexually assaulted and stalked by a Lower Merion police officer, who she did not name at the time. She also said she was illegally detained by another officer—a friend of the first accused cop—and threatened, after she made a report of the assault.

“I was totally shocked,” said Board of Commissioners President Liz Rogan. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to see anything like that. But we take any allegations of impropriety very seriously, so we want a thorough and objective investigation to take place.”

Said Rogan to the woman before she left the podium: “I don’t want you to be embarrassed about this.”

Two days later, the county is investigating the woman’s accusations, and the Board of Commissioners says it wants to address and settle the officer’s accusations in-house, cooperating with members of the community.

The Harriton Banner: Policing and Race in Lower Merion October 9, 2015

The New York Times reported in 2014 on the vacated 1944 murder conviction of a 14-year-old black boy, George J. Stinney, “the youngest person executed in the United States in the last century.” Stinney was convicted of the murder of two white girls in a trial that took less than a day, and was executed only three months after the day of his arrest.

Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen’s decision to vacate, or legally nullify, the conviction was not based on the merit of the case but because “[t]he prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard the constitutional rights of Mr. Stinney, who was black, from the time he was taken into custody until his death by electrocution.”

In light of the 2014 police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, along with other notable cases where a white police officer killed a black suspect, a reasonable person may ask the question, “Has much about the justice and police system changed in the last 70 years?”

From Stinney’s case in 1944 to the cases of Garner and Brown in 2014 and many others, police and judicial racism against black citizens blights the United States’ national history. Closer to home, a history of racial profiling allegations exists in the Lower Merion Township, perhaps less violent or high-profile than that of Philadelphia or national breaking cases, but no less important.

In 2011, Officer Kerry Godbold accused the Lower Merion Police Department of racially biased hiring and promotion policies, which further consultant investigation found to be untrue. In January 2015, Wynnewood resident Deborah Saldana speculated that the police stop of two African-American snow shovelers was racially motivated, which the police department denied on the basis of previous illegal solicitation stops.

Both of these incidents were covered in Harriton Banner reports. According to a 6ABC report, a February 2015 meeting between residents and police gave no further satisfaction towards ending a legacy of tension.

Data and coverage of police bias events on the national and even local scale abound, but we wondered what stories we would find within our own school. In order to learn more, in December 2014, we interviewed two Harriton focus groups, one composed of ten black students in the POWER program, and the other of ten white students in Mr. Crooke’s journalism class.

The primary question was whether any of the students had been stopped by police. Though the groups were small and we were unable to account for the exact reasons students had been stopped, the numbers between the races were quite different: Eight of the ten black students had been stopped, while two of the ten white students had experienced similar treatment.

Matt Powell, then a Harriton senior, had on a black hoodie and got stopped across Lancaster Avenue. A white woman had become frightened, but in remembering, Powell wasn’t sure if it was because he was wearing all black or because he is black. Ethan Anderson, also a former senior, got stopped once while biking.

Savannah Brown, then a junior, reported that she was stopped and questioned by law enforcement when walking home from a friend’s house down the street. Later in the interview, Brown shared that she has multiple relatives who are cops, and although she does not hold any resentment or suspicion toward them, she still believes that some of their colleagues are doing wrong.

She was with Chris Fulton and Robyn Clark when, as Fulton described, the three students were stopped as they crossed a street. The officer told them not to jaywalk and said “Don’t do it again” to Fulton but not to Clark and Brown. Fulton felt uncomfortable, like the stop was “politically incorrect.”

2020 is the year of comfort food overload and more humor and faith needed

It’s funny how cooking and gardening have helped make the crazy of 2020 fade for finite amounts of time. Maybe it is because I enjoy both.

This is not a recipe post. This is about how I feel headed into the last quarter of 2020.

I woke up this morning utterly sick of people and the way they are behaving. Between COVID-19 and the election, the constant barrage of smack talking crap is just too much some days. So this morning I started a loaf of sourdough bread and made some fresh tomato sauce with sausages so I could make a pasta sausage bake this evening.

Comfort food.

Like gardening, cooking is calming for me. It centers me. Maybe because it is such a basic purpose of life.

The whole feeding and cooking for people thing makes me think of a chef I know. I was taking photos for him once and he said to get a photo of diners breaking bread (each table had a small loaf of bread.) He remarked that people remember that simple act of breaking bread. It was a nice thing to remember this morning in the midst of crazy.

COVID-19 is still here. Infection numbers are rising because people are becoming complacent, or they are listening to #PresidentCOVID tweet his madness 24 hours a day which includes there is no problem with COVID-19 even if he did just get out of the hospital. (And when all else fails, there is the parallel universe of FOX News, even if it seems media mogul owner Rupert Murdoch is predicting #PresidentCOVID will lose.)

It seems the worse the news gets on T-rump, the more fanatical the devoted become. I think people who remember WWII era and post-WWII era dictators are probably the only ones who would have ever seen such behavior before. It’s also like a fanatical religious tent revival from the Great Depression. It’s like watching the proverbial train wreck/car wreck/plane wreck. You know you should look away, only you don’t, and then you get a headache…and the behavior is just depressing…and so sad.

Photo courtesy of Main Line Coyote on Twitter. Somewhere in Chester County.

I understand there are those out there who are solid conservatives who feel duty bound to vote the straight party ticket no matter what. Dinosaurs, some beloved to me, but dinosaurs nonetheless. I don’t begrudge them their voting choices, why do they begrudge me mine?

As Americans, we have to vote the way our own heart and own mind tell us to. Or in theory that is the way it is supposed to work, only it’s not, is it? In years past, I was equally appalled and fascinated by people outside polls in Ardmore, PA telling people to “vote the way we told you to.” And it still goes on, every election cycle. If you can even get people to the polls because a lot of people talk a good game and never actually vote, which blows my mind as I find it to be one of our greatest rights as Americans.

Somewhere else in Chester County. Thanks to Lost NYer on Twitter

I have had a long journey from Republican to Democrat with Independent in between. I still wonder if I am more of a situational Democrat, because it’s the state of this country , the various and continual mind boggling situations that brought me here. I do marvel because I was so resolute in my Republicanism, until 2016. Then it was like I lost and old friend, mourned them, and had to move on. I do not know what my political future holds and that does actually bother me but I know what calls itself the Republican party is not the Republican party I once knew, believed in, or volunteered for during the RNC 2000.

What else do I mourn? Civility in conversation even with supposed long-term friends. Especially lacking on social media. It’s all anger and vitriol, both sides of the political aisle. And when you sit still somewhat Malcolm in the Middle, it just takes your breath away. And more often than not, the worst offenders are women. Ladies we are not Stepford Wives, we all are not supposed to think, drink, chirp, and dress in unison. The behavior is so limiting…for them.

2020 has made me revisit the music of all stages of my life. Supertramp, first listened to in Strasbourg, France in the late 1970’s on a little portable record player. Take The Long Way Home. Old Fleetwood Mac. Old Genesis like Follow You Follow Me and Crosby Stills Nash and Young Our House which I remember where I was the first time I listened to it: the basement of my sorority the fall of 1981. I was homesick and used to do my homework in the downstairs of the sorority and listen to the records there.

Also revisiting Carly Simon, Rosanne Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Dire Straits, Johnny Hates Jazz, English Beat, Basia, Steely Dan, Steve Winwood, Little River Band, Joe Jackson, Alan Parsons Project. Also have been listening to more classical music (but NEVER opera!) which would make my late father happy.

Rosanne Cash actually dropped a new single today. Her take on the year (see bottom video.) Other artists I have been listening to? Taylor Swift. Yes seriously. Me. Her Folklore album was such a surprise. It’s a gem. Every song tells a story and many of them you can identify with. So many of the lyrics made me smile. I have always listened to the occasional song Taylor Swift has written. But when this album dropped on Spotify, I sat and I listened. I must play it at least once a week. It is transformative and it shows how she is maturing as an artist. It’s beautiful actually. In this crazy stressful year, this music is welcome.

Books. I am reading again. And watching lots of BritBox and ACORN streaming because their shows are just well, better. I am working on my vintage quilts which always need a patch or seven. Cooking with my late mother-in-law’s mixing bowls today. remembering my father when I plant daffodil bulbs.

Anything to escape this year where every time you turn around something bad or sad is happening. People I know are sick, friends are taking care of other sick family members. And illness is isolating enough in more normal times, but now? Now it’s just cruel.

And yes, I have had my sad moments in 2020. Who hasn’t if they are honest? Our new normal is anything but and I thought I was done with new normals when I survived breast cancer.

A friend of mine today told me to remember when people give me a hard time about how I run a community Facebook group to remember that today it helped distraught owners reunite with a wandering dog very quickly. She brought me to tears just now when she texted me that.

My friend also reminded me that human nature is backwards and more people complain than express appreciation and also reminded me that people are so unhappy because of the sheer helplessness we have felt since March. A global pandemic, a leader that doesn’t lead but rants on Twitter, confronting racism in this country, protests and rioting and looting and businesses failing…and politics. Politics that to an extent leave almost everyone behind at times. Depression and suicide rates are at all time high. People often are NOT seeking help, so they mistake pain and loneliness for anger. (These are a lot of her words paraphrased, she sums it up so beautifully.)

This is 2020. I don’t think any of us will ever forget it. But God willing and if the creek don’t rise, we will all survive. I met a Mennonite woman the other day. She was delivering something to me. She bid me good day and we talked for a while. She was probably the most Godly person I have met all year, and the simplicity of her belief and faith were inspiring. Her name was Esther and she said to me that she wondered what God was trying to teach us this year, and I replied I wondered if we could really all stop and listen to what he was wanting us to think about. I think a lot of it is taking us all back to basics and not taking life and love for granted.

And that is the thing about this crazy year: in the midst of the crazy and anger and vitriol and UNcivil discourse, there are occasional moments of joyful simplicity and beauty. Beauty in the things around us like our gardens, our friends, our neighbors, our families. If we learn nothing else in 2020, we learn not to take life for granted.

Life can be hard, but it can surprise us. We have to look for the positives in 2020 and it’s hard some days, trust me, I get it. Our next hurdles will be the holidays. How can we do big family gatherings? The short answer is if we love our families, we simply cannot. This bums me out because as much as holidays drive me crazy, I love the sounds of conversation and laughter around my table and Christmas Tree.

I am going to thank you now for meandering on this ramble with me and close with a Langston Hughes quote I have quite literally loved since the 4th or 5th grade:

Hold fast to dreams
for if dreams die
life is a broken-winged bird
that can not fly.

Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
life is a barren field
frozen with snow.”

Wishing you all the best in these crazy times. VOTE.