“I don’t know what’s gotten into these kids, frankly,” Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Lehigh County’s district attorney and the chief of Allentown’s police department joined together Tuesday to decry what they said are attacks by local students against police officers.
“I’m not happy about the violence,” District Attorney Jim Martin said at the news conference, adding it is concerning to law enforcement in and around the Lehigh Valley. “I don’t know what’s gotten into these kids, frankly.”
Calling the involved students “ruffians” and “hooligans,” Martin said they, “purely have no respect for authority.”
The outcry was spurred by the most recent fracas on Friday afternoon, where police allege seven students from the Medical Academy Charter School in Catasauqua tussled with Allentown officers.
Chief Keith Morris said Allentown officers were called at 4:07 p.m. for a large fight in the 500 block of Barner Street.
Officers found a large crowd actively engaged in a fight, Morris said, and when the officers tried to break it up, they were met with resistance.
“The crowd became belligerent and aggressive,” Morris said. “They continually and repeatedly refused to follow orders.”
Seven juveniles, ages 15 to 17, were arrested. Morris said the teens actively resisted arrest, and others in the crowd physically tried to interfere with the arrests by jumping on the officers’ backs.
The teens facing charges including rioting, resisting arrest, hindering apprehension, reckless endangerment, failure to disperse and disorderly conduct. None of the students are in detention.
There are claims that officers used excessive force in the arrests, which Morris and Martin discredited. Specifically, Morris said dash cam video from police cruisers disputes the claims.
“There is no evidence … officers acted inappropriately,” Morris said. “I believe they showed a tremendous amount of restraint.”
In the video, a student claimed an officer tried to handcuff him and Martin said they may show that video at that teen’s adjudication hearing.
“We’re gong to prosecute these kids as vigorously as possible,” Martin said.
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Posted by Michael Frassetto on Monday, November 16, 2015
Prosecutors said Frassetto refused to provide the video to police.
“Which tells you all you need to know about Mr. Frassetto,” Martin said, adding if he could have arrested Frassetto for the September walkout leading to students’ truancy, he would have. “I think the man is a hindrance.”
Martin said the incidents between students and police officers appears to be escalating, and it’s not a situation of kids not knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Allentown Superintendent Russell Mayo stressed Friday’s incident involved Medical Academy students, and that the Allentown School District has no jurisdiction or authority over those students. Mayo said he received calls from parents mistakenly thinking the students involved were from the district.
Recent incidents that have involved Allentown students have ranged from a melee involving at least 100 students after William Allen’s dismissal that injured four officers, to fights at Trexler Middle School causing a lockdown, to a Dieruff student allegedly pushing a teachers down the school’s bleachers and then punching the teacher.
“We take any of the incidents involving our kids very seriously,” Mayo said.
Mayo noted the school cannot take action on incidents that occur off school property. But for those that do, Mayo said the district’s response is to investigate and take action swiftly.
The superintendent said be believes the recent fights have involved about 5 percent of the district’s students, and they are overshadowing the other 95 percent.
Speaking to parents, Mayo said, “In spite of the recent incidents, their kids are safe.”