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Mayor Curry: Police union's criticism of him over council member's FB posts 'crossed the line'

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/14/20

Mayor James H. Curry III said Wednesday that criticism of him from the Middletown Borough Police Officers’ Association “crossed the line.”

Curry, in a video on his Facebook page …

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Mayor Curry: Police union's criticism of him over council member's FB posts 'crossed the line'

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Mayor James H. Curry III said Wednesday that criticism of him from the Middletown Borough Police Officers’ Association “crossed the line.”

Curry, in a video on his Facebook page Wednesday, made it clear that he was responding to a press release put out earlier the same day from the Middletown police union — the Middletown Borough Police Officers’ Association — criticizing Curry over his silence about Facebook posts made by Middletown Borough Council member Richard Kluskiewicz.

Kluskiewicz made several posts that have been called into question on his personal Facebook page. One is a screenshot of a cartoon titled “Defund Democrats,” which depicts an image reminiscent of the death of George Floyd. Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, while being held down by a police officer who was kneeling on his neck. The cartoon, from the website conservativefiringline.com, makes reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and “Decades of Democratic Policies.”

“We have been waiting for the executive administrator (Mayor James Curry) of the Middletown Borough Police Department to make a statement on behalf of the Police Department, as to recent and appalling social media posts by Councilman Richard Kluskiewicz,” the association says in the release, citing “the disappointing lack of action by Mayor Curry to rectify and denounce such deplorable depictions of a tragic death for political grandstanding.”

The association calls Kluskiewicz’s posts as an elected official “heinous,” and that the association does not support or agree with any of his statements “or his offensive rhetoric.”

“His lack of maturity paints our borough community and the police association members, as being insensitive to current events or the social changes of equality within our Nation, State, and local communities,” the association release continues. “We could not stand further from his bigotry. This type of behavior drives our members to have a lack of faith in his leadership as an elected official or have faith in any elected official that remains silent in support of Councilman Kluskiewicz. It is our heartfelt belief that only TOGETHER can true social progress be achieved during these turbulent times as HUMANS, inclusive of all races, all creeds, all colors, all sexual orientations, all religions, all genders, and all backgrounds. To Councilman Kluskiewicz: All of us bleed the same color and all of us were created equal. To make fun or choose such ugly sentiments toward others shows a lack of judgement, a lack of compassion, and a complete lack of professionalism.”

The association statement is one example of continued pressure on Kluskiewicz to resign, despite the apology he posted on his personal Facebook page Monday.

Much of Curry’s 15-minute video Wednesday night had to do with comments in the association press release suggesting that Curry had also been silent regarding the death of Floyd on May 25.

The press release does not say that directly, instead noting that association members “DO NOT AGREE with the Officers’ actions which led to the death of George Floyd, as well as any unjustified and unconstitutional seizure of an individual of any background throughout our Nation.”

“We are angry for what took place and in the simplest and basic prospective, such a tragic death, is WRONG, UNACCEPTABLE, and we emphatically denounce it,” the association continued in the release, regarding Floyd. “We recognize that we all live in an imperfect society with broken resources and that changes need to be made to regain the trust of those we serve. Our Association, and its Officers, strive for professionalism in all aspects of our jobs, and we will continue to do so with pride, honor, and respect for ALL. We serve you, we are you, and will always be here for you.”

“Today I have been labeled racist,” Curry said in his video, spending the next several minutes defending himself against such a charge by referring to the history of his own social media posts, and of borough council minutes documenting his actions.

Among those, Curry referred to his efforts to block an attempt by council in 2014 to abolish the Middletown Human Relations Commission. The commission was preserved, and Curry as mayor appointed several members to it. 

Curry also noted that when Camp Hill Borough passed an anti-discrimination ordinance in September 2017 aimed at protecting all classes of citizens, it was he who had first requested the commission adopt a similar ordinance for Middletown.

After nearly two years, council deadlocked in a vote to advertise the proposed ordinance and Curry broke the tie in favor of doing so. Despite that, the ordinance has never been adopted by council.

Curry said the association release “crossed the line” and that on May 29, four days after Floyd’s death on May 25, Curry posted a video on his Facebook page calling what happened to Floyd “disgusting,” and that “his life was taken inappropriately and criminally. This was not a questionable situation or an arguable one,” Curry said, quoting from his own previous May 29 video.

Referring back to the association release, Curry noted that Floyd had been laid to rest Tuesday.

“Today is the first time that the Middletown police union issued a statement regarding George Floyd’s death which occurred over two weeks ago. To date, I am the only elected official to render an official statement concerning that tragedy.”

Curry first ran for mayor as a Democrat in 2013. In 2017 he was not on the primary ballot in the race for mayor as he had changed his affiliation to “non-affiliated.” However he received enough write-in votes in the primary to be on the Democratic ballot in the general election, where he defeated Republican Robert Givler, 897 votes to 499.

Curry for several years has also been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, which is obvious from a cursory review of Curry’s Facebook page.