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Caldwell mayor says more should be done to address racial issues after police were called on Black girl spraying lanternflies

The mayor of Caldwell is speaking out about a recent incident in which police were called to check on a 9-year-old Black girl her neighbor felt was acting suspiciously.

News 12 Staff

Nov 22, 2022, 9:32 PM

Updated 608 days ago

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The mayor of Caldwell is speaking out about a recent incident in which police were called to check on a 9-year-old Black girl her neighbor felt was acting suspiciously.
Mother Monique Joseph says that her daughter Bobbie was out spraying spotted lanternflies that were on the trees in her neighborhood.
Neighbor Gordon Lawshe, a former Caldwell council member, called the police when he saw Bobbi spraying the trees.
“There’s a little Black woman walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence,” Lawshe said in the call. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me though.”
Lawshe lives across the street from the Joseph family. They say that Lawshe should have recognized Bobbi.
“It was very sad and almost disgusting, what occurred,” says Caldwell Mayor John Kelly.
Kelly says he appreciates that Joseph is bringing this to light and speaking out about the situation.
“She did the right thing to bring this out, and we as a community need to discuss it and not bury our heads in the sand about race and people of color,” Kelly says.
When police responded, they quickly saw that Bobbi wasn’t doing anything wrong and reassured her that she wasn’t in trouble.
“I think [the officer] conducted himself perfectly in understanding and recognizing that the caller made a terrible mistake. This was a child,” Kelly says.
The incident happened in October. Joseph has since gone before the Caldwell Borough Council to express her concerns that this was a racist incident.
Kelly says he is inviting Joseph back in December to keep up the conversation on race and the role of the police. He says his goal is to find comfort for Bobbi and her family to explain that what their daughter experienced was wrong.
“The only thing you can say in something like that is, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m sorry she had to go through it, the children had to go through it,” Kelly says.
The Borough Council in Caldwell is planning to present Bobbi with an award for her removal of spotted lanternflies from trees. Her family says she is also being recognized by Yale University for her effort.


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