Buffalo Common Council hears claims of bias in Police, Fire hiring practices

Posted at 8:57 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 23:18:44-05

Half a dozen speakers shared their stories of what they feel was racial bias in the hiring practices of the Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire Departments during a Common Council committee meeting Tuesday morning.

They say after a short psychological evaluation they were deemed unfit by Doctor Jay Supnick, who is based in Rochester. Many of those same candidates say they sought a second opinion and Jason Cannon, who now works for an insurance company, says the findings of the second exam contradicted Dr. Supnicks evaulation.

"After a 10 to 15 minute interview he had me sized up to be this unintelligible man without integrity," says Cannon. "When I drove to Albany and got a second opinion from one of his colleagues, the recommendation was that I was recommended to be a City of Buffalo Fireman."

According to city records, Dr. Supnick did more than $100,000 dollars of consulting work with the city during the 2017 fiscal year, often providing psychological exams, one of the final barriers into the Buffalo Police or Fire Departments.

After hearing the testimony of numerous speakers questioning the results of their exam, Common Council President Darius Pridgen is concerned there may have been an issue with the process.

"If all the information that I've received from several of the gentlemen that spoke today is correct, then we have a problem."

In a conversation with 7 Eyewitness News, Dr. Supnick tells us he can't comment on the situation until speaking with the city's Human Resources Commissioner Gladys Herndon-Hill.

The city however did issue a response through spokesperson Mike DeGeorge, saying:

"The data reveals absolutely no indication of racial bias.  With new leadership in place the mayor has already directed the new Fire Commissioner & the interim Police Commissioner to review all aspects of the hiring process for fire & police with the Commissioner of Human Resources.  Any and all changes to the process will be implemented before the next class of police and fire."

At least one speaker felt the problem goes deeper than the decisions of Dr. Supnick.  She says this was an issue 10 years ago, when a different doctor hired by the city deemed her unfit to serve with the Buffalo Police, despite already working in law enforcement.

"I was the only black officer in Allegany County, and I was the only female in my department.  I had a Bachelors degree when this man interviewed me and said I was mentally unfit because I got teary eyed about my ex-boyfriend who was also a police officer who shot himself in the head."

Now, several Common Council members are calling for an overhaul of the psych exam system, and Council Member Richard Fontana says it may also be time to terminate the city's contract with Dr. Supnick.

"I for one will not vote for this individual if he comes before us again. I think we should exercise our thirty day clause to get out of the business with him."


Take WKBW Everywhere, on all your devices.  Download below!

Phone or Tablet: Apple, Android
Set-top Device: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Alexa

Personalize your news, get the latest 7 First Alert Forecast, and watch 7 Eyewitness News video wherever, whenever.

Learn more here about what 7 Eyewitness News provides on all these devices.