BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for Erie County Sheriff was suspended twice for allegations of misconduct while serving in the Cheektowaga Police Department, the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned.
Brian J. Gould, the assistant Cheektowaga police chief, announced his candidacy in January for the office of Erie County Sheriff, which will soon be vacant with the retirement of Republican Timothy B. Howard.
But public records obtained by the I-Team show that Gould was suspended for two days in 2014 for a social media violation and for two more days in 2017 for what the department termed “performance and attention to duty.” Click here to view the records.
Gould said in an interview with the I-Team that he accepts responsibility for the mistakes, one of which involved a physical altercation with a suspect, which he said occurred during stressful moments on the force.
“Policing sometimes is difficult, and I have two instances in my personnel record where I received discipline,” Gould said. “And I’m up front and open about them. I regret that they happened, absolutely, but I take responsibility for them and I’m willing to talk about them so that everyone knows who I am.”
Altercation in booking area
In February 2017, police records stated, Gould and other officers were transferring a “combative and aggressive handcuffed offender” from a booking room to a cell block at the Cheektowaga police station.
“While I was escorting him, I had my hand on his shoulder...he turned and spit directly in my face,” Gould said. “My natural reaction was to push him away.”
Gould said he was sensitive to getting spit on because a few years earlier, after arresting a shoplifter, Gould said he was cut with an uncapped needle the man had in his pocket. Gould had to undergo blood tests twice a week for six months, he said.
“I think very highly of protecting myself when somebody is attacking me,” Gould said. “I took the fact that he was spitting directly into my eyes, my mouth, and I needed to protect myself. And it was quick…it was a simple” shoving motion, he said.
In an internal disciplinary memo, then-Police Chief David J. Zack wrote to Gould, “In doing so, your right closed hand gave a glancing strike to the Offender’s jaw. Although the Offender never complained and suffered no injury you are advised that you are not to strike handcuffed Offenders except in extreme situations.”
After interviewing Gould, the I-Team subsequently learned that the “offender” mentioned in the police reports was either a Black man or was multiracial. Asked whether race had anything to do with his actions, Gould stated, “His race did not play a factor. I have never had any complaint against me relating to race.”
The incident was recorded on video and 7 Eyewitness News requested a copy of the video, but Cheektowaga police officials said they no longer have a copy.
“There is no video retained by this department regarding your 2017 incident reference,” Lt. Patrick Chludzinski stated in an email.
Gould said he accepted the two-day suspension without argument.
“If the chief felt that as a lieutenant, I didn’t set a good example, I accepted that and I learned from it,” Gould said. “And in fact, a couple months later, I was promoted to captain.”
Fourth of July comment
Three years before that, Gould received his first suspension, also for two days, for what the department termed a “social media violation” after the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration at Cheektowaga Town Park.
“It was an event where we continually struggled with violence,” Gould said. “Lots of young people who just came looking for trouble.”
After returning home, police records stated, Gould wrote on Facebook, “I really wish that the Town leaders would consider cancelling 4th of July next year. I’m glad we all made it home safe.”
A few years later, town leaders did cancel the event (citing overtime costs and safety concerns), but at the time of the incident, Zack wrote to Gould, “Your posting was viewed as negative to the Town Board. When placing a posting, you must be cognizant that it creates a posting ground for comments that may be racist or derogatory. You must also be aware that any attached comments by other individuals can be linked to your original posting.”
Gould said, “We did not have a social media policy at the time, but I was disciplined for releasing police information outside of the department.”
Also received commendations
Gould’s personnel file also included 30 letters of commendation that were written either by his superiors or from citizens who wrote to thank the department for Gould’s actions. Multiple citizens thanked Gould for saving their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Click here to view the documents.
“Thank you so much for saving my Mom,” a young girl wrote. “If you didn’t get here as quick as you did, she wouldn’t be here. I really appreciate what you did.”
Also during his two decades on the force, his personnel file showed, Gould received the department’s Distinguished Conduct Medal twice for leading the investigation into one of the largest drug busts in town history and for chasing down and obtaining a confession from a suspect in a burglary and carjacking.
One couple wrote to thank Gould for helping them locate their lost iPhone that was later found at a Tops supermarket. The couple stated that they initially had a “very critical and biased opinion” about Cheektowaga police officers but their interaction with Gould changed their minds after he not only helped them search for the phone, but also saved someone’s life after receiving a call for a drug overdose.
“I never have been more proud to be wrong than last night,” the couple wrote. “Brian and the other officers of the CPD served on a level that I would have never thought possible...Today I have a little more faith and a little more hope because of these guys.”
Crowded race for sheriff
Gould, 44, wrapped up the endorsement of the Erie County Democratic Committee on Feb. 27, with the committee choosing the 24-year Cheektowaga Police veteran over Kimberly L. Miller-Beaty, a retired Buffalo Police deputy commissioner who now serves as director of public safety for Canisius College.
Miller-Beaty dropped out of the race shortly before Erie County Democrats endorsed Gould, but she has since re-entered the race, citing community support for her candidacy.
On the Republican side, retired Buffalo Police lieutenant and district chief Karen L. Healy-Case has snagged the GOP endorsement, while retired Buffalo Police detective John C. Garcia is mounting a primary challenge.
The Buffalo News last week reported that Garcia was involved a controversial 2013 police raid that resulted in a dog’s death and a $110,000 settlement paid by the city. Garcia defended the raid to The News, saying that his team “did everything by the book.”
Ted DiNoto, a detective lieutenant in the Amherst Police Department, is running on the independent Public Service Over Politics line. Other candidates include Akron police chief Rick Lauricella, activist Myles L. Carter and gun rights advocate Steve Felano.