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Buffalo PBA responds to city's proposed police reform plan, to be submitted to the state by April 1

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Posted at 11:49 AM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 19:23:12-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association has responded to the City of Buffalo's proposed police reform plan which is to be submitted to New York State by April 1.

The New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative was established by Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order in June of 2020.

The executive order requires local governments and police agencies in NYS to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their communities.

In June, Cuomo said there must be community participation and the goal is to restore trust. The governor also stated the plan must be enacted by local law by April 1, 2021 for the local governments to be eligible for state funding.

The City of Buffalo says following the governor's executive order, "Mayor Byron W. Brown created a Commission to Recommend Police Policy and Advance Social Reconstruction, consisting of representatives from various community groups, interested stakeholders, and members of the Buffalo Common Council." The city also says the Commission met over the course of several months and discussed how to create a "a more equitable, inclusive, and just City of Buffalo for every resident."

Recommendations from the Commission were presented to the mayor and made available on the city's website for public review, comments must be submitted by March 26 at 11 a.m.

The following has been proposed:

(1) The City of Buffalo continues to be committed to sensitive Police Reform and improving the lives of the residents of the City of Buffalo.

(2) The City of Buffalo commits to the expansion of the Buffalo Reform Agenda, which is a living document that will change with time to suit the needs of the residents of the City of Buffalo, especially those who are underserved and under-represented.

(3) The Buffalo Police Department will ensure all police officers are compliant with current policies and practices. The Buffalo Police Department will send regular communication to all police officers reinforcing compliance with polices such as the duty to intervene, ban on chokeholds and carotids holds, the utilization of the Behavioral Health Team, de-escalation techniques, and community engagement priorities.

(4) The City will include, in any collective bargaining agreement negotiation with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, a proposal requiring career residency for all new Buffalo Police recruits. In 2015 the City successfully negotiated the first-ever contractual residency requirement and will continue to negotiate for a career residency requirement for all newly hired officers. A residency requirement would require the police to live in the communities they serve, allowing officers to build relationships with community members. This would also ensure that police recruits come directly from the community they serve.

(5) The City will also include in any collective bargaining agreement negotiation with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association a performance evaluation program for Buffalo Police Officers.

(6) The City shall solicit community input regarding proposals during collective bargaining negotiations with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. This will ensure that the community is represented during the collective bargaining process.

(7) The Commission on Citizen Rights and Community Relations will be utilized to empower residents and provide oversight of police interactions in the community. The Commission on Citizen Rights and Community Relations will undergo a community planning process that engages all neighborhoods, especially neighborhoods with the most police presence, to enhance and improve police/community interactions. The community planning process will review the composition of the Commission and make recommendations about amending members; provide an analysis of current powers and recommended powers; demonstrate the necessary tools to improve communications between police and the community; and determine if current State statutory authority allows for oversight of police by its members. The Commission on Citizen Rights and Community Relations will provide a survey on its website and for City of Buffalo residents to complete any time they have an interaction with Buffalo Police Officers. This survey will compile positive and constructive feedback on police/community relations. This survey will also be distributed during Clean Sweeps, ensuring everyone has access to the survey.

This information will be used to understand what, if any, differences in police interactions there are between neighborhoods. The Commission will be able to identify neighborhoods that receive disparate treatment and officers that receive multiple complaints. The Commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department will receive bi-annual reports from the Commission, or more as requested, which will be made public on the City of Buffalo’s Open Data Portal.

(8) The City of Buffalo is committed to implementing Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) as a pilot program in B District. LEAD responds to low-level offenses, such as drug possession, sales, and prostitution, to divert individuals to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs.

(9) The City will work to reimagine police presence in the Buffalo Public Schools – Working with Buffalo Public Schools, the Buffalo Police Department will reimagine police presence in the district’s school buildings. Police presence in schools will reflect the Community Police Officer program—officers will build relationships with students and parents and serve as guides and mentors.

(10) Data Transparency. Working with the Buffalo Common Council, Mayor Brown secured a partnership with SAS, a data analytics software and solutions company. With SAS’s state-of-the-art analytics, the Buffalo Police Department is well-situated to become one of the most data-driven and transparent police departments in the nation. To ensure accountability and transparency, the City of Buffalo is committed to joining the Police Data Initiative (PDI) for ease of access to this data.

PDI is a law enforcement community of practice that includes leading law enforcement agencies, technologists, and researchers committed to engaging their communities in a partnership to improve public safety that is built on a foundation of trust, accountability, and innovation. PDI represents the great work and leadership of more than 130 law enforcement agencies that have released more than 200 datasets to date, and originated as a result of several recommendations in the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that focused on technology and transparency. The agencies participating in this community of practice have chosen to release their data to the public, therefore anyone can collect the data. However, it is important to note that neither this initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), nor the Police Foundation are collecting this data at the national level. The PDI website only provides an index to these agency’s webpages where the data can be downloaded by the public.

The Buffalo Police Department will also issue a Departmental Report to the Community and an Internal Affairs Report to the Community, annually.

(11) Increased community interactions. Effective immediately, the Buffalo Police Department will reinstate monthly District meetings, publicly. Additionally, the Commissioner will reinstate the Taking it to the Streets mobile command, and executive command staff will respond and assist patrol officers once, monthly. All public activities will be in accordance with social distance and COVID-19 protocols.

(12) The City supports proposed changes in, and additions to, State Law that reverse and repair systemic injustices to overpoliced communities and communities of color. The City will work with the local State Delegation to pass the following proposed State bills:

a. A.2359: Amending the Civil Service Law to establish a racial equity, social justice, and implicit bias training program for all civil service employees.

b. A.2358/S.3468: Establish an office of Racial Equity and Social Justice for the State of New York.

c. A.2277/S.2836: Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement (HALT) limits the time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement, ends the segregated confinement of vulnerable people, restricts the criteria that can result in such confinement, improves the conditions of confinement, and creates more humane and effective alternatives to such confinement.

d. S.15/A.2475: Parole eligibility for certain inmates age fifty-five. This bill permits the Board of Parole to evaluate all inmates over the age of 55 who have served at least 15 years in prison for possible parole release.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association released a statement on the proposed plan Tuesday which you can read below.

It’s difficult to pinpoint just one of the many flaws with the City of Buffalo’s proposed police reform plan along with some incorrect assertions.

For one, the plan states that police officers are ‘randomly killing and injuring innocent Black and other people of color needlessly.’ As rising crime rates in the city of Buffalo indicate, the killing and injuring of Black and other people of color in the city of Buffalo is being done against each other; not by Buffalo police officers.

Another assertion implies that police officers turn a ‘blind eye’ if an officer sees wrongdoing by another officer. It has always been a duty by a police officer to intervene if that officer sees wrongdoing by another officer. The proposed reform plan should focus on reforms and not policies and procedures already in place.

Furthermore, if reforms include banning the use of chokeholds and other tactics to subdue suspects, it is simply going to increase the number of injuries to non-compliant suspects through the increased use of impact weapons such as batons.

Finally, the PBA opposes solitary confinement legislation as it will lead to far more violence in correctional institutions as this approach is focused primarily on protective custody. The carnage will be far greater in the general prison population if inmates are not separated from their enemies. More importantly, it would put correctional officers at a significantly greater risk when they have to intervene.

Before we are accused of being an obstacle to reforms we want to be very clear that the PBA has put forth various reforms in contract talks with the city. These include residency requirements, officer evaluations and various training in a wide range of areas.

Unfortunately, the city has refused to engage in any substantive collective bargaining discussions citing the pandemic. Perhaps now that the city has experienced a financial windfall from the federal bailout, we can discuss these matters, including reforms in a meaningful matter.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association has consistently communicated a willingness to participate in discussions and efforts to enhance policing to better serve the community. If the PBA is not going to be engaged in this process, then the reforms in the proposed plan that require our support will not be forthcoming.
- Buffalo PBA