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Buffalo Police leaders face tough questions from Common Council

Scanlon questions policies at recent protests
Posted at 12:49 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 12:49:12-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo Police leaders were questioned Thursday by members of the Buffalo Common Council who said they have a lack of public confidence in the department and its policies.

South District Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon peppered Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood and three aides with questions about the Emergency Response Team, two of whose members were suspended for shoving a Buffalo protester to the ground.

“What factors were taken into consideration when determining to deploy that team that night versus patrol officers?” Scanlon asked. “I don’t believe...there was a large crowd out there that evening, so what were the determining factors that led the ERT to deploy that evening?”

The June 4 incident garnered national attention and received widespread criticism as an overly aggressive, military-like response to a group of peaceful protesters.

But two attorneys from Mayor Byron W. Brown’s administration prevented Lockwood or Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia from responding, saying that the incident might be the source of “future litigation.”

Scanlon responded, “That’s fine, but I called this meeting because this council and the City of Buffalo deserve some answers on things that have taken place in the City of Buffalo in the past few weeks.”

Scanlon acknowledged that his South Buffalo neighborhood contains a large number of police officers who have complained to him about what they felt was “rudderless” leadership during recent protests.

“The patrol officers are completely demoralized right now, completely dejected by things that have transpired, and I’m not just talking about the past two weeks, I’m talking about going back years,” Scanlon said.

He added that members of the police department’s command have “flat-out lied” in the past when appearing before the Common Council.

Members of the public who commented during the virtual meeting appeared to have little sympathy for Buffalo Police leaders.

“Peaceful protests aren’t justifiable cause for an emergency response team and military action in Niagara Square,” wrote Kathleen Dunne.

“Police violence in this country being a leading cause of death for Black men is not because of ‘a few individuals,’” wrote Tanvier Peart.

“We have big demands and the incremental, menial reforms presented are NOT enough,” wrote Jaz Frazier.

Lockwood said he didn’t feel his department had lost the trust of most residents despite continued protests.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve lost the public’s trust,” Lockwood said. “I think things are happening around the country where...some of the trust...we have to gain more trusted, especially here in the City of Buffalo.”

Council Members Rasheed N.C. Wyatt of the University District and Bryan Bollman of the Lovejoy District also questioned police leaders about the effectiveness of the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Lockwood claimed the bureau was hampered in its effectiveness by restrictions in the city’s contract with the police union.