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State Supreme Court ruling reinstates former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne's pension, including backpay

Posted at 3:32 PM, Apr 13, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A New York State Supreme Court ruling has reinstated the pension of a former Buffalo police officer who was fired after intervening when she says an officer put a man in a chokehold in 2006.

Cariol Horne will receive a full pension, and backpay and benefits, following a decision by Hon. Dennis E. Ward on Tuesday.

The ruling comes less than six months after "Cariol's Law" was signed by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. The law states that officers who reasonably believe a colleague is using excessive force have a duty to step in and stop it. Failure to intervene can lead to criminal charges.

In his ruling, Hon. Dennis E. Ward quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writing "the time is always right to do right."

Justice Ward vacated the State Supreme Court's 2010 decision. In addition, the court ruled that the city must reinstate Horne as a police officer for the period of July 26, 2008 to August 4, 2010, and pay Horne back wages and benefits for that time period. The city must also "make any required pension contributions for that period of time."

Read the full ruling here.

Following the ruling, the attorneys representing Horne released the following statements:

We are gratified that the court recognized that former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne did the right thing in 2006 when she intervened when a fellow police officer had a chokehold on an arrestee. The court has now set aside her wrongful termination from the police force, awarded her back pay, and has given her pension credit. As the court notes in its opinion, ‘The legal system can at the very least be the mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly.’ After many long years, that is what has happened here.
-Neil Eggleston, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
This is a significant step in correcting an injustice that occurred 15 years ago when Officer Cariol Horne intervened to protect an unarmed civilian. As recent events have sparked national outrage over the use of excessive force by police, we are grateful to the court for acknowledging that ‘police officers who intervene [are] now being seen as heroes,’ and ‘to her credit Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so.
-Ronald Sullivan, Jr., Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the City of Buffalo for comment. Spokesperson Michael J. DeGeorge provided the following statement via email: "The City has always supported any additional judicial review available to Officer Horne and respects the Court's Decision."