Local advocates for racial justice met with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to speak about the changes they want to see regarding policing in the city.
What You Need To Know
- The coalition gave the mayor 13 recommendations on new police practices in the city
- The Free the People Coalition is made of up people from several groups demanding reforms
- On Monday, the New York state Senate and Assembly passed five bills that are part of their police reforms legislative package
- The coalition expects to have a follow-up meeting this week
The meeting follows the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis under the knee of a police officer, and most recently, the pushing of a protester in Buffalo which caused serious injury to Martin Gugino.
Gugino tripped, fell, and hit his head after two officers are seen on video pushing him while enforcing an 8 p.m. curfew in Niagara Square. He remains in serious condition.
The Free the People Coalition is made of up people from several groups demanding reforms.
They gave Mayor Byron Brown 13 recommendations, including firing officers with a history of brutality, cutting the police budget to invest in reforms and community services, and creating an independent police oversight body.
Jalonda Hill with the WNY Law Center was in the meeting representing the Fair Fines and Fees Coalition.
While she wouldn't discuss details of those conversations with the mayor, she said they were productive.
"In order to get policy change we need to have healthy relationships. We need to be talking to the mayor and the Common Council,” Hill said. “So it's vital. It's vital but we also need community support because these demands that we're talking about impact the community. And yes people in the coalition are part of the community, but the community is larger than those in the coalition.”
Of the reforms recommended, the coalition is calling for the end of police in riot gear during protests, firing officers with a history of brutality, and cutting the police department budget to focus more money on education and community services, while reducing arrests driven by mental health, addiction and poverty.
"Give residents the opportunity to be referred to programs that would be able to be of help to them," said Dani Johnson, co-chair of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board.
Its members are appointed to research and make recommendations to the Common Council on behalf of the community.
They want to see an independent body with legal counsel to investigate incidents between police and residents.
"More independence than what exists we believe there's greater transparency and accountability that can ensure through a different model," said Erin Carman, co-chair of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board.
That group is also pushing for changes in police tactics such as de-escalation before using force, warnings before shooting, and requiring officers to step in if they see another officer using excessive force.
"This is a moment where the choices that people make at his very time are going to indicate and are going to have a direct impact on what the this relationship without communities and the Buffalo Police will look like," Johnson said.
The police advisory board plans to put out more details about its top priority reforms on the Wednesday, and the coalition as a whole expects to continue the conversations with Mayor Brown and other elected leaders in the city.
Across the country, cities are coming under pressure from advocates to reform policing following Floyd’s death.
On Monday, the New York state Senate and Assembly passed five bills that are part of their police reforms legislative package.
But the wave of anti-police brutality protests around the country over the last two weeks are also culminating with calls to defund the police.
Elected officials have often argued the reverse: Putting more cops on the street was a symbol of safety for a community. But with a broader reckoning surrounding police brutality and police policy, the view of spending more on law enforcement could shift.
What police reform in Buffalo could look like is yet to be seen. Below are the recommendations by the coalition to Mayor Brown:
- Riot police must stand down
- Fire officers with a history of brutality and killing people
- Make officers pay for settlements with their pensions, not taxpayer dollars
- Create an independent external oversight body
- Cut the police budget and invest in reforms and community supports
- Increase transparency of police policies, activities, and cameras
- End biased traffic stop practices and eliminate unfair fees
- Implement LEAD to reduce arrests driven by mental health, substance use, and poverty
- Adopt Cariol’s Law to create a duty to intervene
- Give community a seat at the bargaining table
- Update BPD Use of Force policy and codify into law
- Get police out of schools
- Pass resolutions in support of repealing all of the state laws proposed by the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus