Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is expected to soon announce police reform proposals in the wake of the George Floyd protests and a WBFO video showing Buffalo police pushing an elderly protester. However, the Buffalo Common Council’s independent police advisory body already has an idea of what reforms it would like to see.
The Buffalo Police Advisory Board, created in 2017, has a list of recommendations, including independent investigations into police misconduct, as well as providing drivers with a paper trail of which officer pulled them over and the reason for the stop.
“Everything that we are proposing is directly borne from the level of tension and energy we have seen around the city,” said De’Jon Hall, a member of the board. “People are taking to the streets calling for accountability. We wanted to make sure that we had some genuine policy that gets to the root of those issues.”
Board co-chair Erin Carman said the board applauds Brown for recently announcing a ban on chokeholds, but doesn’t feel it should stop there.
Board members would like to see the mayor make several more reforms to the Buffalo Police Department’s use-of-force policies, including requiring de-escalation prior to using force, a warning before shooting and another officer to intervene if another officer is using excessive force.
"We're asking for not just adoption by the BPD, but codification of these recommendations, which are national best practices in regards to use of force policy," Carman said.
The board’s list also recommends creating an independent, civilian, investigatory body with its own legal counsel to look into police misconduct. The board wants the membership of the body to be completely independent of political appointments.
The board also wants police to issue “stop tickets,” which would provide civilians with basic information about their stop, like the officer who stopped them and the reason for the stop.
“Just so there's more transparency around why people are stopped and who is engaging in those interactions and folks have a personal record of that interaction,” Hall said.
The board publicly released its recommendations Friday morning, a day after two Buffalo police officers pushed 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino to the ground outside City Hall.
However, board members said they’ve been crafting the list for months, and that it’s not just about Gugino. They mention the alleged Buffalo police beatings of Quentin Suttles on May 10 and Shy’Quan Brodie on June 2, as well as protester Myles Carter, who was tackled and arrested while giving a TV news interview June 2.
Hall said although the pushing of Gugino, and the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, have given renewed attention to the issue, Buffalo groups have been calling for reform for a long time.
“The only thing that's new, at least from my view and I'm not speaking on behalf of the board when I say this, is the responsiveness of elected officials,” he said. “I think this is the first time I can recall since graduating law school back in 2016 that I've heard local officials say that they were open to seriously engaging in these sorts of ideas.”
The board said it will release even more specific recommendations sometime this week.