As part of the Buffalo Reform Agenda, Mayor Byron Brown announced a new round of changes in law enforcement, including how the city has levied fines against motorists.
Joined by three Buffalo Common Council members and Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer, Mayor Brown first announced that the city is extending the period of time during which a vehicle owner may get repairs to avoid a "fix-it" ticket fine. The deadline is now a full two weeks after the ticket is issued.
The second announcement was the repeal of 15 vehicle ordinances passed in 2018. City officials say those ordinances, introduced to enhance traffic safety, have been made obsolete by technology including school zone cameras, bus arm cameras and other equipment installed to enforce lower travel speeds.
Commissioner Helfer explained one of the fines being repealed, regarding motions to vacate a disposition.
"If somebody fails to appear, you go to court in absentia and they're found guilty, we'd charge a fee because we'd have to go through the whole process again," he said. "We're waiving that fee now in the interest of everything's going on with COVID-19. We have a balance. We have to make sure we have safe streets but we can't hurt people financially so bad that they lose their license."
The third change announced by Mayor Brown concerns booking photographs, better known as mugshots. Last year, as part of the New York State budget package, local law enforcement agencies were given the authority to wtihhold the release of mugshots to the public except for cases when it is deemed an urgent public safety concern. The City of Buffalo will make that policy permanent.
"It goes to the image that we fix in our minds about people. It goes to what we think about criminality and something that we're trying to do to change that, to break down stereotypes," Brown said.
"The release of photos of individuals, who are presumed innocent and have not been found guilty of any crime, have often served to reinforce negative racial stereotypes and how people think about certain people in our community, and their criminality."
The Buffalo Reform Agenda was first announced June 10, amid escalations in racial tensions following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and a serious injury to a Buffalo protester following a confrontation with police.