A database of police disciplinary records? Buffalo's mayor says he's open to it

Jun 22, 2020

It's a policy New York City's mayor announced last week will be implemented in that city, the creation of a police discipline database. In Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown was asked if he would consider a similar database.

New York State, among numerous police reforms passed and signed this month, has repealed Section 50-a, which kept police disciplinary records away from public review unless ordered by a court. Citizens seeking such information have had to file a Freedom of Information Law request, or FOIL, but that can often times prove to be a lengthy and frustrating process.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, speaking in Buffalo's MLK Park on Friday.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

During a June 10 news conference, Brown said increased transparency will be a part of the city's police reforms. Late last week, he was asked if that may include a database like the one announced by New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

"No one has called for it at this point, but we're certainly open to it," he replied. "We're listening to all of the ideas that members of the community are bringing forward right now. It sounds like it could be a very good idea, so that that information does not have to be FOILed. It would be something that our law department would have to look at, but I'm certainly very open to it."

Other questions regarding police transparency include the release of officer bodycam video. Such video has not been released from the June 4 incident involving the Buffalo Police encounter with activist Martin Gugino in Niagara Square. It's currently a criminal investigation.

But while the police bodycam video from the Gugino incident has not been released, police bodycam video of the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta has. One of the officers involved has since been fired and faces a felony murder charge in that case.

In Buffalo meanwhile, two officers are charged with felony assault in the push and fall of Gugino but are suspended without pay. Mayor Brown says legally, he could not fire them.

"In New York State, we don't have the ability like they did in Atlanta to automatically release body footage, given the laws of this state," the mayor said. "We also don't have the ability to automatically fire officers, given the laws of New York State. The laws in Georgia and the laws in New York State are different, that prevent us from doing some of the things that we've seen in other states."