The shoving of a 75-year-old protestor in Niagara Square on Thursday has drawn attention and criticism from around the world. Mayor Byron Brown is now responding to how the Buffalo Police Department handled the incident, and what it means for the community going forward.
In his first full press briefing on Friday since two Buffalo police officers shoved Martin Gugino to the ground, one thing Mayor Brown addressed was the misinformation that was originally released by a Buffalo police spokesperson.
“There was a very fluid situation, a lot of information coming in. Police officers, managers working in the command center, and the initial reports that came in said he fell,” said Brown. “Video evidence started coming that indicated otherwise. As soon as that information came in, Police Commissioner [Byron] Lockwood suspended both of those officers without pay, and immediately opened up an internal affairs investigation.”
Mayor Brown said he wasn’t going to call for the officers to be fired, and wished for due process to take its course.
In what the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association called resigning in “disgust at the treatment of two of their members,” 57 officers left their positions on the department’s Emergency Response Team. This has puts questions on the entire force’s capability, but Brown remained confident
“I can say Buffalo will be safe this weekend, we have a contingency plan,” said Brown. “Commissioner Lockwood is working with various law enforcement at the local, state and federal level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for bringing in a large contingent of state police.”
When asked if police would be re-thinking how levels of force are used on protestors, Brown only said they are examining it.
“We are always looking at our operations and trying to improve how we deliver not only police services, but every service in the City of Buffalo,” the mayor said. “This is certainly under investigation, it’s being looked at. But, one of the things police management has been directing our officers since the beginning of the global pandemic, and from the beginning of the national unrest about police brutality and racial inequity, is to use common sense.”
Questioned on if he could release the names of the two officers suspended from the Niagara Square incident, Brown differed to Commissioner Lockwood who said he was told the names of the officers, but couldn’t recall them at that time.