Nearly one month after it passed in the Common Council, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Wednesday officially signed the policy known as Cariol’s Law into law. It is worth noting, however, that the Mayor’s Office did not call the measure Cariol's Law in its signing announcement, but instead said the policy had been in use by the police department since June 2019.
"Mayor Byron W. Brown today signed the Duty to Intervene law that reiterates a Buffalo Police Officer’s responsibility to intervene in a situation where they believe another officer is acting inappropriately or jeopardizing another person’s safety or well-being," the announcement said. "Since June of 2019, the Buffalo Police Department has had a Duty to Intervene policy in its manual of procedures. By signing this legislation into law, Mayor Brown is restating the importance of this duty, its fundamental importance to the proper functioning of a police department, and a reflection of the community sentiment that desired the codification of the policy."
“In a society governed by laws it is vital that everyone understands that no one is above the law, not even police officers," Brown goes on to say. "The Duty to Intervene requirement, mandated by the Department’s Manual of Procedures as well as provisions of state and federal law, is now being further reinforced as a fundamental principle to our City’s approach to police reform as well as improving the public’s level of trust in and understanding of how the Buffalo Police Department functions."
Speaking at a Police Accountability Meeting Wednesday in Buffalo’s Central Park neighborhood, Activist De’Jon Hall said signing the law makes the policy concrete.
“I’m thinking about two-fold,” he said. “Now we have the law which means if an officer does not intervene, they’re in violation of local law which could be deemed criminal. Also, when one wants to sue the municipality under a Section 1983 Civil Rights claim, or a Monell claim, you need to show that the officer was acting either as part of a larger pattern of practice of ignoring the law, or in the individual capacity if you’re going after the officer themselves. So now we’ll have that extra layer of analysis for court cases, but again, I think the law is great but we need to focus on enforcement.”
Cariol Horne, the former Buffalo Police officer for whom the law is known, released her own statement Wednesday after news of the signing broke. Horne said she feels vindicated and law, in the name of police reform, is now a part of history.
"Today marks the beginning of history in the United States of America," she said. "The first-ever real police reform that holds Police Officers accountable called Cariol’s Law has officially been signed and passed first in the City of Buffalo. My team and I thank the community for the feverish efforts and continued support of this very, very long journey in passing Cariol’s Law. We would like to thank the Common Council for their leadership on this very important law. We also would like to give a nod to Mayor Byron Brown who made the pertinent decision to have his legacy placed (on) the right side of history by signing Cariol’s Law."
Her case has hung around the Police Department for 14 years, since, Horne maintains, she tried to stop another officer trying to strangle a person he was arresting. Horne was dismissed from the force and is still fighting for the restoration of her full pension. The other officer was eventually promoted and then later went to federal prison for attacking four young Black males. Under the new Duty to Intervene law, Buffalo officers will be required to step in and the department has to protect them.
For Common Council President Darius Pridgen, the law is a big deal, as the Police Department is reshaped.
"This will be a new Police Department and we have to still work on it," Pridgen said. "There are a lot of policies that are being written, a lot of changes being made, different tools being given, including the social workers and heightened de-escalation training. I think that this is good for, again, for citizens and for the police."
Pridgen said the measure sends a message "to those good officers out there who want to step in and who want to say, 'Stop' to their colleagues." He said there is a "big, big, big difference between a policy and law."
He hoped it might even improve citizen and community trust.
"Some of the wrongs have been for decades, if not a hundred or more years, so it's going to take a little time," he said. "But, again, it is not as if the government in Buffalo is being being silent. It's not as if we are not doing anything. This is one of several reforms that were put forward. This is probably one of the biggest ones because it actually changes the law."