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Retroactive pension restored for ex-BPD officer Cariol Horne

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WBFO's Nick Lippa / Buffalo Police
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Cariol Horne, during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, and earlier as a Buffalo Police officer.

A Buffalo police officer who was fired for trying to stop another officer from using a chokehold on a handcuffed suspect will get retroactive retirement benefits from as far back as 2010, under a new law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul Wednesday.

The measure gives Cariol Horne her full retirement, with service in the state pension system now pegged to the date of her termination in 2010.

Horne was a 19-year veteran and a year away from collecting her pension when she faced departmental charges after pulling fellow Officer Gregory Kwiatkowski’s arm from around the neck of domestic violence suspect Neal Mack in November 2006.

She was fired in 2008 after an arbitration process determined she had put the lives of the officers at the scene in danger. The firing was previously upheld by the same court that eventually overturned it.

"New York owes Cariol Horne a debt of gratitude for her service to the Buffalo community and for her bravery in a moment of crisis," Hochul said in a prepared statement.

The measure comes after a court ruling in April vacated Horne's firing and restored her back pay- but closes a loophole that still denied Horne her pension because of the firing.

"I am proud to sign this law, which will correct a longstanding injustice and ensure that Officer Horne is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves," the Hochul statement said.

Kwiatkowski, who is white, went to prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to deprivation of civil rights for using excessive force against four Black teenagers suspected of shooting a BB gun. Prosecutors said Kwiatkowski slammed the teenagers’ heads onto a vehicle while yelling obscenities at them. He was sentenced to four months.

Mack also is Black, as is Horne.

In April, State Supreme Court Justice Dennis Ward ruled that the original hearing officer “lacked significant information about the conduct of Officer Kwiatkowski and his (mis)use of physical force in effecting arrests.”

Ward also cited the changing landscape around the use of force by police and a new “duty to intervene” statute that the Horne championed following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Ward's ruling reinstated Horne as an officer from 2008-2010 and granted back pay and benefits.

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