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Buffalo police officer arrested on assault charges

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Erie County District Attorney announced Tuesday that a Buffalo Police officer faces charges, including assault, in connection with an arrest earlier this year during which the defendant was injured.

According to District Attorney John Flynn, Officer Joseph Hassett turned himself in Tuesday morning and was arrested and charged with two counts of Assault in the Third Degree, one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree and Official Misconduct.

The charges allege the victim was injured while in custody at the police department's Central Booking on March 18. The victim required medical treatment at the Erie County Medical Center.

Flynn says his office began their investigation when the attorney for that individual requested jail video as part of that criminal case.

"My Assistant District Attorney viewed the video with the defense lawyer," Flynn explained. "My Assistant District Attorney was upset about what they viewed in the video and reported it to the supervisor. One of the supervisors viewed the video, was disturbed by what they saw in the video, and said 'Mr. Flynn, you need to see this.'"

Flynn would not disclose to reporters what was on the video, citing a need to protect the integrity of an ongoing case.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda explained that no complaint had been lodged against his officer until the DA's office began their probe. It was then the police department launched its own internal investigation.

"Back on May 26, Internal Affairs commenced their own investigation," Derenda said. On May 30, the officer was suspended without pay for 30 days. He remains suspended today."

Derenda said that under the terms of a police union contract, Hassett is being paid while on his continued suspension.  

Hassett, who has been with the Buffalo Police Department since 2009, is scheduled to be arraigned next Tuesday, September 5 in Buffalo City Court at 9:30 a.m.

The person injured while in police custody, Flynn said, continued with his own criminal case that was described as a disorderly conduct charge. Saying that because he is a part of Hassett's case, Flynn would release the person's name during the news conference. 

Derenda says his department is continuing its own investigation. He and Flynn both stated that "99.9 percent" of Buffalo Police officers are good people who act properly in the field. The actions of those who break the rules, both said, are not tolerated.

"There are certain times when officers do things that are wrong," Flynn said. "No matter what some people think, injuring or roughing up a prisoner, in my opinion, is wrong and it will not happen under my watch."