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Advisory board hears concerns over increased violence

Mike Desmond/WBFO

In a summer of incredible violence, an advisory board to the Council's Police Oversight Committee heard calls last night for change.

Anger about police is a perennial topic in much of the city, especially in the Black community. Last night, the first of three scheduled public meetings was held in the Merriweather Library, attracting a relatively small crowd.

"I want to know what the police are doing to find these guns. Because they are coming from somewhere," said activist and educator Eva Doyle.

"These young people and there have been some older people, too, now, who have been settling differences with a gun. Where are the guns coming from?"

Doyle was among those calling for a new approach in dealing with street violence.

D.A.D.S Program President and CEO Dwayne Ferguson says officials are aware of the underlying problems:  distrust of the police, a lack of jobs and insufficient schools.

"There's no jobs out there for some of our young men and there's other opportunities out there for young men. It depends on what the employer, what they want to do with themselves. There are opportunities out there. It's just a matter of putting it in front of them to make it really work," Ferguson said.

Some say they are pleased with new Commissioner Byron Lockwood and his focus on community policing. Teacher Sonia Walker spoke of how an officer would come to her classroom a few times a year. That has changed. 

"I haven't seen a community officer in many years," Walker said. 

"I would like to see that reinstated in our school system so that children can develop a positive relationship with the community officers."

Over the next few years, more of those officers might be neighbors. The new police contract requires officers to live in the city for their first seven years on the job.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.