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Buffalo Police are no-show to explain recent changes

Chris Caya
Buffalo Police brass, wearing white uniforms, appear before the Common Council in September to discuss the death of Pito Rivera.

Common Council members were angry Tuesday when no one from the Buffalo Police Department showed up to explain what's going on inside the force. However, members of the public showed for the Community Development Committee meeting.

The police department has attempted to shift all detectives to days, only to be blocked by a union grievance. It has cut key Narcotics and Homicide units, has not been able to resolve problems in its garage which are leaving some officers without a patrol car, and is dealing with significant retirements.

Community Activist Art Robinson said what is going on sends the wrong message.

"I have to go back to what one of the great presidents, Barack Obama, said. Buffalo is on the move. Well, it sure is and we're getting better all the time. Real estate's going up, everything. Why would we start cutting now?" Robinson said. "I remember in the sixties, when there were 1,400 police officers. Now there's 750. We don't need no more cuts. We want people to feel safe."

Yuri Hreshchyshyn said a strong police force is good for the community.

"Our strengths are certainly the Police Department, 24/7 operation, staffed by professionals, in our neighborhoods, as well all our neighborhoods," Hreschyshyn said, "and now is not the time to be pulling back. I can't understand the cost savings, on the margin, that are being spoken of."

Councilmembers lamented no one will tell them why the changes, even if it is budget problems. There have been several attempts to get police leadership to committee meetings, all unsuccessful. Majority Leader David Rivera, a retired city detective, said police brass were invited.

"It's kind of unfortunate that this is the people's house and they have a chance to come in and explain their positions or the rationale why they want to make the staffing changes that they are proposing and they don't show," Rivera said. "I think we've treated them really well. We work closely with them in terms of appropriation, in terms of allocating resources. It's an open invitation. Come in, talk to the Common Council."

There were Police Benevolent Association leaders in the chamber, including President John Evans, to watch and see who showed up. In a full Council session a little later, members approved a deal with the police that abolished a vacant inspector position and kept a second captain in A District.

Citizen resentment of changes in that district drew a large crowd to a meeting last week. A-District covers the entire South Council district, as well as much of the Lovejoy and Fillmore districts.

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