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Small, but vocal group critical of Buffalo Police relations with public

Mike Desmond

Antagonistic, intimidating, unhelpful. That was the the perception of Buffalo Police by a small group of city residents who turned out for a Buffalo Police Advisory Board forum Tuesday night at the Merriweather Library.

The advisory board advises the Common Council and holds periodic public meetings, sometimes over specific issues. Last year they discussed ground rules for use of police body cameras. This year's conversation was was more open.

Board members said they are talking about recommending to the Common Council some set of ground rules for marijuana use. Chair Jonathan Manes said the board is studying the issue because there are different federal, state and city rules on marijuana and perhaps police need guidance.

Joseph Mascia, a former police advisory commission member and Marine Drive Apartments tenant advisor, said police ticket aging residents too quickly.

"They park. They put the flashers on, and they put their groceries in and come down to move their car," Mascia said. "Well, I guess that wasn't a good enough response by me to tell them that. Well, they aren't supposed to be parked there. We're going to give the guy a ticket. And the way they came across, it was sort of antagonistic."

Greg Gauthier is a block club president and property owner on Brinkman Avenue. He said he is constantly working to get more police activity on his block, even emailing surveillance footage for help. Gauthier said police are not helpful.

"Why are you still living here? Why don't you move?" Gauthier said. "So I just dealt with an officer the other day, about a week ago, the same thing, trying to chase the prostitutes off my street, and the police officer was sort of like looking at me like, 'Well, what are you doing over here?' When I told him that I own a quarter of the block, he sort of changed his tune."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

William Yelder said City Hall powers need to get out more to listen.

"Get out and have meetings that are not so intimidating, that the people we are trying to reach are scared to come to the meeting because you're going to listen to me today and then you're going to go about your business. That's what's been happening in the City of Buffalo," Yelder said. "I'm glad this is happening here, but what we need to do now is start reaching the inner city. People of the inner city don't come here. Some time, we need to have a meeting on the corner."

The city also has the Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations, which can investigate complaints about police activity and has subpoena power. New Executive Director Jason Whitaker came to the advisory board meeting to talk about what his agency does.

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.
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