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Buffalo approves police reform plan, sends to Albany

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Buffalo’s plan for reform and reorganization of its Police Department is on its way to Albany.

The state mandated local municipalities across New York adopt a plan by April 1 or risk losing state funding.

There was a lot of debate and shouting before Buffalo's Common Council approved the city's plan Tuesday. The mayor had delivered his version late and councilmembers made changes into the evening. Public comment had been requested by March 26 at 11 a.m.

University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt said the governor’s executive order requiring the plans called for elaborate public comment, but that didn't happen.

"That order should have been given to us and they should have followed it, but they didn't. They didn't follow it, they ignored it," Wyatt said. "So now we have on the floor a motion to not hear from the public, which is just insane. How do we do that in good conscience? How can anyone vote on this item today when the public was not given the proper notice?"

The North District's Joseph Golombek said there isn’t universal agreement on changing the department.

"Some people that have contacted the office think that they have the only opinion and that they are the only ones that are right. Well, I have people who are absolutely petrified to drive in the neighborhood, senior citizens, people of every color, race, ethnicity that are frightened because of the ATVs and things like that and they are demanding more police protection."

Some of the groups and the activists who have been driving police reform said the new city plan doesn’t provide the needed change, especially a civilian police review board to take discipline away from the police command and union.

Tuesday's vote to approve ended with the possibility of a public meeting Thursday to hear comments about what is in and what is not in the plan.

A statement from Mayor Byron Brown said he was pleased with the approval and that he will continue to work with the Council and with an engaged public to continue police reform.

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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