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Chauvin verdict looms over today's Buffalo Police Oversight Committee meeting

Members of the Buffalo Police Emergency Response Team during a 2020 protest at City Hall. The team has since been disbanded.

The day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, the Buffalo Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee will meet to talk about police reform. Since Floyd was killed almost a year ago, there has been increasing pressure on Buffalo and many police departments to make fundamental changes in the way officers operate and to remove many current aspects of the job, like dealing with the mentally ill and traffic management from police duties.

Council Majority Leader David Rivera, a retired detective and chair of the Police Oversight Committee, said most cops are good people and officers, but some…

"There is that culture within police departments throughout the country and they need to be very careful," he said. "They can be held accountable for their actions and this is just proof that that can happen."

A uniformed Chauvin was shown in video recorded by citizens kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during the arrest. Rivera said those recordings cemented the facts for the jury that convicted Chauvin.

Credit Michael Mroziak / WBFO News
Common Councilmember David Rivera (l) leads a Police Oversight Committee meeting pre-pandemic.

"A lot of things that sometimes fall within the cracks because we don’t have somebody recording it. We don’t have somebody there. We have to be more careful, more vigilant. And we have to train our police officers better. I don’t want to give anybody the excuse that we were trained to do that. If that’s the case, we need to go back and look at the training," he said.

Buffalo now has Cariol’s Law, requiring police to stop another officer from violating the law. The measure is named for former Buffalo Police officer Cariol Horne, who maintains she was thrown off the force for stopping another officer from assaulting a man being arrested. She spent years trying to get her police pension and won her lawsuit just last week.

Rivera said officers today are not going to go along with an officer breaking the law.

"They’re not going to jeopardize their careers, their families," he said. "I think the new reforms, the reforms that are coming on, duty to intervene when an officer is working outside the scope of the law, is going to help police officers make sure that they are not intimidated, they are not threatening when they tell a police officer, 'No, you can’t do that.'"

The Council’s expanded Police Advisory Board will be before the committee with its recommendations for police change and some comments on Mayor Byron Brown’s police reform plans. Local governments across New York were required to adopt police reorganization plans to Albany by April 1.

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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