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Common Council reinstates police oversight panel

Chris Caya/WBFO news

After several high-profile incidents, including a Buffalo Police officer caught on camera beating a handcuffed man, the Common Council has reinstated its Police Oversight Committee.

Given the crimes officers deal with on a daily basis, Lovejoy District Councilmember Rich Fontana says the Buffalo Police need the trust of the public. Fontana says the actions of a few have to be erased through better police work and through officers not making mistakes.

"At the end of the day, we're the ones that are going to have to approve any kind of big claims that come to this council through the mayor. That's where our oversight comes," Fontana said.

"When you (the police) screw up, we have to pay for it through the taxpayers. It's everybody that has to pay for it, so it's everybody's business."

The committee is not going to oversee the police department's day-to-day operations, according to Council President Darius Pridgen. He says the panel will deal with legislation, rules and training.

"This has nothing to do with the investigation of some recent events," Pridgen said. "I would not want to see this council get involved with where the FBI is involved, start bringing in people, putting them on the public mike, and, possibly, mess up something the FBI, or even the District Attorney, might be involved in."

Those recent events include the presence of two off-duty officers during the assault of William Sager, Jr. at Molly's Pub on Mother's Day weekend and, in a separate incident, the videotaped beating at the hands of one officers of a handcuffed man who had been stopped on a city street.
The committee will be chaired by Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera, a former Buffalo Police Officer. He says he'd like to hold the panel's first meeting in about two weeks.