© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Donate Today Banner

Council orders additional training for city police officers

Ashley Hirtzel

Buffalo Police officers will now be required to take part in an at least 21 hours of ethics, diversity, and use-of-force training per year. The new measure was announced during a Buffalo Common Council Police Oversight Committee meeting Wednesday.

The mandated training comes after six police officers were placed on leave back in April after a video surfaced showing officers hitting and kicking 22-year old John Willett while he was on the ground handcuffed.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda says the department is taking steps to improve.

“We’re making sure our officers are aware of what they can and can’t do. We hold our people accountable. We will not tolerate any wrongdoing. I think you’ve seen that in recent months and years. We expect our people to act professional so we’re going to do everything we can to get them the training to make sure they do,” said Derenda.

This is the second time the newly-created police oversight committee has met this year. Common Council President Darius Pridgen says he is glad to hear the department was making strides to better itself.

“I’m so glad to hear about the diversity training, in a diverse Buffalo, in a changing Buffalo. You showing up here again with so many people shows that you respect this council and respect what this council is doing. And you didn’t come back with lip service, I think that’s important for citizens to know. I think this is huge. I think that we cannot sugar coat how big this is, this is big,” said Pridgen.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Sam Smith addressing the Police Oversight Committee

The issue of renewing the police department’s contract with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority was also discussed at the meeting. Some residents complained about the lack of police presence under their contract with BMHA. Sam Smith lives at the city owned Stuyvesant Apartments. He says people are afraid for their lives.

“Some of the developments are war zones right now, regardless of what you’ve heard. Gunfire on a nightly basis, so much so that it’s become routine. People are threatened and intimidated,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, Attorney John Lipsitz represents some residents from the BMHA-owned Marine Drive Apartments. He says residents feel uneasy about police stopping people for no reason.

“They report that there have been specific instances of police officers using excessive force and several instances of people question for specific activities such as sitting in the courtyard of the building, or gathering in groups of more than three people after dark,” said Lipsitz.

Derenda says the department hasn’t been made aware of any unnecessary police stops. He says if there are complaints, they will be addressed. When it comes to beefing up security, Derenda says there’s always room for improvement.

“We’re willing to work with them. I believe it’s been a good thing. We’ve had some really good results, obviously there’s always more to do, and we’ll continue to work hard,” said Derenda.

But, Smith says he’s not confident police will make changes. He suggests BMHA hire a private security firm to keep their buildings safe, adding it will make surrounding neighborhoods safer.

Other items discussed during the meeting include purchasing a GPS tracking system to be used during high-speed chases and updating the sex offender photo registry.