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Community conversation examines Buffalo police

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

With a focus on the methods of local law enforcement, the Western New York Peace Center began a series of public meetings Monday night in the Gloria J. Parks Community Center in the University District.

The events are called Speak Out for Ethical Peace Officers and Tuesday's session gave people a chance to discuss their perceptions of police. At least one public official showed empathy for police. 
"These youth are talking to the police as though they are inferiors. They have no respect for the police, at all, whatsoever," said Masten Councilmember Ulysees Wingo.

"Can you imagine being a police officer, with a gun on your hip and with a badge on your chest, with the power and authority to subdue a situation so that that person is not a threat to themselves or anyone around them, and they look at you like, 'You can't talk to me?,'" said Wingo.

One consistent theme was the need for community policing, the need for officers who are out there in the community meeting with the public.

"The (police) academy teaches deescalation, not to escalate things, but to deescalate," said Buffalo Community Policing Officer Angelo Threats, who assured the meeting that all officers receive proper training.

"Each department teaches something a little bit different when they go to the department because they all have different challenges."

Officials said police candidates spend five months at the county academy before returning to their home departments for additional training. Buffalo police receive an additional 12 weeks of instruction.

Other department personnel attending the meeting included  Captain Steve Nichols and  E-District Chief Carmen Menza. In all, about two dozen people made their voices heard at the session.

"What I really want is for us to think together," said Canisius College adjunct philosophy teacher Heron Simmonds-Price.

"To me, this is about democracy. What we want to do is create the opportunity for us to really explore another aspect of democracy. Part of it is voting. Part of it is protesting. But, part of it also should be discussing and thinking together."

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.