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Mayor, Common Council President tout new police reforms, activists remain skeptical

Thomas O'Neil-White

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Common Council President Darius Pridgen on Friday unveiled the first steps in a police reform package. 

Notable are several items which the Common Council will need to consider: a contract for the creation of a data center to track and evaluate the training and practices of police officers in the field, the phased-in use of tasers and a pilot program for the use of bolowraps for members of the Behavioral Health Team.

Brown said these items represent a step in the right direction for the Police Department.

“Technology has the potential to make policing safer, more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the community,” he said. “In combination with the other steps my Administration has taken as part of the Buffalo Reform Agenda, I am confident that these action items will provide the resources to speed the pace of change that residents expect in reforming police practices.”

Members of the community are not so confident.

Activist De’Jon Hall sees the city’s reforms as half-hearted.

“I don’t do halfway with human with human lives,” he said. “I’d rather people lived than died. And so when we are taking that question seriously, about police reform and abolition, we should be looking at are we moving in a direction that preserves, maintains human lives or not? And what we have seen from the city seems to be more of the same old, same old which, unfortunately has meant the continued maiming and murdering of Black and Brown bodies, women, Queer folks and poor folks.”

Hall called the institution of the data center a “significant development” for holding police accountable for their actions, but said it is still reactive thinking on the part of elected officials and moving forward, plans of how to prevent wrongdoing instead of reacting to the wrongdoing of police officers need to be put in place.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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