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India Walton, Byron Brown square off on public safety reforms, policing plans

Democratic mayoral candidate India Walton speaks in MLK Park in Buffalo Monday, August 16, presenting her public safety platform.
Tom Dinki, WBFO
Democratic mayoral candidate India Walton speaks in MLK Park in Buffalo Monday, August 16, presenting her public safety platform.

Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton is pitching a public safety platform that she insists will reform police to help prevent crime, instead of just responding to it.

Walton, who upset current mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary in June, detailed her platform Monday in Martin Luther King Park. Among her proposed reforms is to include a mobile crisis team trained by mental health professionals that would serve in mental health crises.

“Year after year, the current administration invests in one policy response to the exclusion of all others: heavier surveillance, more broken windows policing and harsher punishments. In this approach, we have expected police to be the solution for every social ill,” Walton said. “As a result, we've asked our law enforcement officers to take time away from solving crimes in order to help perform a whole host of other functions for which they are not trained, and should not be held responsible.”

Walton also spoke of neighborhood, street and school safety. Regarding the latter, the candidate proposed reducing class sizes while increasing spending for guidance counselors, therapists, and school nurses. That, as she sees it, would serve as an alternative to feeding the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Mayor Brown’s campaign communications director, Sofia Quintanar, issued a written response dismissing Walton’s proposals:

“Ms. Walton’s plan falls short in many ways and demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of city government. Ms. Walton has proposed cutting $7.5 million which would result in Buffalo having over 100 fewer officers — who would be predominantly people of color and women. By seeking to assign work to a transportation department that does not exist in Buffalo, thereby seeking to create a whole new department or assign the county or the state to take on a responsibility, Ms. Walton has once again shown that she does not understand the basics of governing the City of Buffalo.”

Brown’s campaign also touts other police reforms during his administration, including a ban on choke holds and codifying a legal duty to intervene in cases police brutality.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.