Body and Dash Cameras Not Part of Shooting Investigation

Neighbors, Experts say It Could Help in Black Rock Shooting

Mike Baggerman
May 11, 2017 - 4:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - As the investigation continues into the fatal shooting in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood, authorities won’t have the option to use police camera footage because it doesn't’t exist. 

Body cameras haven’t been implemented yet because of cost concerns and Buffalo police reportedly lack dashboard cameras too according to several sources. 

“I think the body cams - without violating a police officer’s privacy when he’s not doing official duty - I don’t think you’re ever going to get that unless it’s voluntary” one individual in the Black Rock neighborhood told WBEN on Wednesday. “The dash cams? I think that’s a given. If you’re in an official police vehicle that should just be a given. The personal body cams, they’d also have to turn them on.”

The individual further explained that the community could police the police by taking out their phones and record the interactions with police on social media platforms like Facebook Live. 

LISTEN: Buffalo PBA Attorney Tom Burton and Rossy's Attorney Nelson Torre 

“It’s better for (officers) to have cameras,” Riverside resident Marcus O’Bannion said. “One: because it’s better for evidence-reasons. Two: Because it will make them look good too because people will see them with body cameras.” 

O’Bannion further explained that the city should get more funding to help not only the police department, but the people too.

The incident in question occurred on Sunday when Jose Hernandez-Rossy was shot and killed by Buffalo police after he allegedly shot officer Joseph Acquino in the ear and fled before he was shot by officer Justin Tedesco. Buffalo police did not find the weapon Rossy allegedly used. 

READ: Speculation Continues During Investigation from Rossy's Attorney

Niagara Falls Police began using body cameras on a regular basis in December 2014 after the Niagara Falls Common Council approved the purchase of 48 body cameras. The city spent approximately $22,500 for the body cameras. In September 2015, a federal grant provided to Niagara Falls allowed the city to purchase 15 more cameras. 

"I know Niagara Falls wears body cams and what they've found is there have been a lot less police-civilian complaints, there have been a lot less incidents reported of police misconduct, and it's been a blessing to the Niagara Falls Police Department," . says John Elmore. an attorney who has sued Buffalo police in other shooting cases. " They've saved a lot of money in civil lawsuits, and people have pleaded guilty to crimes because they have been caught on tape. And it protects the officers,"

Elmore, who has marched on Buffalo streets to protests cases involving racial bias, and is the author of "Fighting for Your Life: The African-American Criminal Justice Survival Guide "  does not see race as a factor in this shooting. A former state trooper and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney , he also says he has faith in the NYS Attorney General's office to conduct the investigation.

"And where the investigation leads, as long as it is an honest investigation, and a truthful investigation, the public has been well served," Elmore says. 

WGRZ reported costs factors for the body cameras include a storage system and the hiring of extra employees to handle requests for video which is roughly $1 million annually. They also reported that Buffalo police equipped 20 officers with cameras at the beginning of this year for a pilot program that lasts between six months and one year.

Elmore tells WBEN that while the city of Buffalo is working to start a body camera program, the Police Benevolent Association union is strong in Buffalo and getting them to sign on to a system will "take a lot of give-and-take".

PBA Attorney Thomas Burton tells WBEN that in the Hernandez-Rossy case, a camera would not  make a difference in determining whether Officer Tedesco was justified in shooting at Hernandez-Rossy.

" (Acquino's) partner saw this head wound pouring out blood with his ear hanging off the side of his head, and I don't think it gets any better than that, for reasonable cause for the officer to believe that his partner had been hit," Burton says.  

Without video evidence, Buffalo police continue to look for eyewitnesses and posted the following message on their Facebook page:

"The Buffalo Police Department is asking anyone with information or video footage of the incident which occurred on Sunday May 7, 2017 in the vicinity of Hartman and Garfield to contact the Buffalo Police Homicide Squad at 716-851-4466. 

Please leave a message including a telephone number where you can be reached.
Thank you very much."

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