Citizens committee with Buffalo Police wants reforms

Former committee co-chair speaks out on incidents in Buffalo

Mike Baggerman
June 05, 2020 - 6:23 pm

Jonathan Manes, Co-Chair of the Buffalo Police Advisory Council, standing outside Buffalo City Hall. December 4, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – A citizens group that is part of the oversight of the Buffalo Police Department said reform is needed after Thursday night’s incident involving two police officers pushing 75-year-old Martin Gugino.

The Buffalo Police Advisory Board cited multiple instances of violence believed to be unnecessary by the department, such as Quentin Suttles on Mother’s Day, Miles Carter on June 2 and Shy-Quan Brodie on the same day as Carter.

One of the current reform measures that the group wants is an expansion of police’s use of body cameras.

“We would like to see the policy be amended to allow for public disclosure of video footage when there’s a civilian death or injury, an allegation of racism, or other controversies requiring an objective viewpoint.” Erin Carman, co-chair of the BPAB said.

Recommendations were previously made for contract negotiations between the police department and the police union. She said their desire to be heard by the two sides has not been received by the two sides. Specifically, they want the two sides two incorporate annual performance evaluations and for a residency requirements, and community-policing incentives.

“For all of those, we have made prior recommendations with great detail to the common council that the Buffalo Police Department is aware of and we’ve made them publicly available on our Facebook page,” Carman added.

The BPAB is a group of citizens appointed by the Buffalo Common Council to provide recommendations to the police department and strengthen the relationship between the department and the community.

Still, they do not provide oversight. That’s something they want to change with the formation of another group of citizens that will have the ability to investigate the department without the need of a political appointment. The BPAB wants this group to have independent legal counsel.

The BPAB also wants to codify the department’s policy regarding the use of force. Specifically, they want the department to require de-escalation before using force, a warning before shooting, another officer to be at the scene in order to intervene, mandate a report of an officer’s actions or arrest that included use of force, and to ban choke holds or strangle holds.

Mayor Byron Brown announced a ban of choke holds on Thursday just hours prior to the incident involving Gugino.

They also want the creation of a program to assist people with issues regarding mental health, poverty, substance abuse. The program would prevent the arrest of people with those issues. The PBAP also wants to adopt the use of “stop tickets” and are calling on state reform to remove limitations on local independent oversight of officer investigations, specifically calling for the repeal of 50A, which prevents an officer’s official record from becoming public knowledge.

A former BPAB co-chair speaks out

Jonathan Manes was the co-chair of the board at the end of 2019 and tweeted on Friday that the police department is not accountable to anyone.

In an interview with WBEN, Manes said there needs to be real independent oversight of the department.

“Buffalo is really behind the times,” Manes said. “There really is no independent oversight body that has the power to investigate claims and the ability to investigate internal disciplinary proceedings and to independently review whether an officer should be disciplined, removed, etc.”

He said that the BPAB doesn’t have “teeth” to investigate the department.

“The advisory board is only as powerful as its voice,” he explained. “It doesn’t have any power to investigate the police. It can’t force the police to open its books. It can’t force any kinds of changes. But it can speak out and it has spoken out.”

Manes moved to Chicago in February where he practices law at Northwestern University.

He was frustrated that there is not transparency with how much of the department is run, including details about policies, trainings, and disciplines.

Manes said he was shocked by the video involving a bloodied Gugino. He also said he was shocked that all 57 members of the department’s riot team resigned from the team.

“It sort of illustrates how there’s a culture within the police department to protect itself and fellow officers and not really to be sensitive at all to members of the public that are harmed by the police,” he said. “The 75-year-old man, I understand, is still in the hospital and in serious condition because of the police’s actions. Yet we see 57 police officers resigning from their duties…not because they’re criticizing what these two officers did, but because they are defending them and are incensed that they would even be subject to the pretty modest sanctioned of being suspended temporarily.”

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