Buffalo Police lieutenant with lengthy disciplinary record and uncertain future overcame tragedy to be a cop

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Internal Affairs records state that an investigator had concerns with Lt. Michael DeLong’s credibility early in his 20-year career, but friends and family say those complaints, most of which were unfounded, should not be what defines him.

The Buffalo Police Department division responsible for investigating complaints of wrongdoing against fellow officers had raised concern years ago about the credibility of Lt. Michael DeLong, the notorious officer caught on video this past summer addressing a woman with a vulgar slang word.

DeLong, who is no stranger to the department’s Internal Affairs Division with more than 35 complaints filed against him over his 21-year career, served a 30-day suspension for confronting the woman on June 28, 2020, outside a 7-Eleven. She was recording how police dealt with a man who appeared to be suffering from a mental health issue when DeLong walked up to her and said “you’re a disrespectful little f****** c***, that’s what you are.”

“Thank you,” responded the woman recording him, Ruweyda Salim, “you’re going to be viral.”

DeLong, 51, remains on paid leave while his fate is decided by an arbitrator.

But 16 years earlier, department brass raised “serious credibility issues” with DeLong after investigating one of the excessive force complaints filed against him. In addition, investigators with Internal Affairs had DeLong under surveillance for a double-dipping complaint and had his service weapon tested for DNA after a man alleged that DeLong pointed it at his head and struck him in the forehead with it.

Included in DeLong’s Internal Affairs cases are four domestic dispute complaints and at least a dozen excessive force complaints, most of which were not sustained.

Friends and family that know DeLong told News 4 Investigates that he is getting a bad rap and neither that viral video of him calling the woman derogatory names nor his disciplinary record should be what defines him.

Turns out, sources said, what people witnessed that summer day was a slip of DeLong’s temper after he worked long hours for weeks on end to cover shifts that other cops would not take, all during a very hectic period of Black Lives Matter protests that targeted police brutality and funding.  

Friends, family, and sources in law enforcement who asked for anonymity because they were not given permission to speak to the media, called him kind, loving and helpful.

Some said they are proud of him for being able to have a long career in law enforcement by overcoming two tragic events in his life that involved the murder of his mother and the accidental drowning of his toddler son.

“Mike has had a lot on his plate,” said one of his aunts, who asked not to be identified.

“But I can’t say anything bad about him. He’s a real good kid.”

News 4 Investigates obtained the details of DeLong’s disciplinary record through a Freedom of Information law request.

Until last year, requests for any law enforcement officer’s personnel file would have been denied as a violation of privacy.

But in June 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the repeal of a law known as 50a, which for decades shielded law enforcement disciplinary records from public scrutiny. Some saw the repeal as a step forward in addressing police violence in communities across the state.

DeLong could not be reached for comment.

His union, however, remains displeased with how DeLong is being treated.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, the union that DeLong and other Buffalo cops belong to, declined an interview request because it is representing DeLong in his arbitration case.

John Evans, the union’s president, provided this prepared statement to News 4: “It should be noted though that some of the allegations made against Lieutenant DeLong through the years were determined to be unfounded or not sustained. It is my understanding that the Department is resurrecting allegations under 50-a made years ago against Lieutenant DeLong that have already been determined to have no merit.”

Internal Affairs investigations

Lt. Michael DeLong, who has been a city cop for 20 years, is among the department’s top 10% of officers with the most general complaints from city residents over the past five years.

DeLong’s record shows he has at least 36 complaints filed against him, including alleged excessive force, off-duty domestic issues and not following procedures.

Of those complaints, 22 were not sustained, which means the police department was not able to gather enough proof that he was or was not at fault.

The department had suspended four times before the incident in June 2020 that was recorded by a city resident and posted on Facebook, where it went viral.

DeLong found himself in the crosshairs of the Internal Affairs division relatively early in his career and his disciplinary files show that at least one investigator questioned his credibility right away.

A 204 complaint states that a patron of a Chippewa Street nightclub accused DeLong of striking him in the shoulder with his baton. The man told Internal Affairs that before being struck, he was explaining to officers why he was kicked out of the bar and why he used his girlfriend’s credit card.

The complainant said that he pushed away from the officers and was struck three more times, but he was unsure who did it because his head was turned away. 

DeLong denied striking the man and told the investigator that he handed over the suspect to a uniformed officer whose name he could not recall.

“This writer finds very little credibility” with DeLong’s statement, wrote Carl Terranova, who was the lieutenant of the Internal Affairs Division.

“It is also difficult to believe that DeLong has not made any attempt to ascertain information regarding this mysterious officer. This writer found DeLong to be brass, cocky and a bit of a smart guy when questioned a second time. This writer has serious credibility issues concerning officer DeLong.”

Ultimately, DeLong was conferenced by his superiors after the complainant stopped cooperating with the investigation.

Buffalo Police Department Capt. Jeff Rinaldo equated the notes left by the Internal Affairs investigator to notes a detective or a police officer might leave about a suspect under investigation. In other words, the investigator’s opinion of DeLong is not necessarily based on fact. Rather, they were just his personal observations.

“When Internal Affairs does an investigation, it is very similar to when a police department does an investigation,” Rinaldo said.

“There are times I didn’t believe my suspect, but I didn’t have enough to convict him or bring criminal charges.”

DeLong had eight complaints filed against him, including six for excessive force, before he received his first punishment in 2005.

In that off-duty incident, DeLong was accused of chipping a woman’s tooth while working security at a bar. The complaint was sustained, and DeLong was reprimanded, according to his disciplinary card.

Since that incident, DeLong had six more complaints against him, including his first domestic complaint in July 2005, when his dinner date with an ex-girlfriend allegedly ended in violence, according to the internal report.

The case file states DeLong’s ex-girlfriend refused his requests to leave his home before the Amherst Police Department showed up. The woman accused DeLong of physical assault and threats. DeLong denied that he did anything wrong.

In fact, DeLong said the woman recanted her complaints to officers before they left and the internal report states that DeLong is listed as a victim on the police report. The internal report also states that the woman did not want to cooperate with the internal investigation.

Therefore, the complaint was not sustained.

DeLong’s next official punishment was in 2008 for a complaint of excessive force during a traffic stop near Kermit and Bailey.

A man accused DeLong of shoving his face into the ground, which damaged his braces and cut the inside of his lip.

The internal report states that DeLong was accused of pointing his gun at the suspect’s temple, and said, “You don’t think I will shoot you?”

The report states that a second officer, Mark Swaggard, allegedly struck the victim with a gun, causing the man’s right eye to bleed.

The report states that DeLong then took the suspect behind a building, removed his handcuffs, and wiped the blood off his face. The man was returned to his car and released.

DeLong told Internal Affairs that he pulled the car over because it matched the description of one involved in a shooting. He said he neither pointed his gun at anyone nor wiped blood of the suspect’s face.

Swaggard’s statement mirrored that of DeLong’s, other than he admitted that DeLong did wipe off blood from the suspect’s face. He did not know how the man got hurt, he said.

DeLong disciplinary card states the complaint was sustained and he got suspended for two days without pay.

In 2014, DeLong, who was already promoted to lieutenant, was accused of signing off on another officer’s overtime shift for the Chippewa detail that she apparently never worked. The officer was paid $345.40 for the extra shift.

Internal Affairs pulled surveillance camera footage for both the B District and Chippewa areas and interviewed numerous officers who worked that same night. Only one of the officers indicated that he saw the officer in question riding with DeLong, “but could not state with certainty that she was in uniform.”

The report also stated that surveillance footage showed DeLong responding to an incident, but the other office was nowhere in sight.

Ultimately, the complaint was not sustained because of the testimony of one officer who told Internal Affairs that he saw DeLong riding with the officer in question.

In 2014, DeLong got suspended for one day without pay for off-duty conduct.

The internal report states that on May 26, 2014, Town of Hamburg police arrested DeLong in a “domestic-related offense.” But the report does not include any details of what happened or what charges DeLong faced.

A judge dismissed the case four days later with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which means the case would be dismissed if DeLong stayed out of trouble. In addition, the Internal Affairs investigation was hampered by the alleged victim who told police she felt “apprehensive and uncertain” about giving a statement to Buffalo police, the report stated.

In 2016, Internal Affairs conducted surveillance on DeLong for several days during his shifts based off complaints that he may have been “double-dipping” by clocking a shift for the police department while also working security for ECC’s downtown campus.

Although the investigator did meet with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office to discuss the evidence, which is not mentioned in his report, the complaint ended up not being sustained.

“If it was not sustained, obviously they weren’t able to prove he was,” Capt. Rinaldo said.

In April 2016, Internal Affairs had DeLong’s service gun tested for DNA after being accused of excessive force on a suspect.

The internal report states that the complainant said he was handcuffed and brought to the backseat of a police SUV, where he began to kick the back door. He said DeLong choked him and hit him in the face while inside the SUV.

“Additionally, he reports that he was struck about the forehead with Lt. DeLong’s duty weapon and that Lt. DeLong punched him in his private area and grabbed his testicles,” the Internal Affairs investigator wrote in his report.

The complainant also accused DeLong of pointing his gun at his forehead.

The complainant had a bump and scar on his forehead and a cut on his lower right jaw.

An officer told Internal Affairs that he did see DeLong enter the rear of the police car in the vicinity of the suspect for up to 30 seconds. The officer denied that he saw DeLong strike the suspect with his gun.

Internal Affairs tested DeLong’s service gun for the suspect’s DNA, but the test came back inconclusive.

Almost an entire page of the Internal Affairs report is redacted under “miscellaneous” and DeLong’s disciplinary card states that the case was closed administratively after the one-year window to decide his fate had lapsed.

In July 2017, a woman accused DeLong of making threats toward her in an off-duty domestic complaint. The woman petitioned for a temporary order of protection in family court and DeLong was ordered to stay away from the complainant.

The Internal Affairs record states that the petition was withdrawn, and a family court judge vacated the order of protection.

DeLong denied making any threats and characterized the incident as an argument.

The complaint was not sustained.

DeLong faced his fourth off-duty domestic complaint in March 2018 after a woman accused him of punching her in the face after a night out. The woman also alleged that there were other altercations with DeLong, including being pushed down a flight of stairs.

DeLong was notified three days later that he was suspended without pay for 30 days.

After DeLong served his suspension without pay, he continued the suspension with pay.

In April 2018, the woman recanted her complaint and told an Internal Affairs investigator that DeLong never struck her or pushed her down any stairs.

“She said that she was highly intoxicated and does not remember what she told this writer or officers at the scene,” the Internal Affairs report states.

DeLong admitted that he got into an argument with the woman but denied that he struck her or shoved her down any stairs. Rather, he accused her of grabbing him around the collar and repeated that she was “highly intoxicated” that night.

The woman involved in this report could not be reached for comment.

As for the incident on June 28, 2020, in which DeLong was caught on cell phone video accosting the woman at the 7-Eleven, the lieutenant has served the full 30 days without pay. The police department said DeLong remains suspended with pay until his arbitration hearing.

Some might wonder how an officer with a record similar to DeLong’s could still be employed.

Rinaldo, Buffalo captain, said union ruled have taken punishment decisions out of the hands of command staff

“The discipline process is guided by the collective bargaining agreement with the union, and that ultimately lets arbitrators have the final say with discipline,” Rinaldo said.

In Defense of DeLong

Friends and family of DeLong’s interviewed by News 4 said these complaints, most of which were not sustained, should not be used against him by the community and they do not depict who he really is.

DeLong faced tragedy at an early age when a home burglar fatally stabbed his mother, Amalia DeLong, on Oct. 25, 1976. She was home with her baby daughter, while Michael DeLong, who was just 6 years old, and his brother, Steven DeLong, were at school; her husband was at work.

The murder shook the region and became known as the “911 killing,” according to a Buffalo News article, because it led county leaders to upgrade the 911 system – a feat that took a decade to complete.

DeLong’s mother had called 911 before the attack at her home in the Village of Kenmore.  The call lasted 14 seconds, according to court records, and the dispatcher only recorded “219 Victoria” on the complaint card. The dispatcher failed to get the caller’s name and that she lived on Victoria Boulevard in Kenmore.

As a result, dispatchers sent police to Victoria Avenue in the City of Buffalo, but there was not a house numbered 219. They did not see any burglary in progress, either. So, they returned to the station and the call was cleared.

“If the call had been identified as 319 Victoria Boulevard in the Village of Kenmore, the complaint writer could, by pressing two buttons, have made instant and direct contact with the Village of Kenmore Police Department,” court records state.

The Kenmore police station was just 1,375 feet away from the DeLong family’s home.

About 32 years later, DeLong’s 19-month-old son drowned in a backyard kiddy pool in the City of Tonawanda.

The Buffalo News report states that the baby had wandered out of the family’s view and his teenage sibling found him in the pool. DeLong was not home at the time of the accident.

DeLong’s aunt and uncle, who asked not to be identified for concern of retaliation from those who want to see DeLong fired, said those two tragic events in DeLong’s life could have easily sent him down the wrong path. Instead, he served a short stint in the U.S. Army and “next thing you know” DeLong took the police exam in Buffalo.

“He was a little worried they wouldn’t let him because of what happened to his mom,” his uncle said.

“He’s a good officer,” he said.

Both his aunt and uncle said DeLong lived with them beginning in his late teens into his early 20s.

“Mike was a good kid,” his aunt said.

“Him and his brother were both real good. They were never mischievous really.”

His aunt said DeLong was always kind and caring and remains that way to his two sons.

“For him to become what he is now is just wonderful,” she said.

“He made it through so much turmoil. I can’t tell you anything bad about him, he was always helpful, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. I know Mike is a good father, too.”

Both also believe the incident this past summer is being blown out of proportion and that DeLong was being taunted by the woman recording him.

“She was antagonizing him,” his aunt said.

“He is still suspended over a word,” said his uncle, a retired city firefighter.

Ruweyda Salim, the woman who recorded DeLong that day, told reporters at the time that she was concerned about a man in distress and the number of police officers at the scene. She said it was DeLong who tried to provoke her to do something, “so that he could harm me.”

Dawn Broccolo said DeLong was never violent during their long relationship and she seemed surprised by the complaints in his personnel file.

She called him a “fantastic guy” and said he never raised a hand at her. The couple bought a house together and their romantic relationship lasted about 15 years, she said.

An example of DeLong’s kindness, Broccolo said, was how he sold that house to her for $1 when they split up.

“He didn’t have to do that,” she said, “but he did because he is a good person.”

“He went through so much tragedy and he has made a good life from it. He is getting a bad rap and I hate to see other people try to bring him down. He has been through enough.”

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