Richard Hy, a 10-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, once said on a popular podcast that he listens to a rap song by a local East Side group before he hits the streets because “it gets me hyped and I hate them.”
The way Hy tells it on the Black Rifle Coffee podcast, it sounds more like the Army veteran is going back to war, but in the streets of Buffalo, not Iraq.
“They are bad people – they’re dope boys, they’re drug runners, they’re shooters – but, man, this one song I just love singing it every time I’d arrest one of them,” Hy said on the podcast. “It’s called ‘Sheesh.’ As I’m jumping up and down singing this, going, ‘arrested him, arrested him, snitch, snitch, dead, dead. Woo! Sheesh!”
No doubt Hy can be funny, said Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans. The above comments may not be the best example of his comedic value, but Evans said Hy’s social media accounts are “entertainment.”
Hy is a former comedian before he became a cop. His “Angry Cops” platform on YouTube has more than a million followers and more than 100 million views. Some websites estimate his net worth at $750,000 for his social media platforms.
Hy is also a controversial figure.
A “prolific” ticket writer, according to police records, Hy was in the news before for his social media skits. The side gig also has twice gotten him in the crosshairs of his military superiors, but much more frequently with police department brass.
And now Hy has alleged that his First Amendment rights are being violated by the Buffalo Police Department, which he says has passed him over for promotion. Hy has filed a notice of claim with the city indicating that he intends to sue.
In October 2021, Hy’s attorney, Adam Grogan, said in a press release that Hy is a victim of “blatant mistreatment” by the Buffalo Police Department, and that the officer has a First Amendment right to post his comedic skits on social media. Being passed over for promotion has taken a toll on Hy’s mental health, Grogan said.
“He has applied for numerous promotions over the past several years but every time it seems like Buffalo PD is going out of their way to overlook him,” Grogan said. “And the lowest common denominator here seems to be his social media activity.”
But is that really the case?
‘Unusual’ disciplinary record
Through a Freedom of Information law request, News 4 Investigates obtained Hy’s entire disciplinary record, hundreds of pages of documents, that paint a different picture than what Hy, through his attorney, described last year.
Buffalo Police Department’s Internal Affairs division has investigated Hy at least 23 times – a total deemed “unusual” by a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department who consults law enforcement on internal affairs operations. The reasons range from his social media activity, use of force complaints, and violent off-duty conduct, according to his disciplinary records.
“Most officers go through their entire career and maybe have one, two, a handful of them, but certainly not 23,” said Lou Reiter, who has 60 years of law enforcement experience. “It seems like it would put him up on the high repeater list with any agency, let alone even Buffalo.”
For example, while off-duty in West Seneca in 2016, Hy uttered a racial slur, headbutted someone, took his marijuana and was believed to have been intoxicated, according to police records.
In another incident in October 2014, the Buffalo Police Department got a tip alleging that that Hy may have been intoxicated when he crashed his SUV in the early morning near D’Youville College.
Another incident in September 2020 involved Hy, off-duty in military garb, punching an African American man and sitting on his chest until uniformed officers arrived.
To PBA President Evans, Hy is an “exceptional officer” who deserves promotion.
“I don’t see how from his work record that he’s not been promoted,” Evans said.
On the other hand, some of Hy’s conduct raises red flags to others.
In fact, Reiter, who reviewed portions of Hy’s disciplinary record, concluded: “In my opinion, he’s not ready to be promoted.”
News 4 Investigates originally had an interview set with Hy’s attorney, but Grogan canceled.
Hy, 34, never responded to inquiries from News 4 Investigates. And the Buffalo Police Department has a policy of not commenting on legal matters.
Hy’s law enforcement career
The Army reservist and drill sergeant joined the Buffalo Police Department in 2012 and patrolled in the A District of South Buffalo.
A year later, he transferred to the C-District, that includes predominately African American neighborhoods, such as MLK Park, Genesee-Moselle and Schiller Park.
Police records indicate that by this time Hy had earned the distinction of being a “prolific” ticket writer.
By October 2014, Hy joined Strike Force, a controversial special unit that targeted guns, gangs, and drugs.
The police department disbanded the unit in March 2018, not long after a study by University of Buffalo and Cornell law schools accused the unit of conducting illegal searches and discriminatory checkpoints, among other things.
Hy then transferred to the E District, another section of the city with a large minority population, that includes Kenfield, a predominantly African American neighborhood.
From there, he was moved to the Housing Unit, another controversial task force that patrols Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority properties.
While Hy was on the Strike Force unit, he already had two use of force complaints on his disciplinary record, both deemed “not sustained” by Internal Affairs, which means there was not enough evidence to find Hy guilty of any wrongdoing.
He also had his first off-duty incident that year.
Tip leads to internal investigation
Hy’s first off-duty incident that resulted in an internal affairs investigation happened at about 4:40 a.m. Oct. 26, 2014, when Hy crashed his vehicle by D’Youville College.
An anonymous tip alleged that Hy was “intoxicated” while he was “involved in an off-duty accident and that officers failed to take proper action during the investigation of the incident.”
Hy was driving a silver Chevy Trailblazer and crashed between two concrete pillars in front of the College Center building, according to police records.
D’Youville campus security and Buffalo police found Hy “bleeding profusely” in his SUV, leaning across the passenger seat with his head resting on the passenger-side window. Within five minutes, seven Buffalo Police Department vehicles swarmed the scene. Dispatch records indicate that some first-responders knew it was Hy’s vehicle.
The police incident report states that Hy said he was driving west on Porter, approaching Fargo, when he was “forced off the road by an unknown vehicle, striking a pylon at 329 Porter.”
But what D’Youville College’s former director of security wrote in an Oct. 28, 2014, email paints somewhat of a different picture than Hy’s version of events.
“I have the footage of the accident burned,” the college security official wrote. “Including a good shot of the vehicle going through the intersection. Looks like he was driving in the wrong lane and swerved at high speed to avoid oncoming car, from what I can tell.”
There is no indication in the entire incident file that Hy was ever tested for alcohol or drugs.
But handwritten notes by a Buffalo police lieutenant state that Hy “spoke clearly” and that he did not detect any odor of alcohol.
Internal Affairs deemed the complaint “not sustained” and Hy had a conference with one of his superiors, which the police union said is not a form of punishment.
By 2015, Hy had four use of force complaints on his record. Internal Affairs deemed all of them as either “not sustained” or “unfounded.”
That same year, Internal Affairs investigated him for the first time for social media posts he made on Vine, a platform that no longer exists. One video included Hy in uniform on duty pretending to chase a man.
A second video had Hy and another Buffalo officer “engaged in a video game that portrays them shooting at a TV monitor, suggesting that it is ‘training day.’”
In all, Internal Affairs found 10 videos that were alleged to have broken departmental policies.
This was the first time Internal Affairs sustained a charge with a reprimand in March 2015, which is the lowest form of punishment.
But the social media activity didn’t stop, and neither did the internal affairs investigations.
More social media problems and the West Seneca incident
In 2016 and 2017, internal affairs investigated Hy at least three more times for social media posts, that resulted in either sustained charges with time served or settlement agreements through arbitration.
One of those posts was on Sept. 16, 2017, when Hy posted on his “Angry Cops” Facebook page a video of a woman in front of city court who Hy said was on heroin. He made comments about her personal life, the report states.
Hy states in a transcript included in his disciplinary record that he did not understand why he was being questioned about the video. Hy said he was going to court when he noticed the woman “nodding out” and a court worker asked if he would help her. Hy said he recorded his interaction with the woman “for my safety.”
He said he asked her if she needed an ambulance, to which she replied “no.”
“And then that’s where the video cuts off and then at the end, I state that she’s a heroin addict, that she said that she was abusing methadone, which is in the video, and that she said that she lost … custody of her children,” Hy said.
Hy said he thought the video showed “the dangers of heroin abuse” and that “I’ll do a PSA about not doing heroin.”
But Hy never asked for the woman’s permission to post the video on a public platform, where people identified her in the comments section, police documents state.
Internal affairs also reigned in Hy for violating departmental policy by giving interviews to some media outlets about his social media activity. Hy said in another transcript that the reason he started the “Angry Cops” social media websites was to humanize police officers. He said he never thought he could get in trouble for making the videos.
And then there is the West Seneca incident, where Hy’s off-duty violent conduct again resulted in another internal investigation that took almost two years to resolve.
His disciplinary records state that at 1:43 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2016, Hy and an off-duty West Seneca police officer stopped in a vehicle on Collins Avenue to watch kids making a rap video in the street. The incident turned violent, when Hy headbutted one of them in the face because he refused to tell him the passcode to his cell phone.
According to West Seneca police incident reports, officers responded to a call of a possible fight, and first identified Hy, who had taken a bag of cannabis from the victim.
“Hy showed me a small clear plastic bag that had a small amount of what appeared to be marijuana,” according to the West Seneca incident report. “As Hy spoke I noticed an odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, his speech was slurred and his eyes were red and glassy.”
A West Seneca Police intra-departmental report added that Hy “appeared to be intoxicated” and said that “the kids were in the street acting like n******.”
“Hy began berating the kids and telling them [they] were cops and didn’t want their Buffalo bulls*** in West Seneca,” the police report states.
The report states that Hy also chased the victim, and “put him in a head lock that was choking him.”
“Hy was threatening the subjects that he would get dudes to jump them and f*** them up. Also, that they would end up in jail and that the police wouldn’t do anything because they were cops,” the report stated.
The officer’s report also noted that “Richard Hy got back into his SUV and left the area despite being told to remain there until I had chance to talk with all parties.”
Hy was charged with criminal obstruction of breathing, third-degree assault, and second-degree harassment.
The case resolved with Hy pleading to a disorderly conduct charge and he served 50 hours of community service.
As for the Internal Affairs investigation, the West Seneca incident was combined with another complaint about his social media posts and was settled with him pleading guilty to violating departmental policies with time served.
Off-duty scuffle in 2020
On Sept. 3, 2020, Hy was off-duty in military garb when he got into a fight with a Black man on a skateboard. The incident was recorded by bystanders and posted to social media, but since removed.
The video shows a man with a skateboard approach Hy, who then punches him in the face and tackles him to the ground. Hy struggles with him on the ground before taking a seat on the man’s chest.
Hy told Internal Affairs investigators that he was driving west on West Utica at Elmwood Avenue when he saw a man in the street with a skateboard yelling at cars and preventing vehicles from passing through the intersection. Hy said the man cussed at him, and while he was inside a business, he noticed the man spit on his parked SUV. Hy said he ran outside and asked the man what he did to his truck.
Hy alleged the man swung his skateboard at him, so he defended himself.
Several witnesses said the man was heckling Hy or made derogatory statements toward him and that he appeared to be having mental health issues.
A year later, internal affairs exonerated Hy.
Reiter, the law enforcement consultant, said Hy’s West Seneca incident and this fight with the man on the skateboard “would indicate to me as a reasonable administrator someone who’s been doing work now in Internal Affairs for 60 years and been training departments for the last 40 years, there was some real employee concerns.”
“I’d have concerns about anger management,” Reiter said. “The precipitous actions of him getting involved in an altercation and also in both of those instances … he targeted the head; one was a headbutt and one with his fist to the face. I mean, that’s significant. We don’t train officers to target the head.”
Reiter also said there is no indication in Hy’s disciplinary file of whether he was offered any employee assistance programs or if he had any psychological fitness for duty evaluations, which he would have recommended. The Buffalo Police Department declined to discuss Hy’s record.
“I mean, I would suspect that, at least I would hope someone [in the BPD] would try to give him some degree of remediation but certainly with the currency with both of those cases, there’s no way I’d promote him to supervisor because he has to epitomize the kind of qualities we want in a police officer,” Reiter said.
Evans, the PBA president, disagreed.
And while Evans said he believes the police department might be passing over Hy for the promotion for a combination of reasons and not just his social media antics, “our position is that he should be promoted.”