Buffalo leaders speak on police reform and the rise in crime

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– Violent crime spiraled upward in most major cities across the country, last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic and figures show the trend is continuing so far in 2021.

The president of Buffalo’s police union says it is no coincidence it is happening at the same time as so-called police reform.

Demands for racial justice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of police sparked protests across the country.

Buffalo also made the international stage, when 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino was shoved to the ground on camera leading to the arrest and suspension of two police officers.

“Our relationship is pretty toxic with the mayor’s department, right now, the administration.”

John Evans, Buffalo Police Union President

Those comments from John Evans, president of the Buffalo PBA, the union representing Buffalo police.

That follows a decision by police command to put officers’ name tags back on their uniforms.

Threats and intimidation stemming from last summer’s protests led to officers removing their name tags for their own safety.

“We have seen even more blatant misuse of their power, as a result, with no way for residents to file formal complaints because we have seen that these cops refuse to show their names when asked for them.”

Jaz Frazier, Black Love Resists in the Rust

Buffalo Police administration announced the name tag decision at a meeting of city lawmakers, it is one of many issues the Council’s Police Oversight Committee has taken up or passed.

Evans believes the heightened scrutiny of police is at least partly responsible for falling respect for law and order, from those with grievances against police abuse and even those who claim to support law enforcement as demonstrated in the assault on the U.S. Capitol rioters bearing “Blue Lives Matter” attacked Capitol police, killing one and injuring dozens.

John Evans, President of the Buffalo Police Union said, “The high level of scrutiny that is being put on police officers and making the job of a police officer that much more difficult to just carry out and do.”

Darius Pridgen, Common Council President said, “I am not going to pretend that in 9 months we are going to be able to undo 100 years of how policing has been done not only in Buffalo, but across this country.”

Another of the issues being taken up by city lawmakers is routing mental distress calls to mental health professionals, rather than police, to try to de-escalate the dissension.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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