BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following the death of George Floyd, police reform has been at the forefront and that includes here in Buffalo. The Common Council Committee on Police Oversight held a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“The guilty verdict on all three counts yesterday was a beginning,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “But still a lot more work to do.” That work coming in the form of communication between the Buffalo Police Advisory Board and the BPD’s Behavioral Health Team.

“We’ve all been shown yet again the need to adopt policy reforms that do as much as possible to involve smarter, more detailed, non-violent de-escalation techniques,” said BPAD President, Michael Powell. “And how tasers and “BolaWraps” are not substitutes for de-escalation techniques.”

The “BolaWrap” is a modern, non-lethal restraint device that’s been approved for a pilot program.
The BPD says, that device has only been issued to the behavioral health team and is only to be used if verbal de-escalation methods fail.

“It’s something to be said that our Behavioral Health Team has only had to use force just two times since the inception of our team,” said Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator, Captain Amber Beyer. “Our main goal to come in their and use our mental health professionals and use our de-escalation team.”

The Behavioral Health Team currently works Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. The hope is to grow that team to 24/7. BPD says additional funding would be needed and in the interim they are calling on crisis services.

A civilian review board was also proposed.

Mayor Brown says he will continue to speak and work with the community, but that it goes beyond police reform. “The policing issues that we’re seeing are just a symptom of larger systemic racism that we’re seeing in every sector of society,” said Brown.

A follow-up meeting between the advisory committee, BPD and the common council is expected June 21.

Gabrielle Mediak is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.