Buffalo Commons


View .PDF

The City of Buffalo’s Untapped Power to Discipline Police Officers

Date: Oct 29, 2021
Author(s): Miles Gresham
Topic(s): Criminal Justice: General, Criminal Justice: Policing
Type: Report

Drawing on decisions from the New York State Court of Appeals, this brief argues that the City of Buffalo has an untapped power to discipline police officers, outside of the provisions in its contract with the police union. Both court decisions and Buffalo’s legislative history grant it this authority. 

However, elected officials have not pursued reforms through collective bargaining agreements, or created new disciplinary systems outside of the police contract—such as civilian oversight with disciplinary power.

The brief looks at collective bargaining rights for public employees and explores why police unions—and the work of policing—is different from other organized labor. It concludes that these NYS Court of Appeals decisions offer many local governments a way to break the cycle of police misconduct by firing problematic officers and defending those firings in court.

It examines the outsized power police unions have had in Buffalo and throughout the country, how they use that power to shield problematic officers from discipline, and what cities like Buffalo can do about it.