Buffalo News: Another Voice - "Buffalo needs fast, far-reaching police reforms"

Date: June 23, 2020

By Sam Magavern | June 23, 2020

In 2016, Partnership for the Public Good and Open Buffalo published a comprehensive report on policing, titled “Collaboration, Communication, and Community-Building.” The report included detailed information about the city’s policies and practices. It featured data from a survey of more than 2,000 residents, as well as case studies of reforms from other cities, culminating in 33 recommendations for change.

Since 2016, the city has implemented some of those recommendations, such as buying body cameras and getting the police department accredited. But Buffalo has not made fundamental reforms. In some cases, it actually moved backward.
Despite the glaring lesson of Ferguson, Mo., the city stepped up traffic enforcement in a blatant attempt to increase revenue. For example, the police wrote 34,068 tickets for tinted windows between 2014 and 2017 (Rochester issued 2,952 in that period). Many tickets were issued at unconstitutional traffic checkpoints in black neighborhoods, leading to a civil rights lawsuit.
Within one year, the city’s revenue from noncriminal traffic violations soared from $500,000 to $2.8 million. In 2018, the city added 13 new traffic fees, totaling $890. Buffalo’s onerous traffic practices cause thousands of license suspensions each year, leading to lost mobility, lost jobs and criminal charges for driving without a license. License suspensions rose from 3,501 in 2016 to 13,524 in 2017.
When first approached, some city leaders downplayed our concerns, telling us that Buffalo was not like Ferguson, not like Baltimore. Since then, several men of color have died in police custody. Racial disparities in policing have persisted. And now Buffalo is infamous as a place where an entire 57-member Emergency Response Team somehow has been trained and acculturated to believe it defensible to knock down a peaceful 75-year-old demonstrator and fracture his skull.
Now it is time for action. The mayor’s recent commitments are a welcome first step. Some of the measures he outlined, such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and police-stop receipts, represent real change. But the mayor’s statement left many issues unaddressed.
Today, city leaders can commit to independent civilian review of police misconduct. They can repeal the 13 new traffic fees. They can stop fining drivers for tinted windows. They can pass “Cariol’s Law,” creating a duty for police officers to intervene to stop brutality and protecting those officers, like Cariol Horne, who do so. They can amend the budget to shift funds from policing to job creation through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program. Along with these and other reforms, they can immediately begin to measure and report on their progress.

Sam Magavern is senior policy fellow at the Partnership for the Public Good.
Read the full article on the Buffalo News website here