A judge today said he may order a court hearing Thursday on the Buffalo Police Department's policy on assignment transfers.
The hearing will only be held, however, if the judge rejects a bid by the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association to reverse the transfers of 46 officers Monday.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma reserved decision following a noontime hearing on the police union's complaint that the transfers violate the police officers' contract, state grievance procedures and state human rights provisions affecting officers.
If he agrees to issue a temporary restraining order and forces the immediate return of the officers to their previous assignments, Forma said, he will hold a hearing Oct. 14.
PBA attorney James W. Schwan told the judge the transfers ordered Friday by Police Commissioner Degenhart are a "wholesale repudiation" of contract mandates and state law.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Stanley J. Sliwa told the judge he cannot issue a restraining order because such contract disputes must be reviewed by the state Public Employment Relations Board before the courts can intervene.
Sliwa also told the judge there is "no restriction" on the police commissioner's power to shift forces within the department for public safety.
Schwan told the judge the transfers unfairly affect minority members of the department. Of the 17 rookie police officers transferred, effective Monday, 11 are black and two are Hispanic, Schwan said.
Of 25 veteran police officers transferred, 13 are black and five of the six female officers transferred are black, the union attorney said.
Sliwa told the judge the transfers permit rookie police officers to work with veteran officers and gain experience they cannot be taught in the police academy. The transfers also correct imbalances between veteran and rookie officers in some precincts, Sliwa said.
The police union began court action on the transfers Monday afternoon and filed a complaint with PERB.
Attorneys for the union attempted to get the case argued late Monday afternoon, but were ordered by court officials to submit the case to Forma today.
Lt. Robert Meegan, president of the police union, said the commissioner's action sought to correct previous "errors" in assignments and show the city administration's "complete and total disregard" for contract mandates.