A police captain today joined mayoral candidate William B. Hoyt in charging that the Griffin administration has politicized the Police Department.
Capt. William Misztal, commander of the Kensington Station at 2946 Bailey Ave., said politics are a factor in promotions, job assignments and even disciplinary actions, which he said are not meted out fairly.
Misztal is the first ranking police officer to speak out in the mayoral campaign about alleged politics in the Police Department. Other officers have complained privately but have refused to speak publicly because of the fear of reprisal from Mayor Griffin who Hoyt charged controls the Police Department through Deputy Commissioner Joseph Scinta.
"Commissioner Ralph Degenhart does not run the Police Department," asserted Hoyt, a state assemblyman and the endorsed candidate for mayor of the Democratic and Liberal parties.
Asked to repond, Degenhart said he runs the department. "I haven't seen his (Hoyt's) comments or even know he held a press conference," said Degenhart. "My only comment is that I totally disagree with him."
Hoyt, who held a news conference on the steps of the Kensington Station,, said some promotions in the department are based on friendships with Mayor Griffin and in some cases on political contributions to the mayor's campaign.
Misztal was first asked to comment on Hoyt's charge that the Kensington station, the busiest in the city, is grossly understaffed with the 65 officers assigned to the precincts.
"I have no problem with that statement," said Misztal who is treasurer of the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents police officers. Asked if he might be suspended or transferred for speaking out, Misztal answered. "Don't worry about it."
Misztal, commander of the Kensington Station for the last two months, complained that many police officers are working in assignments out of rank, with patrolmen working as acting lieutenants and lieutenants working as acting captains.
Morale in the department has suffered greatly because of the politics, stated Misztal.
For his part, Hoyt cited an increase in violent crimes in Buffalo and blasted the Griffin administration for failing to provide enough manpower for the Kensington police precinct, the busiest in the city.
"It takes more than tough talk to fight crime," Hoyt said.
Hoyt said Mayor Griffin has cut back on police manpower at at time when violent crime is on the rise in the city.
He recalled an August night in 1986 when "an innocent citizen died while overburdened Kensington Station police were forced to spend nearly an hour responding to other serious calls before investigating urgent reports of a Fillmore Avenue knife attack," Hoyt said.
He identified the victim as Collin Moistiller, 25, and said he "might still be alive if there had been enough police officers on duty."
Hoyt said the 65 police officers assigned to the Kensington Station in 1988 responded to almost as many calls as the 250 officers of the combined police forces of the towns of Cheektowaga and Tonawanda.
As mayor, Hoyt said he would take immediate steps to put more patrol officers on the street in the Kensington precinct and other areas of the city by filing "43 budgeted but vacant police jobs in the city budget."
Hoyt said that from 1987 to 1988 in Buffalo, there were 10 more murders, up 29 percent; 45 more rapes, up 17 percent; 137 more robberies, up 9 percent, and 652 more assaults, up 24 percent.
"Griffin's failure to fill budgeted positions in the Police Department is threatening the lives and property of the people of Buffalo," asserted Hoyt.
Griffin, who has been endorsed for re-election by the Conservative Party, was not available to comment.
Griffin also is expected to have the support of the Republican and Right to Life parties in his bid for a fourth four-year term.
News Staff Reporter Juan Forero contributed to this report.