State Police officials Monday denied that their investigation of the Niagara Falls Police Department has gone beyond their original mandate from Niagara County District Attorney Peter Broderick.
Broderick, too, denied that the investigation has gone beyond his original request last May for state police manpower to interview witnesses about alleged pressure put on officers to buy tickets to political fund-raisers.
However, a police officer who was interviewed by state troopers said their questions were "open-ended" and covered many issues.
Responding to a story in Monday's Buffalo News that disclosed the investigation, Capt. Bruce Roloff of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation denied that troopers are looking into "several complaints" against the department.
Roloff said state police are not investigating the department's hiring practices, union disputes, internal affairs policies, or department transfers, firings or disciplinary affairs. He also ruled out any "Civil Service bypass attempted by the department -- if they are attempting it."
Roloff suggested that News sources who had been interviewed by state troopers may have taken into consideration both what "they were asked questions" about and what things "they were telling" voluntarily to the troopers.
One source said that officials close to the case may have given "just their overview" of the case and not the official policy of their
superiors. However, an officer who was recently interviewed by state troopers insisted that their questions were "open ended."
He said he was even asked, "Was I ever ordered not to arrest or not to investigate anything?"
"They were looking for just about anything that I knew about the Police Department," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Broderick, whose call for an investigation followed a series of articles in The News, said he could not give details about where the inquiry is going.
"It's perfectly obvious that the one thing is the tickets," he confirmed. "But the rest of it I just don't care to talk about it."
Broderick also made a distinction between the department's controversial administrative affairs and allegations of criminal conduct.
"There were a couple of issues raised in your series that I want the answers to," he said. "But of course, administrative and personnel questions are not criminal. They may be the subject of criticism sometime down the road, but they aren't part of the investigation now, even though they may be asking questions about them."
As for the disclosure Monday that troopers asked about the department hiring the son of a police inspector after he failed a psychological test, Broderick said: "Whether or not they circumvent civil service rules is not criminal."
Federal officials said The News incorrectly identified the FBI as the source of the disclosure in October that Niagara Falls Mayor Michael C. O'Laughlin had been shown tapes of himself accepting a payment from an undercover FBI agent. The information came from other sources, and the FBI has never confirmed it.