When Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson and top police brass left their Franklin Street headquarters late Friday afternoon they weren't going home for the weekend.
Gipson was busy fastening a bulletproof vest over his starched white police uniform and heading out onto city streets for a regular 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift.
"We're not bound to the ivory tower," Gipson said. "We're not afraid to get out there and be on the street."
The commissioner, along with his two deputy commissioners, six chiefs and on-duty inspectors, hit the street Friday afternoon in the debut of Gipson's initiative designed to be more responsive to residents and rank-and-file police officers.
The commissioner and other top police administrators answered a couple of "hot calls" and made a few traffic stops. They also visited each of the city's five districts, talked with officers to get feedback about day-to-day issues and met with residents to answer questions and hear their concerns.
"This is to show the officers we're supportive of what they're doing. . . . We're still police officers and we're concerned about what goes on on the street," Gipson said.
"We're here to support the rank-and-file and let the citizens know we're concerned with the proper delivery of service to them."
The commissioner says the initiative is expected to be duplicated each month.
"I'm excited and I feel good about it," he said. "Most of the citizens we've talked to have been surprised [to see top officials out on the street]. They think it's a good idea."
Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives, said the administration wants to make sure police services and support given to rank-and-file officers meet expectations.
"It keeps us in touch not only with the community but with the first level of responders," Richards said.
The night tour was interrupted for Richards and South District Chief James P. Shea. The two were responding to a shooting call at Kensington and Bailey avenues when a pickup truck collided with their unmarked car at Bailey Avenue and William Street about 5:15 p.m. The car had its lights and sirens activated at the time of the crash, Gipson said.
No one was seriously injured. Richards and Shea were evaluated in Erie County Medical Center and returned to work just after 10 p.m.