Buffalo Police Officer Cariol J. Horne exhibited an "extreme lack of professionalism," and her use of physical force against another officer could have had "fatal consequences," a hearing officer said in his 45-page report to the Buffalo Police Department.
Horne's firing Thursday was based on recommendations from hearing officer Thomas A. Rinaldo, after she was found guilty on 11 of 13 internal charges for violating departmental rules.
She was accused of fighting with other uniformed officers she says were beating David N. Mack during a domestic incident in November 2006 on Walden Avenue. Horne has long contended that she acted only to "save the life" of Mack, who was being held in a choke hold by Officer Gregory Kwiatkowski.
The firing of the veteran African-American police officer has led some black leaders to plan a possible "civil disobedience campaign," as the community continues to debate the issue.
Top department officials Friday refused to release the 45-page report, because it's part of the department's Professional Standards Division files.
But sources familiar with the report provided The Buffalo News with a few quotes from the document:
*"[Horne's] actions created a substantial danger to the lives of all individuals in the incident, including Mr. Mack."
*"Her unwarranted use of physical force to intervene against Officer Kwiatkowski as he struggled against Mr. Mack could have had fatal consequences."
*"Her wrongful conduct toward fellow officers . . . displays more than an error in judgment, but the temperament of an individual entirely unsuitable to address the substantial responsibilities of police work."
*"Her guilt [under the first six charges] displays a professional lack of regard of her obligations as an officer on the Buffalo Police Department."
*Rinaldo cited Horne's "extreme lack of professionalism," such that "it would be almost impossible for officers to have any confidence in her."
*He stated Horne put "lives in danger, including Mr. Mack."
Horne's supporters vehemently dispute Rinaldo's findings and regard Horne as "a hero" for not only saving Mack's life but also being a "model police officer" for the city. They say she's been unfairly maligned by police brass and fellow officers.
A group of about 30 people met Thursday evening along with Horne and her attorney, Anthony Pendergrass, to organize the "civil disobedience campaign" to appeal for a reconsideration of her firing.
"She just said 'stop' [to Kwiatkowski]," said Samuel Radford III, co-chairman of the Buffalo affiliate of the Millions More Movement. "When he didn't stop, she did what we want the model officer in this community to do.
"She's trying to help you," Radford went on to explain. "[Police brass] are going to punish you to have the audacity to do the right thing."
On the other hand, several of the other officers on that Walden Avenue call, Radford contends, are "threats and enemies of the community."
Officer Justine Harris, president of the Afro-American Police Association of Buffalo, said publicly Thursday she was "very proud of Cariole Horne."
Harris called Horne's firing "a sad day in Buffalo" because she says it "has polarized blacks and blacks, and blacks and whites." Harris thinks Horne would have received more support from fellow officers but for their fear of speaking out.
"Officers are afraid to break the code of silence," she explained. "They may see the truth, but they're not going to say anything because they know the potential for retaliation and isolation."
Meanwhile, Buffalo Police Department attorney Diane T. O'Gorman on Friday disputed previous reports that Horne could have retired in two months with full benefits.
Although city computer records show that Horne, 40, was hired on March 1, 1988, city officials say she still was short of the 20 years needed to retire with full benefits.
"Conservatively, Cariol Horne has more than one year of uncredited time, so she is approximately 12 months short," O'Gorman said.
O'Gorman wouldn't explain why Horne has that amount of "uncredited time."
She did cite, though, the three common reasons for officers having "uncredited time": an unpaid leave of absence, an officer going AWOL or a suspension without pay based on disciplinary charges that are upheld.
Buffalo police officers may retire with full benefits after 20 years' service, and they are entitled to partial benefits if they retire before the 20-year mark.
"If she had chosen to resign before she was terminated, she would have been entitled to a partial pension at age 55," one law-enforcement official said.
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