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Derenda defends decision to move some night-shift detectives to days

Buffalo's police commissioner is defending his decision to place some detectives who had previously worked night shifts on to day shifts, covering peak crime hours.

Responding to concerns raised by the Common Council, Commissioner Daniel Derenda said the recent manpower change is part of a long-term plan to implement new procedures for managing crime cases.

"We're looking to put in a system that's more efficient with better supervision," Derenda told eight of nine Council members who attended a City Hall meeting Thursday.

Derenda said about one-third of the detectives assigned to nights would remain on evening shifts. While he refused to divulge manpower levels, he said the changes affect only about a half-dozen positions.

Detectives investigate cases and follow up on reports filed by patrol officers. The commissioner stressed that when certain crimes require a detective's immediate presence, one will be deployed -- even if it means calling in someone on overtime. But Derenda said he does not expect the new system to significantly increase costs.

"This was sort of done quietly," South Council Member Michael P. Kearns complained during the Council's Police Oversight Committee meeting.

Derenda said his original plan called for all night detectives to be shifted to days. But a decision was made to allow district chiefs to decide whether they wanted to retain some night detectives. Four out of five districts no longer have detectives scheduled in the evenings.

"I believe right now they should all be on days," Derenda said, adding that the issue will be reviewed in a year.

The Police Department has been looking at "best practices" in other cities, including Tampa, Fla., and Chicago, Derenda disclosed.

The police union's newsletter published a front page article in this month's issue that questioned the wisdom of changing the detectives' schedules. The article said, "Few experienced officers actually expect these changes to be good for the organization."

Derenda said he had worked as a detective both days and nights, and he is convinced investigators can get more accomplished during day shifts. But Kearns said he believes it makes sense to have detectives "right on the spot" shortly after crimes occur.

"You don't want evidence to be missed or lost," Kearns said.

Following the meeting, Kearns said Derenda's comments did not address all his concerns.

"I'm still wondering if this will leave us with adequate police service," he said. "I guess we'll have to wait and see how this plays out."

Also during the session with lawmakers, Derenda confirmed that steps are continuing in all districts to enhance officers' visibility through the use of community policing.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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