Mayoral challenger and former federal law enforcement agent Bernard A. Tolbert on Saturday attacked the Brown administration, saying it has manipulated crime statistics to make Buffalo seem safer and mislead the public about Police Department staffing levels.
“We don’t manipulate stats,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said later Saturday afternoon.
Tolbert’s charges about the way Mayor Byron W. Brown has been running the city’s Police Department came during a morning news conference, when he faced sharp questioning and requests for evidence of his allegations.
Tolbert issued a statement and answered questions in about eight minutes before he and a campaign staffer said he had to go. Tolbert walked out of his Main Street headquarters toward his vehicle while a campaign representative was still answering questions from reporters.
Tolbert, who will compete against Brown in next month’s Democratic primary, accused the Brown administration of being less than honest about staffing levels at the Police Department.
According to Tolbert, the Buffalo Police Department has 44 fewer officers in its ranks than it did since Brown made his first hire in the department nearly six years ago.
During his news conference, the retired FBI special agent in charge in Buffalo said his figures came from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, the police union that has endorsed him.
Tolbert referenced an assertion made by the Brown administration about the staffing issue that followed last week’s mayoral debate.
“The information that was reported suggested that they only took into account resignations, whereas attrition takes into account all areas of officers who’ve left the force,” Tolbert said. “Again, that’s the skewed information of Byron Brown’s Buffalo.”
Attrition includes officers who resigned, were fired, retired, were disabled, were killed in the line of duty or otherwise died while on the force, Tolbert said.
Tolbert said the Brown administration hired its first new officer in November 2007. Since then, there have been 220 new hires, but 264 officers who have left the job.
Figures provided Saturday by a spokesman for the Brown administration indicate 230 new officers were hired since Jan. 1, 2006.
Citing other information he said was provided to him by the Police Benevolent Association, Tolbert also said City Hall directives to the Police Department have led to trumped up arrest numbers around Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority properties and artificially deflated statistics for serious crime.
Tolbert’s campaign released an audio recording purported to be of Buffalo police officers talking about the alleged manipulation of statistics and reports, including how reports are “changed with red markers.” Tolbert offered no physical examples of such reports.
Reporters were given a trasnscript of the recording at the news conference, but it was not played there.
A campaign news release included a link to the audio posted on YouTube.
When challenged about the responsibility of making such charges without offering evidence, Tolbert repeatedly referred inquiries to the PBA.
“I’m making the charge based on information provided to me by the PBA,” he said.
Tolbert suggested reporters reach out to police union representatives, who he said would vouch for the veracity of the tape and what was said in it. Union officials could not be reached to comment on Saturday.
Tolbert also said arrests are being inflated around Housing Authority properties through the use of traffic stops.
In those cases, individuals who are issued appearance tickets are being counted as “arrests,” thus inflating the crime statistics, according to Tolbert.
Referencing the audiotape, which features a voice altered so as to mask the identity of the speaker, Tolbert said, “The officers state shooting and other violent crimes against our residents are being reduced to lower-level crimes for the purpose of showing lower crime stats.”
Tolbert said he received the recording in the last week to 10 days. He said those recorded on the tape were officers, but a copy of the recording put on YouTube by his campaign refers to those speaking as “three high-ranking Buffalo Police officials.”
Tolbert and Brown will face off in the Democratic primary on Sept. 10. The winner will face Republican Sergio Rodriguez in November’s general election.