James Hamilton’s Facebook photo shows him posed behind his Porsche Cayenne wearing sunglasses and a “Party All Day” T-shirt.
But the Buffalo police officer wasn’t celebrating Thursday after his arraignment on charges of operating a marijuana-growing operation in the basement of his Floss Avenue home on the East Side.
A six-month investigation led by the Police Department also resulted in Hamilton’s immediate dismissal from the force on which he served for less than a year.
“Like any organization, you have bad apples,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said Thursday.
A rookie cop who was recently named Officer of the Month by his union, Hamilton faces multiple drug and weapons charges in connection with the marijuana-growing operation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch said 82 marijuana plants and 4 pounds of loose marijuana were found in the basement of the home. Police also recovered a 12-gauge shotgun.
Hamilton, 29, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, who entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
“My client is innocent,” defense lawyer Matthew Borowski said. “And he intends to fight these charges.”
Prosecutors said Hamilton’s arrest came on the heels of his sale Wednesday afternoon of two quarter-pound quantities of marijuana for $1,100 to a confidential source in the city’s Broadway-Bailey section.
Hamilton, who was under surveillance, was then called to Police Headquarters, where he was arrested. Later in the evening, police with a search warrant went to the home and found the pot-growing operation.
“Whether experienced or new to their position, this office will not hesitate to act when it receives evidence of criminal wrongdoing involving an officer,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said in a statement.
Derenda said the investigation started in May and was led by his Internal Affairs and Narcotics bureaus. He said the investigation, which included the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, was welcomed by rank-and-file officers in his department.
“Most of our officers – 99 percent of them – do a great job and put their life on the line every day,” Derenda said.
The police commissioner added that Hamilton’s arrest is part of a crackdown that Mayor Byron W. Brown ordered and is aimed at officers involved in criminal activity.
The charges against Hamilton include possession with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Conviction on the charges carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of life.
“When dirty cops tarnish the badge,” said Brian R. Crowell, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Buffalo office, “their selfish acts disregard their pledge to protect the citizens of Buffalo.”
Hamilton remained in custody late Thursday but was awaiting release pending his posting of a $50,000 bond.