Buffalo and Cheektowaga police have not had their confidence in the Buffalo Peacemakers shaken by last week’s arrest of an official in the organization who was carrying a loaded handgun inside a Buffalo school.
Several members of the Peacemakers, authorities say, have New York State handgun permits, but do not carry their weapons when they are volunteering as Peacemakers, whose goal is to try to defuse violence in neighborhoods and at public events.
Dwayne Ferguson was charged with two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon in violation of the NY SAFE Act after police responded to a report of a man with a gun at Harvey Austin Elementary School on Sycamore Street.
Ferguson, 52, was working as a mentor at an after-school program and not in his capacity with the Peacemakers or with Mad Dads, another group with which he works, police said.
According to the Peacemakers’ rules, the volunteer members are required to adhere to a code of conduct and protocol that prohibits them from possessing guns while serving as Peacemakers.
“Our confidence is certainly still there. Those folks are good, and they certainly do a lot for the community,” said Cheektowaga Assistant Chief James J. Speyer. “They have the community at heart, and when they do their work, they are in it for the right reasons.”
Peacemakers assist Cheektowaga officers at the Walden Galleria and at Fourth of July celebrations.
Buffalo police say they also continue to maintain a high level of confidence in the Peacemakers and their mission.
A Buffalo police officer who works with the Peacemakers said that there has never been an incident in which a Peacemaker has violated the protocol that bans them from carrying a gun.
“When they are working in their capacity as Peacemakers, they do adhere to that protocol,” the officer said. “Most of them have the same agenda as we do, the good of the community.”
The officer said he and other officers believe Ferguson simply made a mistake in carrying his gun on school grounds.