Former Buffalo Police officer Cariol Horne, fired in 2008, came to the Common Council on Tuesday hoping to convince lawmakers that she should have pension benefits.
Council members met privately with city lawyers for an hour behind closed doors. Horne didn’t get what she was looking for, but she didn’t have the door slammed in her face, either.
The Council will hold another special session about her case.
Council President Darius G. Pridgen told Horne the Council would examine her personnel file and determine if her pension credits were applied properly, as long as she signed a release. She indicated she would do so.
Horne, an African-American, was involved in an on-duty confrontation with a white police officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, whom she claimed was choking a suspect during an arrest on Nov. 1, 2006. She was fired from her job for interfering with Kwiatkowski, sparking outrage from her supporters and highlighting racial divisions on the Buffalo police force and in the community.
She said she was trying to prevent Kwiatkowski from hurting a man he was placing under arrest.
Horne maintains her innocence, while Kwiatkowski won a defamation suit against Horne. Kwiatkowski was also found not to be at fault in a separate jury trial in which the man who was arrested Nov. 1, 2006, sued Kwiatkowski and other officers.
A recent indictment of Kwiatkowski, now retired, which charges that he used excessive and unnecessary force in connection with a separate 2009 incident, has prompted the Council to look at Horne’s case, now almost 8 years old.
Horne commented on recent reports of police brutality in Buffalo.
“If the message they want to give is that an officer is going to be fired if they stop it, then that’s the wrong message,” Horne said.
Horne had 19 years of service, one less than the state requires to obtain pension benefits, which she said would help her feed her family.
“It’s been really tough, financially, emotionally, physically,” she said.
Tuesday’s special Council session ran late, preventing any speakers, including Horne or the more than 30 supporters who accompanied her, to speak on her behalf.
“I don’t know what just happened here but we had a whole entire group of people who came and took off work,” said supporter Nate Buckley. “They should have the community’s voice out there.”
A protest chant calling for justice for Horne broke out briefly in Council chambers after supporters were told they would not be able to speak in open session.
Pridgen decided to open up the case because of concerns from the community, he said.
South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon voted against scheduling Tuesday’s special session.
“I just think it’s a bad trend to be setting, looking into these past incidents within the Police Department,” Scanlon said. “It’s a real can of worms we’re opening up here.”