I was called to testify as a key witness in the manslaughter trial of officer Terrence Robinson.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Al Ranni attacked my credibility by using information that had been compiled in my personal disciplinary file. I was totally surprised and humiliated when I was depicted as an officer who has had several run-ins with women, superior officers and a West Side store owner.
I have never felt more helpless in my life. Although my testimony was accurate, it was impeached because of bogus allegations made against me that are still kept on record.
If I had been given an opportunity to review my own personal files, I would have known what was there and could have at least defended myself against the accusations.
I have never been formally charged or found guilty of any alleged misconduct pertaining to a woman. Nor have I been found guilty of having words with the West Side store owner. The fact that I was suspended for three days for leaving the desk to play basketball would be misleading to those who are not police officers. I was playing in the Blue Pride Buffalo Police Basketball League during my lunch break and stayed a little too long. I have known officers to take longer lunch breaks while working the desk.
I do not feel that any dishonor was brought upon myself and my testimony. The discredit should go to those who have obviously stockpiled my records with negative information and to the archaic system that allows them to do so without any type of scrutiny.
The process of allowing Internal Affairs to subjectively organize police officers' personal disciplinary files does not seem ethical. If this continues, it is opening up law enforcement to politics, discrimination, racism and indeed allowing those negatives to play a key role in criminal court cases.
It is my strong belief that all police officers and union representatives should be allowed to review their personal files on a regular basis. This will ensure that only accurate information is kept.
JONATHAN D. WALTON