In a shake-up in Buffalo Police Headquarters, Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina is replacing a top aide in charge of investigating police misconduct complaints.
But Inspector Michael F. Gaspar feels he is being treated unfairly and is considering filing a grievance to block the transfer. Police sources said Gaspar claims no procedure has been established for reassigning the inspector in charge of the department's Professional Standards Division, formerly known as Internal Affairs.
The position is considered one of the most controversial and difficult jobs in the 950-member department because it puts the commander in the unpopular position of investigating fellow police officers.
Diina declined to discuss why he is reassigning Gaspar.
"It is departmental policy that we do not discuss internal personnel assignments," he said.
The commissioner has assigned Inspector Patrick G. Stafford of the department's South District, a lawyer and highly regarded police administrator, to take over Professional Standards.
Under the contract with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Diina has the authority to appoint any inspector to head Professional Standards. The assignment is one of the few positions on the force that the commissioner has the authority to fill without considering seniority.
A high-ranking police source explained that Diina and Gaspar "had a philosophical difference" and that Diina wanted to "put someone in the position who was rowing in the same direction as him."
Gaspar today agreed with that assessment.
"There were philosophical differences. The commissioner was going in a different direction, but he is the boss, and I respect that," Gaspar said. But he said he would not rule out a grievance over the transfer.
Gaspar is scheduled to begin his new assignment as commander of the South District Monday.
Since Diina was appointed commissioner about two years ago by Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, he has formed his own police management team. Gaspar was one of the few holdover appointments made by Diina's predecessor, R. Gil Kerlikowske, who had been appointed in 1994 and now is police chief of Seattle.
Reports that Gaspar's transfer was prompted by the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into allegations that city police abused the use of pepper spray were denied.
"That is not the case at all," said Lt. Larry J. Baehre, department spokesman. "This Department of Justice investigation has been going on for more three years, and it's unfortunate that there is speculation by some that this transfer is because of the investigation."
Gaspar, a hard-nosed street cop who rose through the Civil Service ranks, has served the department for 32 years in various assignments.
As commander of Professional Standards, he has overseen numerous internal investigations, including the highly publicized deaths of Mark Virginia and Jermaine Vayton in police custody.
Stafford, a 29-year department veteran, is a former deputy police commissioner who returned to his Civil Service rank of inspector to attend law school. He recently passed the bar exam.
"He is a very intelligent, fair-minded and well-respected police professional," Baehre said. "He'll do an outstanding job."