A recent News editorial accused two Buffalo police officers of acting as the moral majority and trampling the First Amendment rights of the Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center. This allegedly was done by pulling the plug on two video displays they deemed to be pornographic. The problem is the facts do not support this conclusion.
On June 1, Buffalo police responded to a call involving minors at the Buffalo Convention Center, where the Artists and Models Ball was taking place. A complainant met them at the door and directed the officers to a huge video screen that was being viewed by several minors. As the officers stood there watching the videos, they abruptly turned off.
They were greeted by a woman who appeared to be one of the event sponsors. The officers informed her that they were responding to a complainant who was concerned that minors were watching inappropriate videos.
The woman told the officers that she understood, and said the videos would not be played any more that evening. At no time did these officers barge in and order anyone to shut down the videos. In fact, they were professional, courteous and very discreet.
It is unfortunate that some feathers were ruffled because the police showed up. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to investigate complaints and determine whether they are founded.
The Police Department has not in the past, nor will it in the future, be the judge of what is or isn't pornographic in nature. If Hallwalls deems this to be art, far be it from us to determine otherwise. We will leave these abstract decisions to the judicial system. However, it is certainly our concern if the rights and welfare of minor children are being violated.
As a parent, I would not want my son or daughter viewing this type of material under the guise of a "cutting edge art." The fact that minors were allowed in to view this type of exhibition was the concern of the complainant, and not a red herring as implied. The police had a responsibility to investigate the complaint.
In the future, perhaps the Artists and Model Ball could implement a rating system and age restriction, similar to that employed by the motion picture industry.
Chief of Patrol
Buffalo Police Department