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A police union leader of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority warned Saturday that Housing Authority plans to merge its police and management departments on Dec. 1 will effectively put an end to the department on June 30, when the current contract expires.

Craig Leone, a sergeant with the authority police force and president of its union, CSEA Local 815, said he was told last week by the Housing Authority that its 33 police officers will stop answering 911 calls as of Dec. 1. He also said only 10 officers would be retained next year.

"They're claiming they don't have any money for the department," Leone said Saturday.

Sharon M. West, executive director of the Housing Authority, said it has to absorb substantial cuts in funding from the federal government but denied the police department was being dismantled.

She said that as of Dec. 1, Housing Authority officers will be assigned to specific housing developments, and roving car patrols will end. The Buffalo Police Department already responds to the most pressing 911 calls at Housing Authority locations, she said.

"We lost $1 million in funding last year and another $1.2 million this year," West said.

She said it is too early to predict how many police officers will remain next year. But she said a recent study showed that of the 3,000 housing authorities in the country, only Buffalo and three other cities have separate housing police departments.

Leone said the authority's public safety department, which was formed in 1974, answers 8,000 to 10,000 911 calls a year. He said officers have made about 250 felony arrests and seized 30 illegal guns since Jan. 1.

Because of its federal funding, Leone said, "The Buffalo housing police represent free policing for the City of Buffalo and the city taxpayers."


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