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3 officers suspended in May bar fight ; Fourth officer still under investigation

Three Buffalo police officers have been suspended without pay for a month for their roles in an off-duty fight in a Lancaster bar after a police awards dinner in early May.

A fourth officer, Lt. Gregory Kwiatkowski, remains under investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Division to determine if he failed to take necessary supervisory steps to quell the fight, authorities said.

Officers Joseph Wendel and Joseph Paskiewicz were suspended on a charge of consuming alcohol in uniform.

Officer Christopher Pliszka was suspended on a charge of throwing a punch at an off-duty Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officer.

The transit officer had reportedly complained that other patrons were taking cell phone photographs of the Buffalo officers rowdily consuming alcohol in uniform and that it did not speak well of them.

Buffalo officers who receive awards for meritorious police work are traditionally permitted to wear their uniforms to the annual Buffalo Police Benevolent Association dinner in Salvatore's Italian Gardens because it is a private gathering away from the public.

After the May 7 dinner, the officers headed from the Transit Road restaurant to Page's Grill and Bar, also on Transit. The dispute started at about 2:45 a.m. May 8 on the tavern's patio.

When Lancaster police responded to the call, all of the participants had cleared out, and witnesses did not provide substantive information, according to town police.

A PBA official said Pliszka punched the transit officer in self-defense, when the transit officer broke loose of other individuals who had tried to keep him from fighting. The union official added that the transit cop was intoxicated and now no longer wants to pursue action against the city officers.

City police officials are not taking the incident lightly.

They say the officers have embarrassed the department and deserve to be punished. An informal hearing with the suspended officers is set for later today to determine if they will fight the suspensions.

If they do, the matter will move to a formal disciplinary hearing. The officers in question are all members of the Fifth Platoon, which works the 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. shift in the Northeast District.

Kwiatkowski's attorney, Andrew P. Fleming, said the lieutenant believes he will be exonerated.

"We believe the facts will exonerate Lt. Kwiatkowski," Fleming said. "He was not involved in any altercation or misconduct."

Interim Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda declined to comment.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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