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Officer suspended for seized items

A Transit Police Department officer was suspended Thursday for 10 days without pay after he admitted keeping more than 1,000 items that security personnel confiscated at Buffalo Niagara International Airport over several years.

A tip from a member of the police officer's family alerted Transit Police Chief George W. Gast to the situation six days ago, according to C. Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

After an internal investigation, Hartmayer said, the officer -- whom he would not name -- agreed to the suspension in consultation with Gast, NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel and the Police Benevolent Association.

The suspension began immediately.

Hartmayer said Transit Police officers went to their colleague's home several days ago and discovered the items previously confiscated by Transportation Security Administration personnel at the airport and improperly kept by the officer.

"They were all the kind of things that normally don't get though a checkpoint," he said, "like nail clippers, corkscrews and long pen knives."

No perishable items were found in the officer's home, Hartmayer said.

He added that the officer was not authorized to keep the items and should have submitted them to an inventory to be eventually shipped out for recycling.

Transit police routinely accept items confiscated by the TSA at the airport, but new inventory procedures adopted about three years ago prevented the officer from taking more, Hartmayer said. The NFTA has never received money for the items it collects and sends to a firm for recycling, he added.

The Transit Police Department is negotiating with the TSA to allow it to conduct the recycling itself, he said.