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Once again, NFTA police cross the line

The purpose of police is to protect and serve. From what I saw with a couple of NFTA officers, it was more like agitate and abuse.

If this is the way NFTA cops routinely act, all I can say is cover your head and get out the safety glasses. The next pepper-spray victim could be you.

Transit cops were called April 8 to move anti-war protesters off M&T Bank property on Main Street downtown. The way I see it, the cops' actions -- instead of defusing the situation -- sparked an unnecessary confrontation. It ended with three demonstrators arrested and one, 25-year-old Nate Buckley, pepper-sprayed by NFTA Officer Adam Brodsky when the man wasn't resisting.

Any cop can tell you that pepper spray is used to subdue or control a subject -- not as a punishment. NFTA officials might want to mention that to Brodsky. Especially since this is the second time in the last year that Brodsky has been accused of using excessive force. Maybe this guy should wear a cowbell, so we at least can hear him coming.

Charges of police abuse usually end up as he said/she said stalemates, with cops getting the benefit of the doubt. The difference this time is that the incident was digitally recorded (http://www.you

tube.com/watch?v=P1AST5YSxPc).

Brodsky is the same NFTA officer who last year, according to a witness, unnecessarily roughed up a 65-year-old man who wanted to use the restroom at the NFTA's downtown bus station. The charges of loitering and resisting arrest against Edsil Cook were tossed out by City Judge James McLeod, who -- in an obvious slap-down of Brodsky's credibility -- said a conviction would be "a miscarriage of justice."

This time, Brodsky pepper-sprays Buckley from behind as the demonstrator stands with one hand behind him, ready to be handcuffed, and the other hand passively raised palm-up. The pepper-spraying looks to me not like a controlling move, but like payback to the protester who gave him a hard time.

"You can see I'm just standing there," Buckley told me. "I'm not resisting."

Cops have a tough job, and I think most of them do it well. Although philosophically nonviolent, about two dozen protesters -- as seen on the recording -- got agitated, and a few hurled f-bombs as Officer Richard Russo confronts Buckley on the sidewalk prior to his arrest in the incident. Even so, Buckley is walking away when Russo and Brodsky grab and drag him onto the plaza, moments before Brodsky pepper-sprays him. "The protest was done," said Buckley, who may sue the transit agency. "I just wanted to leave."

Attorney Paul Cambria, an expert in First Amendment cases, said after viewing the video: "[Buckley] appeared to be subdued at that point, and there did not appear to be a reason to spray him. I think that act at that time only had the potential of making the situation worse. It did not seem justified and showed bad judgment at the very least."

Unfortunately, Cambria is not an NFTA official. NFTA spokesman Doug Hartmayer said that neither Brodsky nor Russo would be disciplined. NFTA Director Kimberley Minkel defended Brodsky's spraying of Buckley as "a use [of force] within our guidelines." She called Brodsky's actions in the bus terminal episode "a closed case. We look at each event independently."

NFTA officials may look at events that way, but plenty of other folks see a pattern. This is just the latest black eye for the 86-member force, many of whom aspire to be Buffalo cops. Last year, the state comptroller charged 11 officers with working part-time jobs while on NFTA duty.

At least in that case, four of the cops were suspended. It looks as if Brodsky is getting three strikes before he's out.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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