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Transit cop who used spray had July dispute over force

The transit police officer who pepper-sprayed an anti-war protester April 8 is the same one who roughed up and arrested a bicyclist last July after the man used a bus station bathroom.

Transit Officer Adam M. Brodsky sprayed Nate Buckley during a charged moment at an anti-war rally, which culminated outside M&T Bank headquarters on M&T Plaza and has since been widely viewed on YouTube.

In the video, Buckley, 25, appears to be cooperating with NFTA officers when Brodsky reaches for the pepper spray from his belt and sprays him in the face, further inciting the crowd.

Last summer, Brodsky arrested Enoch "Edsil" Cook, 64, on charges of disorderly conduct, loitering and resisting arrest. But Cook and an independent witness refuted Brodsky's significantly different interpretation of events as outlined in his police report, including the need for physical force.

City Judge James A.W. McLeod concluded that convicting Cook would have been a "miscarriage of justice."

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said that automatic, confidential reviews were done concerning Brodsky's use of force in both circumstances and that he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to officers dealing inappropriately with the public. We have disciplined officers in the past, and will continue to do so going forward if and when warranted," Hartmayer said.

Brodsky was the only one of the three NFTA officers on the scene who witnesses said was not wearing a name tag.

Earlier, before Buckley was pepper-sprayed, he can be seen on the video trying to get away from officers after he is dragged up some stairs onto M&T property. That occurred moments after, according to the police report, Brodsky hit him with a baton.

But Buckley insists that he was nonviolent and that he didn't resist directives from Brodsky before being sprayed.

The police report filed by Transit Officer Richard J. Russo condenses time and is different from what the video reveals.

In the report, Russo says pepper spray was administered to Buckley right after the officers failed to subdue him. In the video, Buckley appeared to not be resisting, having an arm behind his back, at the time he was sprayed.

"During the altercation the defendant did grab [Russo's] arm with his left hand. In order to break the defendant's grasp, Officer Brodsky did strike the defendant once in his left forearm with his [baton]. This proved ineffective, at which time officer Brodsky did deploy his [pepper] spray.

"The spray hit the defendant in his face, which proved to be effective. The defendant released his grasp on [Russo], and was then forcibly handcuffed."

After his arrest, Buckley contended, Brodsky and Russo taunted him.

"When we got in the police car after I was arrested, the officer who pepper-sprayed me said he wished things had gotten out of hand so he could have shot me in the head. He said that in front of Officer Russo," Buckley said.

"Then Russo turned around and was agreeing him the whole time. He added, 'and I would have slept like a baby.' "

Buckley, 25; Jason A. Wilson, 24; and Elliot A. Zyglis, 27, were charged with misdemeanor rioting, trespass and disorderly conduct. Further proceedings have been scheduled by City Judge Joseph A. Fiorella for May 5.

Kimberley A. Minkel, the NFTA's executive director, said the videos she has seen, including from an M&T Bank surveillance camera, justified the officers' actions.

"Am I troubled by the video? Sure. Many things trouble me about the video. Did I think the pepper spray was consistent with our policy? Yes. Do I think we could have done things different? Absolutely," said Minkel, who added that the NFTA already is reviewing its training procedures.

Still, she said, the officers responded appropriately.

"The use of pepper spray was consistent with our use-of-force policy. [Buckley] was spitting on our officers, he was kicking, twisting, assaulting our officers," Minkel said, before he was sprayed.

She said the bank camera's footage showed the angry crowd "cornered our officers."

Hartmayer said witnesses backed up the officers' version of events.

"Three independent witnesses wrote that the officers were being abused and physically contacted by the defendant, and that was part of a whole review process leading up to bringing disciplinary action not being taken against Brodsky," Hartmayer said.

Scott W. Phillips, an associate professor of criminal justice at Buffalo State College, said the jury is out on what happened.

"By appearances [Buckley] is not actively resisting, but you can't tell whether he ignored a verbal command to put the other hand behind him," said Phillips, a former Houston police officer. "Police interactions in these circumstances are not pretty, but just because they are unattractive does not necessarily mean they are unjustified."

John A. Curr III, director of the Western regional chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, saw the same video and reached a different conclusion.

"I am alarmed that the officer used pepper spray, because it was clear to me that [Buckley] was restrained. There was nothing I saw [on the video] that warranted the use of that," Curr said.

"I have to really question what type of training is taking place with these officers regarding escalating use of force."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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