The head of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has a problem and she needs to deal with it. It could be a training issue or a problem with a single police officer or something more, but NFTA Executive Director Kimberly Minkel needs to identify it and get it under control before something worse happens.
The issue, in a nutshell, is this: NFTA Police Officer Adam M. Brodsky pepper-sprayed an anti-war protester on April 8 and, judging from the YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1AST5YSxPc), without good cause. That's bad enough, but cops have a difficult job and this crowd of protesters wasn't exactly polite. Tempers can become frayed. Even a good cop can have an off day.
Still, other cops in the video seemed to handle the situation professionally and this isn't the first time Brodsky has been caught red-handed.
In a recent nonjury trial, a City Court judge essentially decided that Brodsky gave false testimony against a 65-year-old man whom he claimed fought with him after being told he was under arrest for illegally using a bus station restroom.
But Brodsky had an unexpected problem: A witness came forward. Dorothy Fuller testified that Brodsky's claims were false. Not only did Enoch "Edsil" Cook not fight with the officer, she said, but he was violently pushed to the floor after Cook tried to prevent Brodsky from reaching into his pants pocket.
Judge James A.W. McLeod acquitted Cook after a half-day trial, ruling that convicting him of anything would be a "miscarriage of justice."
So: A man who is allowed to carry a loaded weapon roughs up a 65-year-old, falsely testifies at his trial, is tacitly rebuked by the judge and then, is sent out to pepper-spray an already-subdued protester.
The NFTA is circling the wagons around Brodsky, but there is clearly a problem here. At a minimum, the reputations of both the authority and its police department are at risk. As we said, cops have hard jobs. It takes tough-minded people to handle that job professionally and safely and most of them do. Sometimes, though, people are attracted to police work for the wrong reasons. Authority goes to their heads. They think the privilege of carrying a weapon makes them a law unto themselves.
Minkel needs to be sure that's not the case in the department she leads.