If the NFTA police officers involved in the recent confrontation with anti-war protesters need to bump up their pay, they could always take a second job writing fiction.
The police arrest report of the incident, in which a nonresisting protester was pepper-sprayed by NFTA Officer Adam Brodsky, is littered with statements that are contradicted by the six-minute digital recording of the April 8 incident. You can see for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1AST5YSxPc.
Officer Richard Russo's report on the arrest of demonstrator Nate Buckley contains so many inaccuracies that it should be filed under Revisionist History.
It's bad enough that Officer Brodsky will not be disciplined for pepper-spraying a nonresisting protester. Brodsky is the same officer who -- according to a witness found to be credible by a city judge -- needlessly roughed up a 65-year-old man last year at the downtown bus station. Now, Officer Russo has assaulted credibility in his arrest report. It raises the question: Who polices the NFTA police?
We want to believe that armed officers act professionally. I think that most of the time, they do. But the disconnect between the arrest report and this video is a case study of why the police version of events should not routinely be taken as gospel:
1. Russo's arrest report states that he told protesters: "They were on private property and would have to leave. The protesters refused."
The video shows the protesters complying with the police order to get off the low wall of One M&T Plaza and move onto the public sidewalk.
2. Russo's report says protesters remained on private property, prompting further police action.
The video shows that the protesters moved onto the public sidewalk. Officer Russo wades into the center of the group while they are on public property, escalating tensions and sparking the confrontation with Buckley.
3. The police report states that Buckley was pepper-sprayed to release his grip on Officer Russo's arm and to stop him from struggling, after Officer Brodsky strikes him with a baton.
The video shows that Buckley was sprayed 47 seconds after Officer Brodsky raised his baton, and well after Buckley let go of Officer Russo and stopped struggling. Buckley was standing passively, with one hand behind his back, when Officer Brodsky sprayed him from behind.
4. The police report says Buckley was "forcibly handcuffed" while attempting to kick officers and spit on them.
The video shows no kicking by Buckley during or after being handcuffed. The only spitting Buckley does is spitting out the throat-burning liquid after being sprayed. Other than all of that, it happened just as Officer Russo said it did.
As the video makes clear, this incident raises large questions about police behavior and credibility.
To be fair, this was not a crowd of flower-power hippies. The demonstrators -- although philosophically nonviolent -- were verbally confrontational to the cops, who represent the government whose policies they were protesting. It was a tense situation, but one that cops presumably are trained to handle.
By wading into the crowd after protesters obeyed an order to move to the public sidewalk, and by arresting and ultimately pepper-spraying a nonresisting Buckley, Officers Russo and Brodsky fueled the fire instead of dousing it. Russo's fanciful cover-our-butts report only compounded the problem.
In light of the video and the arrest report, NFTA Executive Director Kimberley Minkel said Thursday that a team will be put together to review and report on "recent NFTA police actions."
Given that NFTA officials previously saw no reason to discipline the officers, this amounts to progress.