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Police-community relations take center stage at Council meeting

Police and community relations continued to be the topic of conversation in City Hall on Tuesday, when one lawmaker called for more detailed statistics on complaints against police officers while another questioned aloud, “Who’s looking out for our police?”

“Our officers are spit on, verbally abused and even physically attacked,” said South District Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon. “How can we continue to expect them to protect and serve our communities when many citizens do not even show them the same basic respect every human being is entitled to?”

“Performing the due tasks that a police officer is responsible for should be appreciated and applauded, not continuously and publicly scrutinized,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon read his comments during Tuesday afternoon’s Common Council meeting, which was attended by a crowd of about 50 made up of police officers and their family members.

Three times during Scanlon’s comments they broke into applause.

After the meeting, Scanlon said he felt compelled to speak on behalf of police in light of the negative attention focused on law enforcement in the wake of protests over police shootings.

“While I absolutely look out for our residents, I think it’s also important to keep in mind our police officers have an incredibly difficult job to perform and I think it was imperative that we point it out,” said Scanlon, acknowledging the recent shootings of two New York City police officers.

Scanlon, in fact, asked his colleagues in government to move with “extreme caution” when considering limitations on police procedure and policy.

But some of his comments came as a bit of a surprise to others on the Common Council.

“I understand his passion, but I would pray that no one would think that trying to bring people to work together is a negative thing,” said Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen. “Change is never easy, but almost always necessary.”

Pridgen, meanwhile, sponsored a resolution that asks the police department to compile detailed statistics on complaints against police officers. The statistics should include such things as location of alleged incidents and the race of the person making the complaint, as well as the race of the officer being accused of abuse.

While there have been suggestions of police abuse in the community, there’s no data to back it up, Pridgen said.

“All of this is not to say we have a problem on the Buffalo police force, but if you’re going to attempt to change behavior, it has to have some data connected to it or else how do you measure the change?” Pridgen said.

The resolution was sent to committee for further discussion.