Move aside, “Saturday Night Live” cast members. Buffalo Police Officer Richard N. Hy’s comedic star is rising.
His outrageous and sometimes crude “Angry Cops” social media videos – aimed at humanizing police by showing that they, too, have a sense of humor – have been viewed more than 6.5 million times and he has more than 22,700 followers.
Unfortunately for him, his humor has cost him his job, at least temporarily, as he has been suspended without pay for a month and brought up on disciplinary charges.
It turns out the 28-year-old, who twice served with the Army in Iraq and was awarded the Combat Action Badge, has been a jokester long before he joined the city police force three years ago. As a teenager, he embraced humor as a way to express himself and help lighten the mood wherever he went, his friends said.
One time, he wore a dress to a crazy-outfit day sponsored by North Tonawanda High School to boost school spirit. Another time, he was told to stop making school announcements because his jokes failed to tickle the principal’s funny bone.
Some of his fellow street officers think the attention he is now garnering from a 30-day unpaid suspension for wearing a police uniform – he claims it is not a real one – and tarnishing the department’s image could actually be his big break.
“This could balloon in his favor. He could end up as a TV comedy writer,” said one officer, who like others asked that their names be withheld because department policy prevents them from speaking to the media.
Hy also is adhering to that policy, though he did weigh in on all the attention he is receiving by way of his Instagram account.
“I’m blowing up on the news right now ... I guess cops can’t be funny or have a life outside of being emotionless robots,” he wrote Monday night.
To make up for the loss of his wages, a longtime friend of Hy’s on Tuesday set up an online GoFundMe page that, so far, has raised more than $1,000 and a lot of public sympathy from donors leaving messages of support.
But Hy has informed his friend, Matthew A. Milewski, that he will not keep the donations.
“Richard’s told me he’s donating the money to the Fallen Officer Foundation,” Milewski said.
Hy, a member of the department’s Strike Force unit, also is not looking for a new career in entertainment.
“He loves his job. He loves serving and protecting our community,” Milewski, a Buffalo resident, said of Hy, who also lives in the city.
During his time on Strike Force, his friends said, he has made more than 300 arrests and confiscated more than 20 illegal street guns.
Hy also loves his country, Milewski said. An Army reservist since he graduated from high school in 2005, he began as a civil affairs specialist with the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion based out of the Town of Tonawanda. He currently holds the rank of engineer drill sergeant.
Supporters in the Police Department say Hy more than proved himself as a police officer able to show restraint in an extreme situation last October when a video made the rounds on social media. It showed Hy struggling with a man on the ground at Hudson Street and Busti Avenue on the West Side. The video also included a woman, off camera, repeatedly screaming and cursing at the officer, accusing him of choking the man “for no reason.”
It was later learned that Hy was trying to keep the man from choking on 39 bags of crack cocaine he had swallowed and later expelled at a hospital.
But for Hy to find his way back into the good graces of his superiors, he will have to learn how to obey orders. This is not his first dust-up for allegedly violating departmental policies by posting videos of himself.
About a year ago, he received a reprimand to stop posting videos that showed him as a police officer.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda declined to comment on the suspension and Internal Affairs investigation.
But Milewski said that Hy, after receiving direction from Internal Affairs last year, stopped wearing his department uniform in his videos. That is when Hy started wearing a costume uniform and prop badge, Milewski said, adding Hy thought he was respecting the direction he was given by not wearing his actual uniform.
And while Hy has his fans among fellow officers, not all of them are laughing.
“Some of us don’t think it is funny. We found it to be utterly unprofessional. It doesn’t send a good message out to the public and affects everyone in the department,” said one police officer with more than 20 years on the force. “We realize Hy has only had a few years on the job, but we wonder if he has the maturity to carry out his duties after viewing these. We wonder how he could be taken seriously in court. Maybe he should have been a comedian. If he were a doctor, would you go to him?”
Patrick G. Stafford, a Buffalo Police Benevolent Association attorney and retired police inspector, downplayed the severity of Hy’s behavior and described him as part of a younger generation that has embraced social media.
“He’s part of a generation of kids who appreciate social media and what he has done is harmless banter,” Stafford said.
But what about the society hot-button issues of drugs and guns, subjects Hy employed in his comical skits.
“That’s what he deals with every day,” Stafford said. “That’s his work environment.”
In almost two years, Hy has put up more than 100 of his own videos on Vine. Between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Hy’s videos on Vine gained more than 300,000 additional views.
His videos poke fun at situations police officers encounter – like an overly talkative perp cuffed in the back seat of a patrol car, being questioned on the witness stand by a defense attorney or dealing with a person who won’t roll down their window far enough during a traffic stop.
“I just took a bunch of coke from the evidence locker,” Hy tells the camera with some white powder stuck under his nose in a video posted a few weeks ago. As he carries a plastic bag that’s supposed to look like it contains cocaine, Hy then screeches and laughs as he runs, pretending to be chased by another officer. He captioned the video by writing he’s been using “great workout supplements.”
In another video, he mouths the words to an Adele song, saying he’s “sorry” and playing the role of a crying, remorseful suspect in a jail cell.
Hy even adds some production value to many of his clips. In a video from March 2015, Hy uses a sound effect and a song from the “Karate Kid” sound track to show the joy of being the one officer in a massive search who finds the gun a suspect has thrown away.
In another video, as he drives down Delaware Avenue, he sings his own version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but changes the lyrics – the “faithful” becomes “dope boys” and instead of “triumphant,” it’s “crack fienders.”
A few of the videos are not humorous.
In posts also from March 2015, there are two different angles showing a police officer taking down a man during an altercation during St. Patrick’s Day parade festivities.
In a post from September 2014, Hy shows the smashed front-end of a car and calls it “a good don’t-drink-and-drive commercial.”
An ambulance, fire truck and police vehicle appear gathered outside of City Court in a November post, in which Hy is flabbergasted by what he says was two people overdosing while in drug court.
In bridging the racial gap in law enforcement, in yet another video, he grabs a black person’s hand and that person says, “I’m a black cop.” Hy replies, “I’m a white cop.” Then they both say, “This will never work.” It then cuts to a scene where they are spinning in a circle as the words from a Turtles song “Happy Together” are dubbed in.
“Lighten up and laugh,” his Vine profile reads. “Just some funny stories from cops but are filmed off duty and do not represent any views of any department.”
By Tuesday, Hy, at the department’s suggestion, had deleted a few of the wilder videos but the viewers kept coming.
Milewski said that Hy has told him he is willing to comply with the department’s social media policy.
“He says his heart lies with helping and serving,” Milewski said. “He thought he was complying at all times.”
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