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Buff replacement shows up for physical for out-of-shape Buffalo police candidate

Justin Payne wanted to become a Buffalo police officer. But he apparently was a little out of shape at 6 feet tall and 260 pounds,

So when time came for his physical, a buff replacement appeared in his place, and he who stood out among the other candidates while doing push-ups, sit-ups and running a mile and a half, according to police brass.

Now Payne is on the other side of the law, charged with second-degree criminal impersonation, a misdemeanor.

And the muscular man who arrived at Southside Elementary School three weeks ago and breezed through the physical?

Identifying him wasn’t too difficult.

The candidates at the physical test were required to sign paperwork, and in one of the signature boxes, he mistakenly wrote his own name rather than Payne’s.

Police are withholding his name until they find and charge with a similar crime.The discovery was detected when Payne’s records were being reviewed, Lt. Jeff Rinaldo said.

Payne, 24, last week followed through on a phone call from the department to report to Erie County Medical Center in order to take additional tests so that his application to become an officer could continue through the process.

When he arrived at the hospital, he was greeted by Rinaldo, Lt. Chris Mendola and Officer Patrick Baggott, who placed him under arrest.

His reaction?

“I would say he was more nervous than surprised,” Rinaldo said. “We read him his rights, and he declined to give a statement. He wanted to speak to a lawyer.”

Payne scored well enough on the police examination last June to be considered for the upcoming November police cadet class. And he could have requested a delay in taking the physical for as long as the Civil Service list remained active, Rinaldo said.

During the investigation into the physical, though, police said they also discovered that Payne recently was charged with driving while intoxicated in Amherst, which would have come to light during the vetting process.

Now Payne never will become a Buffalo police officer, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.

“I’m glad we caught him now so that we won’t have to deal with him later,” Derenda said. “Had he gotten through and been hired, I’m sure we would have dealt with him on other issues.”

Payne, a Dartmouth Avenue resident, is scheduled to appear in Buffalo City Court in the near future. If convicted on the A-misdemeanor impersonation charge, he could be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com

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