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Groups opposed to traffic safety checkpoints to sue Buffalo police

Representatives of Western New York Law Center and the National Center of Law and Economic Justice announced that they will file a lawsuit against the Buffalo Police Department.

The lawsuit, which will be brought in Erie County Supreme Court, challenges the police department's refusal to produce records about the city's traffic safety checkpoint program, which were requested under a Freedom of Information Law request filed in June.

The FOIL was filed in response to complaints that the checkpoints are tantamount to discriminatory policing. Opponents of the checkpoints charged that they are located primarily in low-income, minority neighborhoods in the city and target people of color. The Western New York Law Center and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice both have been actively investigating the complaints it has received.

A civil rights complaint also was filed with the New York Attorney General's office on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Buffalo by attorney Anjana Malhotra.

“For too long, (the Buffalo Police Department has been shielding its checkpoints program from public scrutiny,” said Claudia Wilner, senior attorney with National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

The police department, Wilner said, "must search its records and provide responsive documents as soon as possible.”

Buffalo Police last week released a report to the Buffalo Common Council detail every traffic checkpoint conducted in the city between Aug. 4 and Sept. 20.

The report showed that most of the 121  checkpoints that took place during tht period were in the Lovejoy, North and Niagara districts. The checkpoints resulted in in 1,917 summonses, arrests, towed vehicles and narcotics and gun seizures, according to the  report.

The report showed that checkpoints were held throughout the city in August and September, with the fewest set up in the Ellicott, University and Masten districts.


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