Byron C. Lockwood was named Buffalo's interim police commissioner Wednesday by Mayor Byron W. Brown, putting him on a track to possibly become the city's permanent top police official.
For that to happen, the mayor would have to submit Lockwood's name to the Common Council for confirmation at some point within 180 days of Wednesday's interim appointment.
The City Charter authorizes the mayor to appoint an interim commissioner for that length of time. Brown said he intends to promote the next commissioner from within the department.
“I am deeply appreciative of the time and hard work Byron Lockwood has put into his current role as deputy police commissioner and know that he is the right person, who knows our city, to provide the level of leadership and safety we need as the interim police commissioner," Brown said.
Lockwood, 59, is a 34-year veteran of the department who has served as a deputy commissioner since Brown took office in 2006.
Lockwood declined to comment on whether he wanted to be permanently appointed.
"I'm thankful to the mayor for the appointment to lead this department, and I'm also grateful to have had the chance to work with former Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda," Lockwood said.
Derenda, 58, served eight years as commissioner before retiring Tuesday.
Although an interim commissioner, Lockwood said he plans to introduce initiatives to reduce crime and strengthen ties with the community. Since Brown took office, overall crime in the city has dropped by about 40 percent.
"I have full confidence that in the coming months he will continue to build strong relations between our community and police officers, bring innovative ideas and creative policing tactics to the department and run this department just like he has approached his other command positions — with great integrity, hard work, and a love for this police department,” the mayor said.
Lockwood, who oversaw disciplinary proceedings in the department and was promoted to first deputy commissioner in 2010, has known Brown since the mayor's early days in elective office. Brown was first elected in the mid-1990s as the Masten Council member.
Eighteen months ago, Lockwood accompanied Brown to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, serving as his bodyguard.
Lockwood said it was his dream to become a police officer since his childhood days in the Ellicott Mall housing project.
"I remember these four black police officers coming to the projects when there were the riots back in the 1960s, and they stepped out of this white police station wagon and they were so big and well built.
"I said to myself, 'That's what I want to be.' I can still see those officers in my head," Lockwood said.
He said his appointment as interim commissioner came on a bittersweet day.
"It was 32 years ago on this date that I received a phone call at Precinct 4 from my sister that our mother had just passed away," he said. "It took a lot out of me. My mother was my biggest cheerleader. She always said to me, 'Whatever you do in your life, you're going to be the best at it.' "
Frankie Lee Lockwood, a native of Georgia, died at the age of 53 from lupus. She and her husband, Hardie Lockwood, moved their young family here decades ago from Florida in search of a better life. Byron Lockwood, the fourth of five children, was 3 at the time.
Growing up in the projects, Lockwood said he witnessed incidents of police brutality against blacks and vowed that he would never be like those officers.
"When I became an officer, I knew that would not be part of who I was," he said.
When he encountered situations where force was necessary, he used only enough to subdue the individual without hurting the person and ensuring his own safety and that of others, he said.
He joined the police department on Jan. 30, 1984. In 1992, he was promoted to detective and assigned the intelligence unit. He also served in the street crimes unit and the narcotics, vice and homicide squads at different points before his promotion in 1996 to detective sergeant.
At that time, he transferred to what is now the Ferry-Fillmore District and headed the detective unit there, before becoming deputy commissioner.
He is known for putting in long hours. Lockwood begins his day with a workout at the gym in the basement of police headquarters and is at his desk by 8 a.m. He regularly works until 6 p.m., but often stays until 7 p.m.
A graduate of East High School, Lockwood has a liberal arts associate degree from Erie Community College. He has been active in the community over the years, serving on the board of directors at the former YMCA on East Ferry Street.
He also served as president of the Afro-American Police Association of Buffalo from 1993 to 1997. Several years ago, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Law Enforcement from Medaille College. He also speaks at local schools to encourage youngsters to pursue careers in law enforcement.
In addition, Lockwood is a sponsor of the WNY Bills Little League Football Organization.
Of the interim appointment, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans offered his congratulations and expressed a desire for good relations between the police union and the police administration.
"We are looking forward to working with Commissioner Lockwood. Our lines of communication are wide open and hopefully it will work out going forward," Evans said.
Rev. James E. Giles, founder and president of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, said Lockwood has established himself as someone committed to assisting young people.
"We have a long history of working with Byron Lockwood in helping neighborhood youth. He's deeply concerned about that," said Giles, who is also a leader in the Buffalo Peacemakers.
The Peacemakers organization works with city police in helping young people considered at risk and at public gatherings to prevent violence.
Giles also expressed confidence in Lockwood's appointment.
"He has certainly been a deputy commissioner long enough to understand the administrative responsibilities of a commissioner, and we think that if he continues the amazing partnerships we've had with Commissioner Dan Derenda, he will be an asset to the department and the City of Buffalo," Giles said.
Lockwood is the second African-American to serve as the department's leader, following H. McCarthy Gipson, who was commissioner during Brown's first term as mayor.
With Lockwood's appointment, there is only one deputy police commissioner, Kimberly L. Beaty.