Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown knows a swift investigation is needed.
So does the Buffalo Police Advisory Board, which posted a disturbing video that appears to show a city police officer brutally pummeling a helpless man. So would anyone who understands the twin truths that police have difficult jobs to perform and that they, of all people, must abide by the law while doing it.
The good news is that Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced on Wednesday that he would investigate. That’s good, because the video is alarming.
In it, two officers grapple with the man, who is on the ground near the back of a car. One of the officers hits the man in the head several times. The man can be seen wriggling toward the protection of the car’s undercarriage.
The pleas of an unseen woman could be the pleas of the viewer: “Get off of him!” she yells. “Stop! You’re going to hurt him. Get off of him!”
The incident occurred on Sunday, according to the advisory board, which posted a portion of the video on its Facebook page. A longer version is on Instagram.
Quentin Suttles was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of government administration and one felony count of destruction of physical evidence.
Brown weighed in on Tuesday evening: “As Mayor of the City of Buffalo, a very diverse city, I am sensitive to any instances of conflict between members of our community and our police department,” he said in a statement. “Like others, I am concerned by what I saw on that video, however, I do not have all of the facts regarding this situation.”
The facts are essential. That’s why Brown’s support for an investigation and Flynn’s quick decision to launch one came as welcome news. He supports the decision of Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood to ask that the Erie County District Attorney’s Office review the incident.
The mayor also encouraged the police commissioner to convene community members and the Police Department to work together to strengthen “restorative practices,” while building better and stronger community relationships. It will take at least that much to preserve the progress Lockwood’s department has made with neighborhood outreach.
It is too soon to know exactly what occurred and sometimes there is more to the story, even when it is recorded on video. It is important that the police body camera video and audio are released to the public. This is just the kind of incident that makes that equipment valuable. The district attorney’s office would make that determination.
Part of the reason this is so disturbing is because it reminds the community of the 2017 video showing an Erie County Sheriff’s deputy assaulting a 25-year-old University at Buffalo student at a Buffalo Bills game.
Former Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth P. Achtyl’s name and angry image will long represent the ugly overreach that can occur when a bad cop damages the reputation of honest and hardworking officers.
It’s important to withhold judgment in this case and allow investigations to proceed. The Buffalo Police Department and Flynn must act quickly to investigate this troubling event and then report their findings to the public.
These officers need either to be cleared or held to account.
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