Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown would count on a stronger citizens rights commission to foster better relations between the police and residents, just one of the steps he proposes to improve policing, according to a draft report released Monday.
The recommendations are part of the city's response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive order requiring local governments to improve their police departments in the wake of the George Floyd protests last year. After public review, the document will be submitted to Cuomo by April 1.
Incidents of stolen cars increased 106% in 2020, according to the Buffalo Police Department. Burglaries are happening more often. And many Muslims are losing confidence in the police.
The report calls for the city's Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations to undergo a community planning process with residents from all neighborhoods to improve interactions with the police.
The plan also calls on the commission to provide a survey on its website for residents to complete any time they interact with police officers. The data would be provided to the police commissioner and also made public on the city’s open data portal. The survey results would identify neighborhoods receiving disparate treatment and officers who receive multiple complaints.
The recommendations in Brown's Commission on Police Reform and Social Reconstruction also call for the Buffalo Police Department to reinstate monthly public police district meetings.
"No-knock search warrants are a tool that is best used infrequently, selectively, and only when there is a legitimate concern for community or officer safety," Mayor Brown said.
Two other recommendations call for career residency requirements for newly hired police officers, as well as a performance evaluation program for all officers in any new labor contract with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. The union would have to agree to those changes.
The recommendations include steps the city has already taken as part of the Buffalo Reform Agenda since the protests in 2020 over police brutality. Among them: requiring police officers to intercede if another officer uses excessive force; additional police officer training in de-escalation; limited use of “no-knock” search warrants; the banning of chokeholds; the formation of a behavioral health team; and ending the practice of detained arrests for low-level offenses.
The draft report is available for public comment on the city's website, www.buffalony.gov. Comments also can be submitted by voicemail at 851-5438 or emailed to PRC_COBCommission@buffalony.gov. The deadline to comment is 11 a.m. Friday.
Some civic leaders saw reason for cautious optimism about the mayor’s shift in policing in Buffalo “away from enforcement and to a restorative
Brown called the recommendations "another critical step in my administration’s ongoing effort to make the criminal justice system more restorative in nature and responsive to the experiences of historically over-policed Black residents and other residents of color."
"In addition to making concrete recommendations the city should undertake to improve the quality of policing, the commission’s work also contains proposals that directly address the economic and social conditions, which are at the root of the public safety and racial justice challenges confronting our city," Brown said in a statement.