Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown told a crowd of protesters Thursday in Niagara Square that he will formally outlaw the use of chokeholds on suspects by the Buffalo Police Department.
Brown was joined by Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples Stokes, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and other elected officials at the site of six days of local protests against police brutality in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, one of whom pressed his knee onto Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes May 25.
"I want you to know that today, with the police use of force policy, I directed our Buffalo Police Department to create a policy to end any use of chokeholds in the City of Buffalo," Brown told about 200 protesters assembled Thursday in Niagara Square.
"Today, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the agents of change, some of those that have been on the front lines of the protest," Brown said. "I also was on the the telephone with some of the organizers to bring change to this community."
Mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge and Police Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Rinaldo confirmed that the department has never had a policy that allowed for officers to use chokeholds on suspects, nor have officers ever been trained to use that maneuver.
Peoples Stokes espoused some policy changes at the state level, which she said would make it easier to identify bad police officers.
She said her colleagues in the Assembly and other elected officials would support a repeal of a section of the state's civil rights law that would allow access to the work records of public servants, such as police officers.
Peoples Stokes said allowing those records "to be seen by citizens is what's going to help us understand who's fit to be a public servant and wear that badge of honor in blue, and who's not fit to be a public servant."
After the public officials concluded their remarks to the protesters, Poloncarz said he attended to show his disgust for what happened to 46-year-old Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers.
"We wish he was still alive; he is not. We need to ensure that he did not die in vain," Poloncarz said.
"And I'm heartened by what I hear from so many people that they do want to see real reforms. You can't have bad apples in police departments. You need to have reforms in place," he added.
In a statement released late Thursday, Brown clarified the new policy.
"The City of Buffalo is constantly updating its policies and procedures so that officers in the field have clear and consistent guidance. While no police officer is trained to use the chokehold maneuver and are not instructed to use it, I feel it is necessary to explicitly ban the practice in our use of force policy," Brown said.