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Citizen panel questions Buffalo police chief on white supremacy in policing

Citizen panel questions Buffalo police chief on white supremacy in policing

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Police Commissioner Byron C. Lockwood told The Buffalo News that he had heard of no such complaints by a member of the public about a specific officer being affiliated with a racist group, nor has the department ever attempted to fire an officer for being affiliated with a hate group.

Noting a series of alarming incidents around the country, members of a citizens police oversight panel that reports to the Buffalo Common Council on Wednesday questioned Police Commissioner Byron C. Lockwood on the steps being taken to prevent a white supremacist from infiltrating the department's ranks.

The Buffalo Common Council’s Police Advisory Board, which reports to the Council’s Police Oversight Committee, outlined a series of such incidents across the country in recent years, and asked Lockwood what the Buffalo Police Department is doing to prevent that from happening here.

“We’ve had white supremacist incidents all over the country, especially in policing, and it’s not something that you have to take my word for. There are multiple examples all over the country,” said Orlando Dickson, a member of the advisory board.

Dickson said Black residents in Buffalo who believe they are routinely treated unfairly by police are left to question whether there is an organized effort to discriminate against them.

Lockwood told The Buffalo News later that he had heard of no such complaints by a member of the public about a specific officer being affiliated with a racist group, nor has the department ever attempted to fire an officer for being affiliated with a hate group. Lockwood did say the department investigates all allegations of official misconduct. 

“Our complaints on the officers mostly are about their conduct. Now that we have the body cameras, we go back and look at the body cameras and see, what was their conduct? Was it outside of the policies or rules or what have you?” Lockwood said.

During the meeting, Lockwood explained the department’s hiring process, which includes extensive background checks such as interviews with people who know them, a psychological examination, a check of the person’s social media accounts and drug testing.

A new candidate also undergoes a roundtable process, which consists of representatives from the police department and the city’s human resources and law departments. If a racially controversial social media post has surfaced during the background check, it is brought up at the roundtable and the candidate has to explain. A decision is made “right then and there” whether to hire the person, Lockwood said.

A new hire is on probation for the first 18 months and can be fired if association and membership with white supremacy groups is discovered and proven. After the 18-month time frame, such accusations must go through arbitration to fire the officer. The FBI, the Erie County District Attorney and the state Attorney General may be involved in the investigation. 

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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