The public comments phase of the months-long City of Buffalo’s state-mandated Commission on Police Reform ended today.
This morning, community activists gathered online to suggest the commission’s recommendations aren’t good enough. They have more than a dozen demands, including more focus and care in de-escalating situations with individuals who may be dealing with a mental illness. Mike Powell, who sits on the Buffalo Police Advisory Board, said he sees many of the commission’s reforms as vague, and reinforcements of current departmental policy.
“Officers are being reminded to comply with policies which are in need of reforms themselves, like how de-escalation techniques are incorporated, something the [Police Advisory Board] outlined in length in our use of force policy brief,” said Powell. “In addition, there is complete omission of mental health diversion recommendations, specifically incorporating 911 diversion models over co-responder models. The report only mentioned utilization of the behavioral health team as a policy reminder to officers.”
Other community activists called on the reform commission to set up a true civilian oversight board of the police department. Whitney Walker, executive director of VOICE Buffalo, said the current Police Advisory Board lacks the power to investigate possible wrongdoing done by city police officers.
“We need external, objective, and accountable oversight of our police so that when an officer has been investigated 22 times by internal affairs for alleged misconduct, they’re suspended without pay and terminated,” Walker said. “We, VOICE Buffalo, demand that the Buffalo Police Advisory Board’s model be codified into law, giving them the power that they deserve to objectively review misconduct and hold officers accountable.”