Free The People of WNY Draft Public comment in response to the City Of Buffalo Commission on Police Reform and Social Reconstruction Agenda
As a concerned citizen of the City of Buffalo this commission’s agenda is inadequate, and frankly it is a disappointment, we can, and we should do better by the people of Buffalo. Over the summer in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more people of color, we saw a rise in awareness of police violence in our city and state. As a reactionary measure to enact meaningful change and reform police practices this commission was formed with little to no input from the community at large. It is no surprise that without participation from the public this commission’s agenda does not enact any long lasting or meaningful changes. The city’s lack of interest in the public’s input is evident in their short two day period to comment on an agenda regarding police reform, a topic that many individuals and organizations have demanded changes to for many years in this city.
The Free the People of WNY coalition made up of community members and organizations came up with a set of thirteen clear demands to the city in June of 2020. These demands include but are not limited to: 1. Creating an independent external oversight body with subpoena power to investigate police matters 2. Defunding BPD and to move money away from the police budget and into reforms and community support 3. To get police out of schools (in addition to more, found here.) Not only does this agenda fail to meet these demands it has actively worked against the will of community members in Buffalo. I am demanding that this commission and this City do more to enact meaningful changes to the Buffalo Police Department.
While the people demanded for independent and external oversight, this commission had no input from the independent Buffalo Police Advisory Board and instead relied on a majority of Mayor Brown’s friends. It’s clear this commission was never interested in external oversight or any accountability for BPD. While this agenda mentions soliciting community input, this is already done. Currently it is done with no way to hold the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, nor the Buffalo Police Departments accountable for their actions that directly affect the residents of Buffalo. The facade of being represented in the collective bargaining process is not enough. I am demanding for more.
Demand:The Buffalo Police Advisory Board, created by the Common Council in 2018, is one existing body that could be elevated to have subpoena power and investigative responsibilities. An immediate action that Common Council should take is to use its existing subpoena power to obtain any and all arbitration decisions involving allegations of police misconduct by employees of the Buffalo Police Department for the past 10 years, and turn those records over to the Police Advisory Board for review and recommendation
While the people demanded to defund the police department’s budget this commission’s agenda actually increases the BPD budget. Cities across the nation, from New York, to L.A. have taken measures to start reducing their police department’s budget, while Buffalo is raising the existing $122-$143Million police budget that takes up approximately ⅓ of the City’s existing budget. Programs like the data analytics software from SAS in this agenda will cost this city approximately $3Million dollars that the city does not have. With the budget shortfalls from COVID-19 we should not be using taxpayer dollars to increase the police infrastructure with unnecessary data software or harmful weapons like Bola Wraps. While the Buffalo Police Department is constantly asking for more money for new cars, less lethal weapons, and software, I am demanding for more.
Demand:Defund the Buffalo Police Department by $20Million dollars and start to reallocate that funding towards community programs like education, mental health, and youth services. The city of Buffalo spends next to 0% of their budget on mental health services and after stories like Willie Henley, and the tragic story of Daniel Prude in Rochester and many others across the country it is clear that Buffalo Police is not equipped to respond to mental health crises. I’m advocating for a 25% reduction in the police budget for 2021 and are clear with four demands regarding the police budget.
While the people demanded to get the Buffalo Police Department out of schools for some reason this commission’s agenda thinks they can “reimagine police presence in the Buffalo Public Schools.” After we saw the way BPD treated adults with the brutal stories of Quentin Suttles, Miles Carter, Shy’quan Bradie and Martin Gugino it is clear that they do not belong around children. I am demanding for more.
Demand: Black and brown children are antagonized and harassed by the police in our community, and school should be a safe place away from cops. Our children are not criminals and they should never be treated like they are. Instead I’m asking you to support restorative justice practices and mental health programs to help kids resolve conflict, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.
The City has a lot of work to do when it comes to reforming police practices and the demands of what needs to happen has been clear from the start. Mayor Brown indicated his support for the LEAD program back in June of 2020, these agenda items are not new. However these reforms are the bare minimum and are not examples of what we should be striving for. As a resident in this city I am demanding that we do more. This commission’s agenda doesn’t even come close to the reforms and demands that the people have been sharing for years and if the City of Buffalo wants to listen to their residents and make a more meaningful impact on it’s police practices much more needs to be done. The process in which this commission was put together, the agenda that they published, and the short public comment period are all examples of how the City has not taken into consideration the concerns of their residents. I am asking that the commission acknowledge and reconsider their agenda based on the demands spelled out.
On behalf of the Free The People WNY Coalition, Avi Afek