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About That Police Reorganization Commission…

Filed under: Activism

As you may have gathered in the last week or so, the Buffalo Police Reorganization Commission—charged by the Common Council with reviewing the structure of our police department—has some vacancies to fill.

The last time a thorough review of police operations was performed was 1991. Police Commissioner Dan Derenda, during his confirmation hearings, suggested that he ranked among the cops who thought that some of the changes that resulted from that review ought to be reversed.

The arrest of Ricky Allen, the commission’s initial chair, on cocaine trafficking charges presented the Brown administration a golden opportunity to discredit the commission, which was empaneled by the mayor’s political rivals on the Common Council. Prior to Allen’s arrest, the mayor had refused to name any members to the commission, nor would he explain his opposition. After Allen’s arrest, he said he was concerned about some of the people named to the commission by members of Council. Mike DeGeorge, the mayor’s spokesman, made clear the administration’s hostility to any effort to review police operations when he said, “Council member Kearns is covering up for the commission he created and the mistake he made by trying to blame others,” in response to Kearns lashing out at Derenda over his comments in regard to the commission.

Allen was named by one of the mayor’s allies, University District Councilwoman Bonnie Russell. Russell’s other appointment, Linwood Roberts, resigned at Russell’s request before Allen’s arrest. Following Allen’s arrest, a a host of other commission members resigned.

All of this made for good news copy, but a simple fact remains: Periodic, citizen-led reviews of government agencies are good things. There is always the danger that they will be driven by politics or, as in this case, become fodder for the trivial wars politicians fight with each other. If you think a commission like this is a good idea, maybe you ought to sign up and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Any Buffalo resident is eligible. The first step is to visit Buffalo Police headquarters at Franklin and Church, present picture ID, and request a background check, which takes a few minutes and costs $10. Then send a letter of interest to your district councilman, along with your background check.

The commission has one year to present its recommendations to city government.