City Hall agrees to increased police oversight

City officials, faced with growing concerns over the conduct of Buffalo police officers, agreed Tuesday to form a citizen advisory committee with Open Buffalo, an activist organization.

The commitment came during a meeting of the Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee. Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda was in attendance and agreed to the advisory group. Details are to be worked out, and it is unclear whether the advisory panel will have any teeth.

“I think [it will] provide more opportunities for folks in our community to be heard and for the police and council members [to] hear more directly from the community as to what they are going through,” said Danielle Johnson of Open Buffalo, who spearheaded efforts to establish the advisory body.

Police on Tuesday also turned over two months of data requested by the Council on traffic checkpoints conducted by police. The Council requested the data in July; the City Charter appears to require such reporting on a regular basis.

The end of the meeting was disrupted by protesters chanting, “checkpoints are criminalizing poverty.” Council President Darius Pridgen and Niagara District Council Member David Rivera said they hope to make the checkpoints data public, but they did not elaborate as to when information would be disclosed.

When asked about Investigative Post’s recent report on unconstitutional searches and seizures by members of the department’s Strike Force and Housing Units, Rivera said, “it’s always a concern where evidence is being suppressed,” and said it would be up to the police and advisory committee to address those issues. Pridgen declined to comment.

One attorney also expressed concern over the purchase by police of a device intended to disperse citizens attending mass protests.