Mayor defends police, attacks their union

Brown partly defends conduct of police while declaring the PBA is "on the wrong side of history" and an impediment to change

Mayor Byron Brown was interviewed Friday evening by CNN’s Chris Cuomo and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. To both, he lamented the injury to Gugino and praised his police commissioner for quickly suspending the officers and launching an internal investigation of their actions.

Brown also defended the Emergency Response Team officers who marched past Gugino as he lay bleeding on the ground, immobile except for eerily slow flexing of the fingers on his right hand.

The ERT officers, Brown explained, are trained to keep moving in formation, leaving the injured for medics “embedded” behind their front line. Those medics, he said, attended to Gugino “within seconds” of his injury and saw him into an ambulance, which took him to ECMC.

Maddow asked what warranted a force trained to behave that way. Was Buffalo in a state of war, Maddow said, that the city needed police trained to keep advancing, leaving those they’ve  injured bleeding in their wake?

Brown reiterated that medics had attended to Gugino quickly, then said the late-night protests in the city had warranted such tactics and training. 

“We saw violence, we saw vandalism, we saw fires being set, we saw looting, we saw rioting,” Brown said. “And I imposed a curfew for eight o’clock to prevent that kind of violence and danger to our community.”

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Brown ended his interview with Maddow by lighting into the city’s police union.

“The police union is on the wrong side of history,” Brown told Maddow, echoing what he’d said to CNN’s Chris Cuomo earlier in the evening. “This union has been on the wrong side of history for a very long period of time. And they have been a real barrier to the reform of policing in the City of Buffalo.”

Brown also blamed the union for the resignation of 57 members of the department’s ERT. Brown said the PBA threatened to withhold support for ERT members who continued to work the protests.

In fact, PBA president John Evans sent an email Friday morning saying the PBA would be hard-pressed to pay legal fees for members who were sued as a result of actions such as had occurred the night before.  

In the past, the City of Buffalo has assumed legal costs for officers facing civil suits. Last November, however, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled the city was not obligated to pay for the civil defense of Buffalo Police Officer Cory Krug, who was caught on video in 2014 striking a Lackawanna man repeatedly with a baton on Chippewa Street. 

Because Krug had violated the department’s use of force policies, the court ruled, he was not working within the scope of his duty. Therefore, the city could opt out of paying his legal fees — though the city remained on the hook if the plaintiff won a judgment against Krug.

That judgment could put the onus on the PBA and individual officers to pay for their legal defense, PBA attorney Thomas Burton told Investigative Post in March.


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