Updated: 9:01 p.m.
Buffalo police have suspended a lieutenant without pay Monday night and launched an Internal Affairs investigation into an incident captured on video Sunday in which he called a woman a vile name when she questioned why 10 officers were called to deal with a man who appeared high on drugs.
In the video, Lieutenant Michael DeLong calls Ruweyda Salim a “disrespectful little fucking cunt.”
Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood responded by ordering an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs unit and then later suspending DeLong. Lockwood was responding to the wide circulation of the video, shot by Salim on her phone outside a 7 Eleven convenience store on Prospect Avenue near D’Youville College on the city’s West Side.
Salim pulled out her phone to film several police officers searching a man outside of the convenience store, she wrote on Instagram. The lieutenant is seen on camera talking to her.
— رويدا سالم (@ruweyda_salim) June 29, 2020
“There’s no need for all of these policemen to handle someone who is on drugs,” said Salim in one of the videos posted to Twitter and Instagram.
In the video, Salim, a community organizer who has done work with PUSH Buffalo and the Western New York Peace Center, continues questioning why there are 10 officers at the scene, and that is when DeLong responds with the derogatory name.
“I don’t care if I go viral,” DeLong said.
DeLong was aware Salim was recording him as he asked her where she worked, then responded, “I’m going to come to your work and start filming you.”
“Why is it acceptable for them to degrade me?” Salim posted on her Instagram account, which has six videos of her encounter with DeLong.
Section 2.13 of the Police Department’s rules and regulation states:
“Employees shall perform their duties in an efficient, courteous, and orderly manner using patience and good judgment at all times. They shall be courteous and considerate to the public, to their superior officers and to their fellow employees. They shall not use harsh, profane, or insolent language. They shall be tactful in the performance of their duties and are expected to exercise the utmost patience and discretion even under the most trying circumstances.”
City payroll records show DeLong joined the police force in 2000 and was paid $116,878 for the last fiscal year. Records indicate he lives in Hamburg. He is assigned to the B District, whose precinct house is located on Main Street in the Theater District.
DeLong did not attempt to hide his name tag or badge during his interaction with Salim. That’s in contrast with officers stationed in front of Mayor Byron Brown’s house last Wednesday. Brown fled when about 70 demonstrators approached his house and spent the night at a downtown hotel.
All but one of the officers responding to that incident removed their names from their vests. Protesters have complained about this being an ongoing issue at protests in the recent weeks.
Section 1.5 of Chapter 12 of Chapter 12 of the department’s police manual states “Badges, whether the shield type or the sewn on variety, must always be displayed on the outer most garment.” It goes on to say, “Name tags must always be displayed on the outer most garment.”
Moreover, the department’s rules and regulations states: “Members shall give their name and badge number to any person requesting such information.”
At recent protests, including the one at the mayor’s house, journalists with Investigative Post observed police officers not displaying their badges and name tags and ignoring people who requested that information.
DeLong is the third Buffalo police officer who has been suspended by the department in the past month.
Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, members of the police department’s now-disbanded Emergency Response Team, were suspended without pay June 4, hours after they were captured on video pushing protestor Martin Gugino, who fell to the ground and struck his head. He remains hospitalized. McCabe and Torgalski have subsequently been charged with felony assault.
Both officers will be getting paid again next week, though. Under New York State Civil Service Law section 75, suspension without pay cannot exceed 30 days pending the outcome of an investigation into incompetency or misconduct.
Two other officers, Ronald Ammerman and Michael Scheu, were recorded May 10 engaged in a violent struggle with a motorist, Quentin Suttles. Ammerman can be seen punching Suttles in the head a number of times while Scheu searches his pockets. Suttles suffered a broken shoulder blade and eye socket.
Suttles’ lawyer filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the city and police department last week alleging racial profiling and excessive use of force. Protesters have demanded the officers’ suspension and prosecution, but both remain on the job pending multiple investigations.