Notorious lieutenant wants a new assignment

Lt. Michael Delong is first in line for a transfer to a sensitive command position despite his checkered disciplinary record

Lieutenant Michael DeLong, suspended for calling a woman a vile name outside of a West Side convenience store this summer, wants a transfer from his command position in the city’s downtown police precinct.

One of his two preferences is an assignment to a command position with the unit that investigates sex crimes, where the victims are predominantly women. 

In addition to his suspension this summer — for calling the woman a “fucking cunt” — the department suspended DeLong in 2018 for an incident described on his disciplinary card as “conduct-off duty domestic.”

DeLong has also put in for a transfer to the department’s training academy, where he would impart to cadets his 20 years experience on the force. 

Previous to the June incident, Internal Affairs had investigated DeLong for allegations of misconduct 36 times

Sound like those jobs are bad fits for DeLong? Like it should never happen? 

Under the terms of the department’s contract with its police union, it could.


Geoff Kelly discusses the story on WBEN


Right now, DeLong has more seniority than any other lieutenant who has requested a transfer to the two positions. Unless someone with more seniority puts in for the jobs when an opening occurs, the positions are DeLong’s for the taking, per the union contract. His suitability for the jobs is irrelevant, as is the opinion of the police commissioner.

Seniority trumps all.

“Seniority [is] paramount,” said John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. “This department is based on it, or the union is.”

Seniority dictates assignments

An analysis by Investigative Post found the contract prescribes a seniority system that dictates years on the job, not qualification or management discretion, determines assignments and overtime. Key positions such as the supervisors of the homicide, narcotics and sex offense units and the training academy are determined by seniority. 

Seniority, Evans explained, protects officers from a “politically motivated, vindictive administration” that might otherwise use opportunities for advancement to reward or punish officers as they see fit. 

Without seniority, Evans told Investigative Post, the bosses could “make your life hell.”

Critics of the police department acknowledge the protection the seniority system confers to workers, but argue that protection extends too far when it prevents management from deciding what to do with an officer such as DeLong.

“Seniority is on its face not bad,” De’Jon Hall, a member of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board, told Investigative Post. “But when we don’t take into account [officers’] discipline records — when we don’t take into account what they have done in the community — we’re failing the people.”

Hall said he was speaking for himself but not the board, which advises the Common Council on police matters and this summer released a slate of police reform proposals

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There’s no immediate prospect of DeLong getting a transfer to either position. A job would have to open up, through retirement or the promotion or transfer of the lieutenants currently holding the positions. The department then would select a successor from a transfer list that personnel can opt in or out of monthly. It’s possible a lieutenant with more years on the job — DeLong has 20 — might request a transfer and move to the head of the line.

Neither DeLong’s current suspension nor his past disciplinary record would impede his transfer. 

“[DeLong’s] contractual rights remain in place,” Evans wrote Investigative Post in a text. “It will happen when/if someone retires.”

Union defends conduct

Efforts to reach DeLong for comment were unsuccessful. A department spokesman declined to comment. But Evans, the PBA president, defended his member.

“Well if you stretch those 36 incidents out over a 19-year career — almost 20 now — compare that to the number of arrests he’s had, the actual number of interactions he had,” Evans said.

Indeed, DeLong is on a list maintained by the Erie County District Attorney of the department’s 50 most active Buffalo cops, in terms of arrests made and charges prosecuted.

He is also on the DA’s Brady-Giglio list, a roster of law enforcement officers whose disciplinary or legal history risks undermining their credibility on the witness stand. There are 16 other Buffalo police officers on the list. 

“This highlights the problem with the way that the union contract has been negotiated in the past,” said Hall, a member of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board. 

“The municipal government — our Common Council and our mayor — really need to be more intentional about not allowing so much space for the union president, John Evans, and others to dictate how our citizens are policed.”

Conduct frequently investigated

DeLong is currently suspended with pay. He was captured on video insulting Ruweyda Salim, a West Side resident now attending graduate school at Cornell University.

The incident occurred June 28 in the parking lot of a West Side convenience store, where police responded to a report of a man having a mental health crisis. Salim raised objections to the manner in which the police were handling the situation.

“It would be completely negligent of Buffalo PD to place him anywhere near our most vulnerable community members,” Salim said upon hearing about DeLong’s transfer request. “He needs to be fired.”

DeLong’s conduct will be reviewed by a third-party arbitrator.

His current suspension is the fifth of his 20-year career. Disciplinary records obtained by Investigative Post under the Freedom of Information Law show DeLong was suspended for 30 days in November 2018 for an unspecified “domestic” incident; for one day the year before for a violation of procedures; for one day in 2014 for off-duty misconduct; and for two days in 2009 for excessive use of force. All suspensions were without pay.

Records also show DeLong was the subject of 36 misconduct complaints lodged by citizens or the department prior to the June incident. Twelve involve inappropriate use of force; three involved domestic incidents, one listed as “domestic violence.” Two of the three complaints arising from domestic incidents were “not sustained” by Internal Affairs.

In fact, most of the Internal Affairs inquiries — 22 of them — resulted in a finding of “not sustained,” meaning there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations.

DeLong and the police union are seeking $100,000 in damages from the City of Buffalo as part of a class-action grievance related to the department releasing his disciplinary records to the press. Investigative Post and other media outlets received the records by filing Freedom of Information requests after New York State repealed a long-standing law, known as 50-a, which kept police disciplinary information private.

“This violation has led to the Lieutenant’s undue stress, ridicule and unwanted negative attention,” the PBA wrote in the grievance. 

DeLong is back on the payroll due to state laws that mandate a public employee be paid after 30 days, even if a suspension lasts longer. According to public data, DeLong earned more than $151,000 last fiscal year and has a base salary around $89,000.