Lieutenant Michael DeLong, suspended last summer after being videotaped directing a vile, misogynist insult at a woman outside a West Side convenience store, has retired.
DeLong called the woman a “disrespectful little fucking cunt” when she questioned how police were handling a man in distress outside the store who has a history of drug and mental health issues. The woman, Ruweyda Salim, a claims examiner for the Veterans Administration at the time, captured her exchange with DeLong on her cell phone camera outside a 7 Eleven convenience store on Prospect Avenue near D’Youville College.
The video generated a lot of views on social media — 88,000 the first day it was posted on Twitter — and national press attention. It came three weeks after two Buffalo police officers were video-recorded pushing Martin Gugino to the ground during a protest in front of City Hall, causing serious head injuries.
DeLong was suspended the day after the June 28 incident for 30 days without pay for his insult, then, under state law, was returned to the payroll while remaining under suspension. He was paid about $63,000 while awaiting an arbitration hearing in which the city was expected to ask that DeLong be further disciplined or fired.
DeLong’s retirement was effective March 30. He will draw a pension worth about half of his annual earnings his last three years on the force. He was paid $126,354 in 2018, $96,727 in 2019, and $126,623 last year, according to SeeThroughNY. That means his estimated annual pension will be about $58,000. Per the city’s contract with the Police Benevolent Association, Deling, 51, is also entitled to lifetime health insurance.
The suspension was the fifth of DeLong’s 20-year career, during which he was the subject of 36 misconduct complaints lodged by citizens or the department. Twelve involve inappropriate use of force; three involved domestic incidents.
His “disciplinary card,” obtained by Investigative Post under the state Freedom of Information Law, lists a 30-day suspension in November 2018 for an unspecified “domestic” incident; a one-day suspension the year before for a violation of procedures; a one-day suspension in 2014 for off-duty misconduct; and a two-day suspension in 2009 for excessive use of force. All suspensions were without pay.
Records show that, in addition, he’s received two formal reprimands and been called into six conferences with the police commissioner, deputy commissioner or other supervisor. Such conferences typically involve an informal reprimand.
DeLong was cleared in two of the 12 cases; in three cases Internal Affairs determined the charges were “not sustained,” which police sources said means there is not sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations.
DeLong was 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 was 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.
Investigative Post reported in October that DeLong had put in for a transfer to one of two units, one that investigates sex crimes, another that trains police cadets. He held more seniority than others on the transfer list at the time, meaning that, per the police contract, he would have been entitled to take either position had it opened up. Neither job did, however.
Erin Carman, co-chair of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board, lamented that Delong’s case did not go before an arbitrator.
“It is unfortunate that the hearing did not occur because it prevents precedent of stronger accountability from being set among officers within the department as a whole,” he said.
Carman noted the Police Advisory Board, which advises the Common Council on police matters, recommended last July that Mayor Byron Brown and the Council “establish a new, independent oversight structure” empowered to investigate police misconduct and review department policies.
The Police Department, Carman said, “ continues to have major gaps in accountability, and this will continue to impact the community unless systemically overhauled.”