May 8


Dismissed Buffalo cop had history of complaints

Officer Kevin Murphy was fired after pepper spraying a woman. Documents show he had a history of complaints lodged against him, including excessive use of force.

A Buffalo cop fired for dousing a woman with pepper spray and falsifying reports to justify his actions was the subject of nine inquiries into allegations ranging from rudeness to excessive force.

Seven investigations came during Kevin Murphy’s last two years of active duty. In addition, a city parking enforcement officer whom Murphy threatened and berated complained in 2022, while Murphy was on paid leave pending termination for pepper spraying Lekisha Neal and falsifying reports.

Other complaints included an allegation that Murphy had beaten a teenager while arresting him on suspicion of robbery. The department could not determine the truth and decided that Murphy should be counseled by a deputy chief.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association is suing the city seeking Murphy’s reinstatement. After being suspended in the fall of 2020 after the pepper-spray incident, he collected $276,000 in pay until an arbitrator last fall upheld his termination.

Disciplinary files released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request from Investigative Post show no conclusion reached  in a 2016 complaint filed by a woman who alleged Murphy, hired in 2015, had been rude and refused to provide his badge number.

Of eight investigations launched since 2019, Murphy was exonerated twice. Two allegations were upheld, no official conclusions were reached in two other cases, and investigators found insufficient evidence to prove or disprove two complaints.

Tantrum brings reprimand

While on paid leave pending termination, Murphy in 2022 berated a city parking enforcement officer. The outburst began after she told Murphy that he couldn’t park in a bus zone, according to internal affairs files released to Investigative Post.

It was 3 a.m. Accompanied by a woman, Murphy was headed toward a bar.

“The male said (very aggressively) he’s a cop and was shot at all day, so he doesn’t give a fuck, he’s going in to have a drink and I better not ticket him or there will be a war with parking enforcement and the police, all he has to do is make one phone call, nobody gives a fuck about us, he’ll make a phone call and have me ticketed in my work car with one call,” the parking enforcement officer wrote in a statement forwarded to Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia the next day. 

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“The whole time calling me all kind of names and making threats, the police are going to find out who I am and ‘fuck’ with me all the time even outside work.”

The parking officer wrote that Murphy was walking toward her as he screamed.

“So I walked to my truck because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do,” she wrote. “All of this while the officer was going to drink and he was the driver.”

Murphy, who received a reprimand, acknowledged that he’d been drinking, according to internal affairs files.

Insufficient evidence 

Two weeks before the 2020 pepper spray incident that cost Murphy his job, he arrested a teenager  whose mother filed an excessive force complaint on her son’s behalf more than a month later. She told internal affairs that she had contacted E District headquarters when the incident happened, but no one returned her calls. E District is located in the northeast section of the city, including Kensington-Bailey.

The teen and three companions were suspected in a strong arm robbery of a convenience store. When police arrived, they fled on foot. Murphy and Officer Andrew Ferrentino chased the youth to Trinidad Park, running past Officer Joseph McCarthy, who had caught up with another suspect.

A body cam captured McCarthy saying “You’re lucky I caught you” as he took his suspect into custody, according to a summary of the investigation prepared by internal affairs. McCarthy also said that he was “nicer” than other officers, according to the summary.

“When asked what he does that is nicer he said that he didn’t know,” an internal affairs investigator wrote in the summary. “Stated that he did not see officers Murphy and Ferrentino apprehend their subject and that he meant nothing by the comment.”

After catching up to the teen, Murphy in a report filed the day of the arrest acknowledged striking him several times on the back of his left shoulder to gain control when he refused to put his hands behind his back. In his report filed that day, Ferrentino reported grabbing the teenager by an arm and his back during handcuffing.

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The teen’s mother told internal affairs that her son’s face was bruised when she picked him up at the police station, where he told her that officers hadn’t done anything wrong.

“After her son was released into her custody, she continued to ask him about what happened and why he had bruises on his face,” Officer Gaisha Wilson wrote in an email to Robert Rosenswie, head of internal affairs. “Her son stated ‘The officer told me to put my hands up and then he hit me in the face.’”

The day after his arrest, the teen was treated at Children’s Hospital, where staff diagnosed a mild concussion, according to unsigned handwritten notes in the internal affairs file.

Supervisors approved reports filed by Murphy and Ferrentino on the day of the teen’s arrest, ruling in March 2020 that use of force had been appropriate. On Feb. 17, 2021, Commissioner Byron Lockwood determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence to determine whether the officers’ actions were justified and decided that a deputy chief should speak to them about the matter.

Investigators didn’t take a formal statement from the teen or canvass the area for witnesses or take statements from officers until the fall of 2020, four months after the investigation was officially opened and one week before the department opened a probe into the pepper-spraying incident that led to Murphy’s termination.

As part of its request for internal affairs reports on Murphy, Investigative Post asked for witness statements and video footage. Files show that 16 officers gave sworn witness statements. The department didn’t release any, nor did the department turn over body cam footage that captured McCarthy’s statement about being nicer than other officers.

Investigative Post has appealed to the city law department requesting release of records withheld by police. 

Neither Gramaglia nor John Evans, president of the Buffalo PBA, responded to requests for comment.

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The department also determined there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove an allegation from a man who said that Murphy was rude and leveled a homophobic slur at him after arresting him in July 2020. There was no body camera footage that might have determined the truth. Murphy told an internal affairs investigator that he did not activate his camera due to privacy concerns for the man.

The department determined that Murphy and other officers did nothing wrong after a woman in 2019 complained that they had assaulted and wrongly imprisoned her while taking away her infant daughter. A Child Protective Services worker was at the house when police forced their way inside to get the child, who had been reported as malnourished by a pediatrician.

Other investigations include:

  • A 2020 probe that exonerated Murphy and other officers when the city received notices of claim from protestors who said their civil rights were violated when they were arrested during a 2020 protest outside City Hall in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
  • A 2019 case that began after a woman complained that Murphy was harassing her by coming to her house and pulling her over and asking whereabouts of her son, who had warrants for his arrest. The woman’s son was arrested two days after she complained, and the case was closed without any finding of wrongdoing by Murphy.
  • A 2020 investigation prompted by Gramaglia, who asked internal affairs to open a probe after a media outlet, unnamed in records disclosed by the department, sent a video posted on social media to the Michael DeGeorge, the department’s spokesman.

Titled “Buffalo NY Police Officer Attacks A Pregnant Woman,” the video shot on a phone by someone in a car captures an officer identified by an internal affairs officer as Murphy yelling at occupants of the vehicle, which had been pulled over for a missing headlight. No one filed a complaint, and the inquiry ended after Murphy and other officers completed reports on what had happened.

“Please close the case, there is no complainant at this time and I do not see any wrongdoing on the part of the officers,”  Rosenswie wrote in an email to an officer assigned to internal affairs and Carmen Menza, now retired and then chief of District E. “If a complainant should come forward, we can look at it again.”

Investigative Post

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