Articles for Garrett Looker

Feb 29

2024

It’s not just kids who struggle to read

Leah Walter teaches English as a second language to adults. Photo by I’Jaz Ja’ciel.  Before escaping to the United States as a refugee, Baseme Muiza didn’t know how to read. She didn’t speak English. She hadn’t spent a single day in a classroom, nor had she ever received a formal education in her native Swahili. “She didn’t know nothing at all, but now she can express herself a little bit more,” Muiza said through the help of a translator, Maggie Baundea.  She’s not alone. One in six adults in Erie and Niagara counties only have the most basic literacy skills.[...]

Posted 2 days ago

Feb 14

2024

Who’s responsible for bad cops?

Common Council Member David Rivera, left, speaks with Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. Photo by Bruce Rushton. Mayor Byron Brown has said that he wants the police commissioner to have more power to discipline cops, but change is beyond his purview. An arbitrator now decides discipline, although the city charter says that disciplinary authority rests with the police commissioner. Giving power to the commissioner, according to the mayor, is up to the Common Council. “I don’t control the council, and if there was anything in this document that the council felt they could implement or wanted to implement they would[...]

Posted 2 weeks ago

Jan 31

2024

Pushing for phonics-based reading instruction

Education advocates called on state leaders Tuesday to step up their commitment to phonics-based instruction to address poor reading skills in students across New York. “Reading is foundational,” said Jeff Smink, interim executive director for The Education Trust-New York said at a press conference at the state Capitol. “Fundamentally, it’s a civil right that’s necessary to participate fully in American society … Unfortunately, in New York, we have too many students that don’t have that right.” New York remains one of the few states in the country that has not passed legislation focused on the “science of reading” – a[...]

Posted 1 month ago

Jan 29

2024

Policing Buffalo’s police

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia and Mayor Byron Brown testified last fall that the city’s contract with its police union and the power it bestows on an arbitrator make it too difficult to discipline cops accused of misconduct. “I think any chief executive that’s running the department would like to have the managerial ability to run a department, but that’s not the contractual language that was laid out well before my time,” Gramaglia testified during a recent deposition in a police brutality lawsuit. “The arbitrator’s decision, the independent arbitrator’s decision and finding, is final in a disciplinary matter.” Gramaglia and[...]

Posted 1 month ago

Jan 26

2024

Accused vandal sent for psychiatric help

  With a deadline looming, a mentally ill man accused of breaking windows at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo nearly a year ago has been sent to a psychiatric hospital. Jones Woods, 61, arrived at a federal prison psychiatric facility in Massachusetts from a private prison in Ohio on Jan. 16, according to court documents. The transfer came after U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Roemer in December gave prosecutors an ultimatum: Get Woods out of jail and into psychiatric care by Jan. 31 or I’ll dismiss the charges against him. Roemer found Woods incompetent to stand trial last June and[...]

Posted 1 month ago

Jan 10

2024

Almost fired, then promoted

A Buffalo police officer once charged with assault, tagged for termination and barred from the witness stand has been promoted to detective and is again allowed to testify. “Irremediable problems of credibility” prompted a ban on Joseph Hassett taking the stand, District Attorney John Flynn wrote in a 2019 letter to police. The department then put Hassett on desk duty and sought termination. After an arbitrator overruled the department in 2020, Hassett returned to street duty. He’s now a detective. “Oh my god,” attorney Richard Weisbeck responded during a recent deposition when Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia revealed that Hassett had[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Jan 4

2024

Poor attendance fuels low reading scores

There’s a reason most younger pupils in Buffalo schools can’t read very well. They aren’t showing up for class. Only 18 percent of all students last school year had what the district considers a satisfactory attendance rate. That is, they miss school less than roughly one day a month. More than three times as many students – 61 percent – missed school at least once every other week, according to Buffalo Public Schools attendance data. The district considers that degree of absenteeism chronic or severe. Educators say absenteeism is taking a toll on the district’s youngest learners, who are struggling[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Jan 3

2024

Deadline looming for alleged rock thrower

A federal judge in Buffalo says he’ll dismiss charges against an accused vandal if the Department of Justice doesn’t get him into a psychiatric facility by the end of January. The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Roemer is the latest in a series of decisions from federal judges nationwide who’ve grown impatient with ballooning wait times for defendants deemed mentally incompetent. Instead of receiving treatment in psychiatric hospitals, mentally ill inmates presumed innocent are languishing in jails. Prosecutors have said there isn’t a bed available for Jones Woods, who’s been jailed for nearly a year after being arrested for[...]

Posted 2 months ago
Investigative Post

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