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In Buffalo Police Department, brutality and violence rewarded with a gun and a badge

Buffalo police officer facing federal charges never should have been hired


Given Robert E. Eloff’s history of abusive and violent behavior while on the job as a law enforcement officer, the recent federal charges he’s facing aren’t exactly surprising.

What does come as a surprise – a shock, really – is his initial hiring by the Buffalo Police Department (BPD), despite his troubling employment history.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul is charging Eloff with abusing his position as a police officer in his violent altercations with two victims at Molly’s Pub, where he was working off duty as a security officer.

And though the details of these altercations are disturbing in their own right, what’s even more upsetting is Eloff’s continued position of authority despite a clear history of brutality and abuse that makes the current federal charges he faces nothing short of an expected conclusion to his so-called career.

Eloff is charged with violating the civil rights of William Sager, who was killed after Jeffrey Basil pushed him down the stairs at Molly’s Pub. After the altercation, Eloff removed the unconscious Sager from the bar and put handcuffs on him and did not intervene while Basil tampered with surveillance footage of the incident.

Eloff also allegedly punched and kicked another victim, identified as “R.D.” in court papers, before forcing him to the ground as the victim, who did not resist in any way, screamed “stop,” according to witnesses.

This behavior, despite its horrifying nature, is simply par for the course for Eloff, whose history of violent behavior somehow did not prevent BPD from hiring him without so much as a background check.

Prior to his employment by BPD, Eloff was rejected by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s police force and worked as a probationary police officer for UB, where he was forced to resign.

At least two reports detail Eloff’s violent behavior toward students.

In one altercation involving a search of a student’s car, he slammed a student’s head into the steering wheel after the student asked him if he needed a search warrant. In another physical confrontation with a student, Eloff reportedly broke his hand.

That Eloff wasn’t dismissed from UB’s police force after these incidents is incredibly disturbing in and of itself.

Somehow, despite his abuse of UB students, it wasn’t until Eloff’s attendance record proved troublesome that UB demanded his resignation.

Six months later, BPD hired Eloff.

Because Eloff had resigned, rather than being fired, his personnel files were not readily available to BPD. However, the department never even requested the information.

Eloff should have been fired by UB to help prevent his further employment as a police officer. His actions clearly merited termination but because he resigned, it was all too easy for the BPD to overlook his violent history.

This issue was exacerbated by Eloff’s prior employment as a police officer for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA), which shut down in 2005.

The BPD does not conduct the extensive background checks on former BMHA officers, which made it even easier for Eloff to escape the scrutiny he clearly merited.

Regardless of former employment, all individuals seeking to become police officers with BPD should undergo a more thorough examination of past employment. Working as a police officer gives individuals a great deal of authority and puts the safety and well-being of Buffalo residents into their hands.

It’s the BPD’s responsibility to ensure that they’re hiring individuals who will fulfill their duty as police officers rather than abuse their power.

Most police officers nobly put their lives on the line to protect everyday citizens. The BPD must not sully the sanctity of the sacrifice by risking the lives of Buffalo’s residents by unwittingly hiring unhinged and abusive individuals like Eloff.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com


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