Letter to the Editor
Buffalo Police: Legal Criminals?
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 14:01
For the purposes of this letter, I would like to remain anonymous. At the same time, though, I would like to give you some background information about myself, if for nothing else than for the sake of context. Before this year, I lived on North Campus because my parents were nervous about crime on South. Amazingly, they believed the Heights aren’t exactly the safest place to live. Between low-income households, rowdy college students and life-threatening hazards created by absentee landlords, the Heights are very dangerous.
While the above were my biggest fears that I faced while moving in, I had found that they had been both misplaced and surmounted by a much more prescient threat of our own law enforcement agencies. Over the course of my college career, my friends had warned me about this, but I had figured in my naiveté they were just being stereotypically obnoxious students giving the stereotypically beleaguered police a myriad of good reasons to be obnoxious themselves. My friends were right, and my time on the Main Street Campus has become a veritable catalogue of avoidable incidents both initiated and exacerbated by the Buffalo Police Force of E-District.
This past weekend, I was walking outside the bars on Main Street near South Campus when I saw a police officer arresting a UB student. In fairness, I am not sure of what the individual being arrested did to deserve his arrest. With that having been said, there are few crimes egregious enough to merit being thrown headfirst into a hardened wall by a police officer. Nor did it appear necessary to throw the accused student to his feet, smacking him about the body in a manner that seemed a violent mockery of a pat down, all while spraying the student’s face with obscenities and spittle. Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is all pretty illegal.
As a result, I decided it would be a wise idea to videotape the rest of what seemed to be a series of events occurring outside the scope of the Buffalo Police Department’s regular business of protecting and serving the people of the Heights neighborhood. While videotaping, I was quickly tackled as well by a bouncer who was acting as this officer’s accomplice. The bouncer asked me multiple times to stop videotaping but I informed him that it was my right to videotape this occurrence (admittedly, this is a shot in the dark. I’m not a lawyer or a law student).
This gentleman then decided that my videotaping had become such a threat to the personal safety of himself and the police officer that it was necessary for him to seize me by the neck for a few minutes whilst repeatedly yelling and spitting in my face. I was quickly passed along to the same police officer who was attacking the student before. Our friendly local peacekeeper immediately shoved me into the storefront of this bar, cuffed me, and gave me two options: delete the video or go to jail.
As mentioned earlier, I am not a law student, but I do have some common sense and didn’t think that this could possibly be legal (Spoiler alert – it’s not). I also was not a huge proponent of the idea of either going to jail or subjecting myself to the mercy of a police officer with the means, ability and clear willingness to do substantial bodily harm to my fellow students, so I deleted the video.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it was illegal for me to be videotaping this incident. (Again, it’s not). It is just as, if not more, illegal for the officer to use any sort of physical force outside of the law to compel me to delete it. I shall note here that I more than consider placing a subject who is not resisting into a chokehold to be such a force outside the law.
So my question is: who are the real criminals in this city? Who controls the police? How can we as students stay safe when this sort of legalized thuggery goes unaddressed?
It was not difficult in any way to find students with stories similar to mine. One student was watching a football game with his friends on a Sunday afternoon. During halftime, he went to shower. Upon coming out of the shower, he heard the doorbell ring and proceeded to answer. When he opened the door, there were two police officers outside who asked the individual for government ID. After asking the officers why they were at the house, one of the officers thought it would be acceptable to slap the this student across the face.
Another student had been punched in the face by an officer after receiving a minor-in-possession ticket. The ticket was then dropped after the student witnessed the officer wreaking the same abuse upon other students, to the point where his partners had to restrain him, and then dropped the charges out of fear of legal repercussions to the Buffalo Police Department.
Now, I am a student and I’ll be the first to admit that we are no walk in the park. I would also say that many of these students were most likely drunk and underage. But there is undoubtedly an inclination for Buffalo Police to ridiculously use their powers in an overly aggressive manner.
When are the Buffalo Police (especially E-District) going to work with the students to make this city better? When traveling around Buffalo, it’s clear many of the areas are economically and socially depressed. The University Communities are among the very few exceptions to this rule. My only wish is that the Buffalo Police and the long-term residents of the region recognize us as neighbors and accept that we can help be part of the solution, rather than the problem.
Please, work with us, help us and we will all benefit as a result. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to read this letter to post their own unfortunate run-ins with police. If enough people get behind this, maybe someone in a position with some authority will actually do something about it.
If you would like to remain anonymous and share a story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.