BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The FBI, U.S. Attorneys’ office, and the District Attorney’s office have been brought into the investigation of alleged policy brutality caught on cell phone video in Buffalo.
Six Buffalo police officers were placed on administrative leave Monday afternoon pending the investigation.
During my interview with U.S. Attorney William Hochul, he told me “It’s our job to determine what is depicted on the video tape is accurate and whether it crosses the line.”
The video recorded on April 19th shows 22 year old John Willet purportedly being slapped and kicked by a uniformed Buffalo Police officer after he was in handcuffs, on the ground, and in a prone position. Other officers are standing at the scene.
The FBI is the lead federal agency investigating the incident. The U.S. Attorney’s office would prosecute the case if any of the officers are charged with abuse. It is a violation of a person’s civil rights if excessive force is applied by someone in uniform. Hochul’s office has five previous convictions of police officers and sheriff’s deputies who abused their power.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he viewed the You Tube video on Friday, six days after the incident. He said a city surveillance camera at Ontario and Pennsylvania Streets also recorded the incident. Derenda, who brought federal investigators into the case, said “The Buffalo Police Department does not condone or tolerate inappropriate behavior, and will take whatever actions are necessary once we come to a conclusion.”
If this was a case of excessive force, Derenda said any of the officers at the scene would be required to put a stop to it and report the incident to their supervisors. A police Lieutenant arrived at the scene, possibly after the incident was recorded.
Derenda said “ninety-nine percent of our police officers every day do the right thing. They put their lives on the line for citizens of the community. Bad actions by a few should not tarnish their badges.”
When I asked the Commissioner how he felt about citizens using their cell phones to record the actions of police officers he said “”Cameras are a good thing. People should be aware that cameras are out there, and inappropriate actions, whether on video or not, can’t be condoned, will not be tolerated, plain and simple.”
If this was a case of excessive force, any of the officers at the scene would be required to put a stop to it and report the incident to their supervisors. Whether or not there was a supervisor on the scene is one part of the investigation.
Early on Monday Commissioner Derenda said, “I do not believe there was a lieutenant on the scene, no. Sometimes things happen very quickly and maybe a lieutenant doesn’t arrive. Again, it’s all under investigation at this point.”
Later in the day Commissioner Derenda said a lieutenant had been on the scene. It’s unclear when that supervisor arrived.
The commissioner said he received an email copy of the video on Friday and immediately opened an internal affairs investigation.
The incident happened six days earlier.
U.S. Attorney Hochul said there is zero tolerance for abuse of police power. He has had five successful prosecutions of police officer and sheriff’s deputies who have been involved in these kinds of incidents.
Commissioner Derenda does not want the public to distrust police because of this investigation. “Ninety-nine percent of our police officers every day do the right thing. They put their lives on the line for the citizens of the community. Bad actions by a few should not tarnish their badges,” he said.