News 4 Investigates: Chippewa Street focus of police abuse allegations

Siren Police Arrest

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Buffalo Police has special details that work on Chippewa Street. They’re part of Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda’s policy of keeping order on city streets, which he put in place starting in 2007.

“We have a detail every weekend on Chippewa for security reasons,” Derenda says. “I believe it’s been highly effective in a lot of cases, going back couple of years. We had shootings, we had couple of homicides, we had some gang activity. We seemed to really squelch a lot.”

But, in recent months, allegations have surfaced of police crossing the line with patrons in the popular entertainment area.

As News 4 Investigates has reported, a young woman on St. Patrick’s Day used her cell phone to capture what appears to be Officer Rob Eloff swatting her cell phone from her hands. [VIDEO: Watch that story here]

On Tuesday, a Kenmore man filed notice of a lawsuit for what he claimed was excessive force by Eloff and others during an arrest,  also on Chippewa Street, on St. Patrick’s Day. [VIDEO: Watch that story here]

Thursday, News 4 investigates is reporting three friends in town for a wedding’s harrowing tale of how they were allegedly abused by officers last July also on Chippewa Street. [VIDEO: Watch that story here]

One of the young men, Jonathan Li, a visitor from San Francisco, said he got in trouble when he stepped into the street to take a photo with his cell phone of the scene, complete with Buffalo Police Officers dressed in what looked to him to be full combat gear, including night sticks.

Derenda said part of the officers’ uniform is to carry night sticks, “They’ve been trained with the night sticks and it’s been part of the equipment forever.”

While it may seem unusual to visitors, Derenda said it’s “just normal” for officers to be dressed and armed to do their jobs.

But, that doesn’t mean he wants them to be abusing patrons visiting the popular entertainment area, he explained, “Officers should conduct themselves properly whether they’re on a detail or whether on patrol. Again, we don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior by our officers.  And, there is a process in place to discipline them if we find that they’ve done the wrong thing.”

Derenda said he gets approximately 450 Internal Affairs investigations per year. The commissioner says he expanded the definition of cases that get closer examination to those in which an officer is involved in a vehicle accident.

“It doesn’t always mean an officer has done something wrong.  At times we find that they didn’t do anything wrong. We investigate every accident an officer is involved in to make sure the right things were done. We take discipline very seriously,” Derenda told News 4.

“An arbitrator will look at all the facts. He would conduct a hearing and he would make a determination if the facts support a penalty,” Derenda said. “And a penalty can be anything from a reprimand to termination depending on the cases, the severity of the case.”

Derenda wants the public to tell him about their complaints, “We tell people, ‘If you have a complaint file it. We’ll investigate it.’” To make it easier for the public, he’s opened an Internal Affairs Division satellite office in city hall.  The office is part of the department’s 311 suite of offices on the second floor and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. More information for the office can be found on the City of Buffalo website.

The public can make a complaint about police to Internal Affairs in person, by phone or in writing. The phone number to call is (716) 851-4557. You can find more information on how to file a complaint on the Buffalo Police Department’s website.

 

What’s been your experience on Chippewa Street? News 4 Investigates would like to hear from you.

Email: investigates@wivb.com
Phone: (716) 879-4TIP or (716) 879-4847

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