Tag Archives: Buffalo police

Riccardo McCray Photo

29 Aug

During yesterday’s press conference announcing that the Buffalo Police had arrested Riccardo McCray in connection with the murder of four people at Buffalo’s City Grill restaurant on August 14th, Police Commissioner Dan Derenda requested that the media not publish photos of the suspect.

Photo Courtesy of The Buffalo News, Photographer John Hickey

While he released the name and address of the suspect, Derenda claimed that publication of a photo would compromise identification of the suspect in a witness lineup.  Earlier today, community activist Darnell Jackson claimed that a photo of McCray had been posted in the Ferry-Grider projects, where McCray lives, as well as in other parts of the surrounding community.  He showed the media a copy of the photo for confirmation.

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Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge said, “This is absolutely incorrect.  The Buffalo Police Department never posted photos of McCray in the neighborhood.  Officers were issued ‘Be On The Look Out’ (BOLO) photos to aid in the search, but those photos were police confidential and not for distribution to the public.  If those pictures were on the street, the Buffalo Police Department did not have anything to do with it.”

It’s quite possible that lineup identification has already been compromised due to the photo being widely available in the community.  “Posting McCray’s photo in the neighborhood was reckless, I mean, there was a street contract on him.  Posting it in the streets, but not for the whole community to see in the media just encourages street justice”, said one neighborhood activist who requested anonymity.

Like most media outlets, WNYMedia had been in possession of McCray’s BOLO photo since late last week and had refrained from publishing the photo so as not to interfere with an ongoing investigation.  The official line from the BPD was that McCray was  a “person of interest” who was “sought for questioning”.  However, our sources in the police department and in the community had told us he was being sought as the shooting suspect. We made the decision to err on the side of discretion until we had more details.

We were unaware that the photo was already available in multiple locations of the city.  If we had known, we would have posted the photo to advance the story and inform the public writ large about the identity of the suspect.

Perhaps media publication of the photo prior to McCray’s surrender would have more quickly led to an arrest.  It certainly would have alerted people in the community to the presence of an allegedly “armed and dangerous” criminal who could have been walking the streets.  In his interview with WIVB’s Rich Newberg, McCray claims that he did not turn himself in because he didn’t see his name or face in the media.  McCray had only heard from others on the street that he was being sought, he didn’t believe he was really being sought for questioning.

At this point, media outlets are still cooperating with police requests to not publish this photo.  Why?  McCray has surrendered, been formally charged and arraigned  for the crime.  People have a right to see the alleged face of the most heinous crime in Buffalo’s recent history.  What other criminal, after being formally charged with a crime has continued to have his identity protected by the media?  What other criminal has surrendered to a media outlet?  The media and our actions thus far are absolutely central to the larger story.

It’s not just about the photo, it’s about the role of media in this new era of information dissemination.  An era in which the Buffalo Police pays a former reporter to manage media relations and construct a narrative for the reporters to follow.

At what point does the media morph from being a watchdog for transparency and oversight of government agencies into an arm of the public relations operation of the Buffalo Police Department?  Certainly, journalists have to balance the need of the public’s right to know with public safety, but has the local media overextended courtesy in this instance?  We live in one of the most racially divided cities in America, it seems to me that the disconnect between the media, the police and what actually happens on the streets of Buffalo has never been more obvious.

We’ve spent the better part of 24 hours having an internal debate with our staff as well as with members of the establishment media whom we consider to be mentors.  I want to publish the photo as I believe people have the right to know.  Marc Odien does not.  We established a compromise to let the community have input into what we should do with the photo and also gather feedback on how you feel the story has been handled thus far.  The era of informational decisions made in a closed editorial board room are over, information deserves to be free.

Are we doing the right thing complying with police requests to withhold his photo or do people have a right to know?

You tell us.

Derenda Part II, Electric Boogaloo

21 Jul

A Buffalo Common Council source told me their strategy for dealing with with Mayor Brown’s nominee for police commissioner is essentially, “Derenda delenda est“.

Later today, at a special session, Byron Brown will resubmit Dan Derenda’s name as his nominee to be Buffalo’s next police commissioner.  This came after the council held up the nomination in committee last week and essentially tabled a vote on Derenda until the completion of the their seven-week summer break.  Since that meeting to table Derenda’s nomination, we were treated to a special hearing with Buffalo Human Resources Commissioner Karla Thomas, at which she was unable to lend credibility to the Mayor’s claim that a national search for a commissioner was undertaken.

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This supposed “national search” resulted in a nominee who lacks a college degree or extensive professional training, lacks command experience, may/may not live in the City of Buffalo and whose main qualification appears to be his resume submission to http://geocities.com/friends_of_steve_casey.  As I said the other day, the issue isn’t necessarily Derenda’s qualifications (or lack thereof), but rather the ham-handed way the process was handled by the Brown administration.

There was no need to promise a national search for the job when they had no intention of actually conducting one.  Not following through and not being transparent about the process only gave their political opponents the opportunity to debunk the Mayor’s story.  Which they are doing with great enthusiasm.

The council did not take up the matter of Derenda’s nomination during their regularly scheduled meeting yesterday.  There was debate as to whether or not the Mayor could legally resubmit Derenda’s nomination on short notice and rather than fight out the charter legalities on the floor, the Mayor pulled the nomination.

Today, he’ll resubmit and we’ll see some political fireworks from Councilmen Kearns, Rivera and LoCurto, the three staunchest members of the Derenda opposition camp.  Derenda has support from Grassroots-affiliated Demone Smith, Bonnie Russell and Joe Golombek.  Rich Fontana has also stated that he intends to vote in the affirmative, which means Mayor Brown only needs one more vote for confirmation.  Ellicott Councilman Curtis Haynes has not given an indication of what he intends to do, but he voted to table last week and generally votes with the ECDC/Hoyt affiliated members of the Council.

This makes Council President Dave Franczyk the man of the hour.  What will he do?  I suspect Franczyk can be convinced that it’s in the interest of the city to fill the position and not wait two months for the Mayor to submit Derenda’s name again.  The Council has extracted enough political blood from the Mayor at this point and it’s probably time to move on.

In other news at the council, Kevin Helfer got his patronage job as parking czar and the ECDC Democrats voted down Mayor Brown’s nomination of Grassroots-affiliated David Rodriguez to serve as Corporation Counsel to the City.  They also tabled the Bass Pro Community Development Agreement, perhaps until after the recess.

Double Secret National Search

19 Jul

Today, Karla Thomas, Commissioner of Human Resources for the City of Buffalo appeared before the Buffalo Common Council to answer questions about the “national search” conducted to hire a new Commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department.  And by “answer questions”, I mean she was visibly annoyed by the requirement to be there and informed the Council that she simply posted the job to various free websites, performed no background checks, did not vet the applications, was not part of the selection process, conducted no followup on the applications, nor was she in any way involved aside from forwarding resumes to the Mayor.  Watch Thomas give us her best Sgt. Schultz impression during the hearing:

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If you haven’t been following the story, the Mayor decided to hire Daniel Derenda, who served as Deputy Commissioner of Police under previous Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson (who was fired while in a hospital bed).  Derenda is a close political ally of FIRST Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and was appointed to the position of Deputy Commissioner with no previous command experience.  He also lacks a college degree or extensive professional education, typically precursors to a nomination to the top police job in one of America’s 100 largest cities.

Marc Odien has the details on the “national search” which included several job postings which were submitted to various job websites this past weekend.

Human Resources Commissioner Karla L. Thomas insisted at today’s hearing (video coming soon) that the use of 14 free Internet sites where the job opening was posted produced 33 “well qualified” candidates out of a pool of 41 applicants.

However one of the two sites she claimed fed the listings to 13 other sites shows a different story.  Note the date: 17 July 2010

As of Saturday, the City began  soliciting applications and resumes for a job they have already awarded to the guy they found by the water cooler during their supposed “national search”.

Let’s be honest here, no “national search” was conducted.  There is no definition of “national search” that could possibly be stretched to define what happened.  In politics, the smallest lies can create the biggest problems.  For being such supposed expert political operators, Casey and Brown repeatedly demonstrate a keystone cops level aptitude for political machinations.  They are just not very good at this whole “Mayoring” thing.

There was no need to promise a national search for the job when they had no intention of actually conducting one.  Not following through and not being transparent about the process only gave their political opponents the opportunity to debunk the Mayor’s story.  Which they are doing with great enthusiasm.

There were two ways to go about the process of replacing Commissioner Gipson.

1.)  Conduct an honest and transparent search for a replacement, much like what was recently done in Albany.  Their task force (appointed by the Mayor) found qualified candidates from around the country and then subjected those candidates to a public review and vetting process.

The pool of 48 candidates for the city’s next police chief has been winnowed to nine, seven of whom are from outside the Capital Region. The group includes the local head of the FBI, the head of security programs for the World Trade Center, the chief of police in Rochester, Buffalo’s former police commissioner, a former top State Police official and a former deputy chief from Detroit.

Deputy Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff also has made the cut to receive an interview with the advisory task force picked by Mayor Jerry Jennings to vet the resumes — the only internal candidate to survive the process.

The pool also includes the current chief of the Saginaw, Mich., police and the former chief in Gaithersburg, Md.

The names emerged as the panel also scheduled two additional public forums on the chief search.

Initially, the task force, led by retired Albany County Judge Larry Rosen, had planned to keep the names of applicants confidential until the panel had concluded its interviews and forwarded a handful of names to Jennings for consideration. But the task force reversed course on that issue Monday, citing the immense public interest in the search.

Conducting an open search would have yielded top candidates and involved the public in the process.  Simply posting 100 word job descriptions on free websites was not a “search”, it was a passive solicitation.

2.)  Appoint Derenda to the position without conducting a national search.  Elections have consequences and Mayor Brown was re-elected by a massive margin to lead the City of Buffalo and make Commissioner level appointments.  A direct appointment accompanied with the reasoning behind his endorsement, backed up with endorsements of other commanders within the Department would not have lead to an easy confirmation, but it at least would have been honest.  It may have limited the damage to Derenda’s credibility in the community and within the Department.

Unfortunately, the Mayor went the Dean Wormer route and conducted a “Double Secret” national search and did it clumsily.  The internet makes it pretty easy for us to find out how the search was conducted and this one never really happened.

Sunday Open Thread

24 Aug

Next week is a staycation, but in the meantime we’re heading up to T.O. to evidently spend some time in the rain. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to hear Hardwick’s show on the way up, but won’t be able to post anything about it afterwards.

So, this thread is for your reaction to that show and anything else you might see. Like, for instance, the fact that Buffalo cops, who have plenty of time to set up checkpoints on Elmwood Avenue during the afternoon rush hour, don’t really seem to follow up very vigorously on cases involving robbery at gunpoint.

Or maybe you go visit What in the Sam Hoyt, written by Matthew Bova, or “Joe (Mesi) Needs a Job“. Or maybe this by Maureen Dowd on McCain’s overuse of the “POW” excuse, and the ironic twist that the Swift Boaters destroyed the previously held notion that one’s military service was sacrosanct.

Also, in listening to Hardwick on Sunday, who did best?

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Abolish Take-Home Cars, oppress the Proletariat

16 Jul

The city is trying to take away take-home cars from several high-ranking police officials because it would save a lot of money. Seems pretty simple, right? I mean, I use my own car to get to and from work. You probably use your own car to get to and from work. If I use my car for work, I submit for mileage reimbursement and get a check cut at the end of the month.

Both the News and Channel 2 report that fifteen of the twenty affected police officials live outside city limits. Since there’s no rule requiring them to live inside city limits, it’s a big “so what” with a side of “if you don’t like it, Albany has to change it.”

One officer makes a 70-mile roundtrip trek from a home in Springville each day and drives a city-owned Chevrolet Blazer.

Chevy Blazer? Nowadays? For a 70-mile commute? I can’t imagine a dopier use of taxpayer money. That thing gets what – 22 MPG highway?

But if there’s one constant here in Western New York, it’s that in a time of crisis, the leaders of our public sector unions can be called upon – and invariably will – say something inflammatory.

Police union chief Bob Meegan is this month’s provocateur, suggesting to Channel 2 that taking away take-home cars from these people will sacrifice public safety. Because, apparently, they’re too poor to afford a car.

How would you like to be laying in the street with a bullet all over your head or in your body and a homicide detective [says], “sorry I won’t show up till tomorrow morning because I don’t have a car until my wife comes home from work?”

But the News reports that the average pay for the affected officers is $106,143. I’m pretty sure you can afford to buy your own car if you earn that kind of money in Buffalo.

Had Meegan just stuck to the point – the city shouldn’t try to implement this stuff without negotiating with the union – he’d be just fine. Pleading poverty is absolutely ridiculous and insulting.

Give up the cars and show that you’re mindful of the fact that the city needs to be as frugal, for once. Maybe we’ll get rush-hour registration checkpoints out of it.