Tag Archives: Dan Derenda

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.

Buffalo Derenda Est

21 Jul

Marc Odien, Chris Smith and I are at the Buffalo Common Council to watch and report on what everyone hopes to be the third of three Buffalo Common Council hearings on the Dan Derenda nomination to become the next Buffalo Police Commissioner.

By all accounts, Derenda has the five votes necessary to get the job, but the ancillary drama is what everyone is interested in, so you’ll be smart to watch the live stream by clicking here.

Mickey Kearns states that the special session today is making a mockery of the legislative committee system. He repeats that the Karla Thomas, the city’s HR director, had 6 months to select a candidate and came up with Mr. Derenda alone. That’s fine, he says, but complains about the rule-gaming technicality that enabled Derenda’s name to be resubmitted for today’s session. He says that the item in committee should be before the body via discharge by committee chairman, and he finds today’s identical agenda item to be improperly before the council.

In the end, Kearns’ protestations are silly and petty. Derenda’s qualifications are beside the procedural point.

David Rivera repeats that Derenda’s nomination was tabled in committee for a variety of reasons, most prominently those having to do with the nationwide nature – or lack thereof – for H. McCarthy Gibson’s replacement. The problems – especially with Karla Thomas’ responses to councilmembers’ questions – that promoted the council to table the nomination still exist, and this circumventing of the rules may be in the Charter, but dilutes the power of the council. Now, any time the Mayor’s office disagrees with anything that the committee does, they can call a special meeting, which requires only a simple majority for passage of agenda items.

Haynes: No.
Kearns: No.
LoCurto: No.
Rivera: No.

Franczyk, Smith, Russell, Golombek, Fontana voted for Derenda.

In a press gaggle afterwards, Derenda said that he harbored no ill will towards any of the councilmembers who opposed his nomination, and understood that it wasn’t personal. He had been coached not to comment at all on the controversy surrounding the very localized national search that led to his selection.

5/4 vote, Dan Derenda is the Police Commissioner of Buffalo. Derenda thanks the council and “look[s] forward to the challenge.”