On Monday January 25th, the PAB presented recommendations to the Common Council Police Oversight Committee regarding BPD data collection and reporting on the BolaWrap pilot, implementation of Mental Health Diversion, and the need for a new, independent oversight structure. Councilmembers failed to facilitate or engage in substantive discussion or ask any follow-up questions of these policy recommendations. The Council is the local oversight body with the most resources and legal authority to engage in oversight and, yet, the Council did nothing to collaboratively work with, support, or substantively examine the research-based recommendations made by its own advisory body.Councilman Wyatt asked one question of the board (whether it had met with the BPD yet on the recommendations). When the PAB responded that additional help was needed by the volunteer board to do the work it was created to do and that it would be helpful if the Council requested documentation of policy and policy initiatives or drafts from the BPD for substantive discussion and negotiation by all three bodies, Councilman Wyatt and all other Councilmembers said nothing. The PAB has asked for meetings with the BPD more than once in 2020 and received no response. The PAB has informed the Council of this during committee meetings. The Council is aware that the BPD does not want additional oversight and has shirked board and Council requests, and, still, the Council has failed to use its subpoena and investigatory powers to demand information and attendance from the BPD.
Councilman Wingo focused his entire follow up to the board’s presentation on his dislike for the board’s new use of Emeritus roles for the purpose of additional resourcing of the unfunded board operated entirely by volunteers (largely) holding full-time jobs. Councilman Wingo acknowledged that the volunteer run board needs resources to operate, but stated that the Council is a resource to the board because it has subpoena power. Unfortunately, Councilman Wingo’s offering of assistance falls flat. Again, the Council holds subpoena and investigatory powers, is the only body in our current oversight structure that holds these powers, and does not use them. The Council routinely defers its authority to the BPD and Mayor’s office, makes empty demands of the BPD when the cameras are on, talks about its powers but doesn’t use them, and attempts to delegate its own work to the part-time, volunteer run board. Instead, the Council could utilize any of the recommendations from the PAB’s numerous reports on Oversight, BolaWraps, Mental Health Diversion, Use of Force, and Body Cams to do its job and pass new law or serve as a check and balance in our local government through evaluative or investigatory measures.
The PAB calls on Committee Chairman Rivera, Councilman Wingo, and Councilman Wyatt, along with all other Councilmen, to use the power that they stated they have to play an active and substantive role in oversight. Buffalo does not need more showmanship. Buffalo needs functional oversight and its elected officials owe that to the community at-large and to the residents who elected them.
The PAB would like the Council to formally request and use its powers to acquire all documentation related to mental health and BolaWrap initiatives that the BPD has drafted and/ or finalized, as well as documented data collection plans regarding the initiatives. Though the BPD has put the BolaWrap pilot on hold temporarily, the Council and the public should see existing pilot policy and procedure. Additionally, the BPD and Council play a role in any County operated mental health diversion program. The BPD and Council swept PAB recommendations under the rug by deferring to the County. The Council should request existing County diversion pilot documents and current BPD mental health policies and procedures in order to properly assess the role of all key players, determine how internal BPD policy should be revised in relation to the County pilot, and determine how the City can financially contribute to the pilot. The Council should analyz