By Richard Keem:
Rewind back to Buffalo in 1991. The Buffalo Bills were in their first Super Bowl, Pat Lafontaine was playing for the Sabres, OJ Simpson, Gil Perreault, Bob Lanier & Warren Spahn were inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Goldome bank was liquidated, Jimmy Griffin was Mayor, David Franczyk was (and still is) on the Common Council and Bob Delano was indicted. Nationally in 1991, George H. W. Bush was president, our military was overseas for Operation Desert Storm and a first class stamp only cost $0.25 ($0.27 after February 1991). In the arts world, Kurt Cobain was rocking it for Nirvana and Silence of the Lambs was the movie of the year. Internationally, USSR was in political unrest, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned and USSR was dissolved. 1991 was also the last time the City did an exhaustive review and strategy on how to better protect the public safety.
A lot has changed over the last 19 years.
Michael Kearns, Michael LoCurto, David Rivera, Curtis Haynes, Jr., Richard Fontana and David Franczyk are looking to create an improved strategy on public safety. The results back in 1991 of the Police Reorganization Commission (PRC) consolidated the City’s 14 precincts into 5 police districts. This was proposed to increase police presence; increase neighborhood orientated policing and reduce geographical boundaries, ultimately improving public safety. The document released by the Common Council states “Nearly 20 years have passed since the PRC released The Police Commission Report. Over this time, the population and demographics of the City of Buffalo have changed and the field of law-enforcement has undergone major advances, particularly in terms of available technology.”
This PRC is set to consist of twelve members, 5 appointed by Mayor Brown, 5 appointed by the Common Council and 2 appointed by Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. The main objective of the PRC is to research best practices and create a stronger public safety strategy utilizing limited resources.
Friction at City Hall
This PRC is sure to get some friction from the Brown administration. The mayor has dabbled in public safety since he took over. Incidents such as Byron Jr’s joy ride, SWAT team’s presence at Canisius’ end of the year party, the Leonard Stokes incident, friction with Patricia Parete about medical bills after suffering a life changing injury on-duty, removal of H. McCarty Gipson, demotion of Donna Berry and the national search for a police commissioner. All of these scandals have had an impact on the public image of our community, but we often overlook the impact this has on the morale of our team on the street. Something must explain our 100+ officers injured on duty.
On the other side of the coin, is the Common Council out to get back at the Mayor with this PRC? Should we expect another review in 2029? According to Fillmore District Council Member Franczyk, “20 years later, it’s time to take another look.”
As a concerned citizen, the most important duty for the government is to provide public safety. By reviewing the best practices of other government entities and exploration of technological advances, this is a great opportunity to create a positive strategy for preventing, reducing and solving crime in our city. Next time, let’s not wait 19 years to rethink things.