notes

Transcript: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown Press Conference, June 5, 2020

Published Jun 9, 2020

Updated Jun 10, 2020

The following is Snopes' transcript of a WBEN recording of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's press conference on June 5, 2020.

Mayor Brown:
I want our community to know that our residents in every section of the city of Buffalo will be protected. I want people who are out in our community peacefully protesting to know that everyone peacefully protesting in the city of Buffalo, will be protected. My goal as mayor is to bring this city together during this difficult time, and to let all of our residents living in every single neighborhood, know that they are cared about, that they are protected, to let our peaceful protesters know that their voices are being heard, that we are listening, that we will work with them for real change on the issues of police brutality in the city of Buffalo, racial injustice in the city of Buffalo, and as they exercise their freedom of speech rights, those rights will be protected. I will now open up for any questions that the members of the media have.

Reporter:
Mayor, what can you tell us about the investigation into the two police officers who've been suspended? What disciplinary action they may face, number one, and number two, the possibility of any criminal action or a legal action being taken against them.

Mayor Brown:
So as you know, when police Commissioner Lockwood saw the video of officers pushing a man to the ground, he immediately suspended those officers without pay and opened up an internal investigation. That investigation is proceeding. I have asked the police commissioner and his management team to move swiftly in that investigation. And that is certainly Commissioner Lockwood's intention.

Reporter:
Are you calling for them to be fired? Would you like to see them fired?

Mayor Brown:
I am not calling for them to be fired. I want the investigation to be conducted. I don't want to jump ahead of the investigation. It is very important that officers know that they are getting due process.

Reporter 2:
Speaking of which, 57 people resigned from the emergency response team even though they haven't quit the department. But those are the people who crowd manage. There are protests planned, history [inaudible 00:00:02:38] how is the city going to stay safe? Can you say that Buffalo will be safe this weekend?

Mayor Brown:
I can say that Buffalo will be safe this weekend. We have a contingency plan. We always have a contingency plan. I thank Commissioner Lockwood and his management team working with various law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal level. I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for bringing in a large contingent of state police who are embedded with the Buffalo police, working with us to make sure that our community is safe.

Reporter 2:
This has gained international attention. Many people calling for change within the department. Obviously, the police are trained to do what they have to do in a situation like that, but are we looking into different situations? And when to gauge when pushing is appropriate, especially in the case of an elderly person?

Mayor Brown:
We are always looking at our operations and trying to improve how we deliver not only police services, but every service in the city of Buffalo. This is certainly under investigation it's being looked at. But one of the things that the police management has been directing our officers from the beginning of the global pandemic, and from the beginning of the national unrest about police brutality and racial inequity is to use common sense.

Reporter 3:
Mayor, I know you have talked specifically about strategy but, it seems over the past three nights as that curfew struck at 8:00 p.m. each evening things were handled a little bit differently. One night there was a wave of officers with no incident, there was a night where the officers took a knee, and there was last night where there was an extension for the curfew by five minutes, can you explain that? Can you characterize those [crosstalk 00:04:39]?

Mayor Brown:
These are very volatile situations, very fast moving situations. One of the reasons that I imposed a curfew is to protect the residents of our community, to protect peaceful protesters in our community, and to protect property. The procedure is roughly the same with all of these events, with the imposition of the curfew. And that is to give protesters notice that they are approaching the curfew. That they need to start moving, gather their belongings, and they need to begin to leave and go home. They're given a number of warnings, and those that remain after the curfew period begins, then the police officers move in and ask those people to vacate the area.

Reporter 4:
But Mayor, last night, was that man asked to leave last night?

Mayor Brown:
He was asked to leave numerous times last night. He was in that area after the curfew. One of the things that happened before that incident is there were conflicts between protesters. There was a danger of fights breaking out between protesters, and the police felt it was very important to clear that scene for the safety of protesters.

Reporter 4:
Was Martin Gugino one of those protesters who was fighting or perhaps sparking fights? Or, what was his agenda?

Mayor Brown:
I do not know the answer to that. There was that activity in that immediate area during the course of the curfew period approaching. And because of that, the officers felt the situation was more volatile at that time and wanted to clear the protesters or the people that remained after the peaceful protest and remained after the curfew from that area.

Reporter 4:
Can you walk us through what the volatility is though, when a 75-year-old man walks up to the police officers with something in his hand. And obviously we don't know what that was, but what is the volatility [crosstalk 00:06:55]?

Mayor Brown:
I didn't speak in relation to volatility of that individual. I spoke in terms of volatility of the situation. And when a situation is volatile, when there is the potential for violence, when it looks like protesters might start to fight, and people are staying after a curfew that has been called, there is the potential that people can get injured. Again, with the gentleman, the instructions from the police management to our officers are to be careful, protect our residents, protect peaceful protesters, and use common sense.

Reporter 2:
Are there any plans right now to extend the curfew, Mayor, beyond Sunday, or make it start earlier in the night?

Mayor Brown:
We're going to monitor the situation. Right now, the plan is to maintain the curfew until Monday morning at 5:00 AM, but we're going to monitor the situation very closely. We will consult with the Buffalo Police department and other law enforcement partners about the circumstances that we're seeing in the city of Buffalo.

Reporter 5:
This wasn't the only incident that happened this week. Monday night Myles Carter was on Bailey Avenue protesting. It was 15, 20 yards away from a police line that was back in hands of the police, and out of nowhere, seemingly they rushed him, arrested him. He was booked, charged with two misdemeanors. Secondary, why not the response Monday night, looking into the officers, temporarily suspending them, and having an internal investigation there? I mean, the tape was pretty clear. He wasn't doing anything [inaudible 00:08:36].

Mayor Brown:
Pardon me?

Unidentified:
State police.

Mayor Brown:
Those were state police officers. Those were not Buffalo police officers. So obviously the city of Buffalo does not have the ability to take action against state police officers. But what we were informed of is that that individual was an agitator. He was trying to spark up the crowd of people. Again, that was a curfew violation. Those people [crosstalk 00:09:12] pardon me. Again, those people were there into the darkness. Our concern has been what we've seen in the community when it has gotten dark, there is the potential for violence that there's been vandalism. There have been fires set. There has been property vandalized, there have been stores broken into and looted. We wanted to end the potential for those kind of activities to take place. And according to what has been reported to me, that individual was a key and major instigator of people engaging in those kinds of activities.

Reporter 6:
Why should people think that there's going to be impartial investigation when the department first said this man tripped and fell and then [inaudible 00:10:03] afterwords?

Mayor Brown:
Again, I've answered this question a number of times. There was a very fluid situation. A lot of information coming in. Police officers, managers working in the command center. And the initial reports that came in were that he fell. That he fell. Very shortly thereafter, video evidence started coming in that indicated otherwise. As soon as that information came in, police Commissioner Lockwood took immediate action, suspended both of those officers without pay, and immediately opened up an internal affairs investigation. And one of the things that the community has been saying to us during this period of protest, one of the things that the activists are saying, is in situations like that, they want to see a more rapid response from the management of the police department. And the response to the incident was very rapid.

Reporter 6:
Then Mayor, why aren't we hearing directly from the police department, the police commissioner, or Captain Jeff Rinaldo about this? We're hearing instead from the police department [inaudible 00:11:32] be one person who speaks on behalf of both the city of Buffalo and the city of Buffalo Police Department?

Mayor Brown:
Well, actually that is not accurate. Mike DeGeorge is the city's director of communications. He works with many departments on communications issues. But the Buffalo Police Department has Captain Jeff Rinaldo, who is Commissioner Lockwood's chief of staff. That is the principal spokesperson for the Buffalo Police Department. We also have other officers of the Buffalo Police Department that speak for the department on issues.

Reporter 6:
It's interesting that you say that though, because at any police advantage or any other informational point, wherever you need to get information from the Buffalo Police Department, we are instructed to go through Mike DeGeorge to get information, not necessarily to go through Captain Rinaldo. And it's the same thing for the city proper. I mean, Mike also handles, if you want to get information about the city street sweepers, we have to go to DeGeorge to get information about that to, I mean, [crosstalk 00:12:35]

Mayor Brown:
That's true, Ed. We, we haven't thought it was a conflict of interest. We thought the system has worked well. It has been a coordinating sort of system. We initially went to that system out of financial concerns, wanting to be efficient for the taxpayers. So instead of hiring multiple people for that role, hiring one person who could be the director of communications and could play a role of working to facilitate communications with different departments, including our police department.

Reporter 6:
But it's clear that something was amiss last night. And it's clear that something happened and something perhaps was lost in translation. So what is next and where do we go from here?

Mayor Brown:
Well, I don't know if there's any perfect institution or any perfect organization. Any place where anyone works, there are breakdowns from time to time. There are errors that are made. And I will be the first to say that initial communication was a breakdown. It was an error. But it was a desire to respond to media inquiries very quickly, and to provide information to the community very quickly, went with early information that was provided and that information turned out to be inaccurate. And as soon as that was found out, that was corrected. That is one of the reasons at times the Buffalo Police Department waits a little longer to verify the accuracy of the information. But because of the volatility of this situation, because of the emotion of this protest activity, there was a desire to try to get information to the media and to the community quickly. And it turned out initially not being accurate information.

Reporter 7:
In regard to the 57 officers who are from ERT, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said he was disappointed, especially because it means that they might not have seen anything wrong with the incident at hand last night. Do you feel similarly?

Mayor Brown:
Well, I don't know why Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz is commenting on the Buffalo Police Department but I will say this. The Buffalo police department has a contingency plan for the safety of our residents, for the safety of our businesses, and to protect the right of people to peacefully protest. And I really thank all of the law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level, that are working very closely with the Buffalo Police Department.

Reporter 6:
Can you identify the other police officer who was on suspension?

Mayor Brown:
Commissioner?

Unidentified:
Can can we identify him?

Reporter 6:
Or can you give us information? Yeah. We'd love to know who this other officer is. We know who that one officer is based on what his uniform showed in the video. Who is the other officer who is on leave right now? Or unpaid leave?

Unidentified:
I don't have both of the officer's name. They're younger officers. And I heard the name earlier, but I don't have the names with me right now.

Reporter 7:
Is there a way that we can [crosstalk 00:16:09] get that information after this is over? And also, how long have they been on [inaudible 00:16:13]?

Unidentified:
I cannot find all that out in...

Reporter:
Mayor, the group in Niagara Square, was calling for the Buffalo Police Department to be disbanded. Can you comment on that sentiment, and obviously the city [inaudible 00:16:25]

Mayor Brown:
Yeah. I will comment on that sentiment. That is absolutely ridiculous. We're not disbanding the Buffalo Police Department. We're not throwing the city of Buffalo into chaos. When people have an issue, when there's a burglary, when there is a robbery, when there is a domestic incident, when there is a homicide, people call the Buffalo Police Department and they want them to respond. They want safe neighborhoods. They want safe business districts, and they want to live in a community that is safe. So no, we are not disbanding the Buffalo Police Department. And I will say it quite clearly. That is a ridiculous idea.

Unidentified:
Thank you, everybody.

Updates

Correction [10 June 2020]: Edited to correct a misspelling of Myles Carter.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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