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The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association is backing Democratic mayoral challenger Bernard A. Tolbert in a major boost for a candidacy based significantly on criticism of two-term Mayor Byron W. Brown’s crime-fighting efforts.

The announcement came quietly and without any hoopla as compared with other years when the coveted PBA endorsement was often trumpeted at major press events.

Tolbert’s backing was announced over the weekend by his campaign after it discovered the endorsement on the PBA website. The union also did not issue any statement in conjunction with its new support.

Still, the candidate – a former special agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the FBI who also once ran security for the National Basketball Association – noted with enthusiasm that he is now supported by the area’s largest police union.

“As a former FBI official who worked right here in Buffalo, I know this city. I understand the crime and violence issues plaguing our citizens, and I understand what it takes to deal with these issues,” Tolbert said.

“What I don’t understand is the lack of leadership in City Hall in providing safe neighborhoods for our children, our seniors, all who believe that Buffalo is a good place to live and work. There has got to be a better choice for our community, and I thank the PBA for believing in me as that better choice.”

The development follows a weekend drop of printed material by the Brown campaign that praises the mayor’s record on fighting crime. The slinger boasts that the mayor has reduced crime overall by 20 percent; added 225 police officers; removed more than 11,000 illegal guns from Buffalo streets; and installed 200 surveillance cameras to improve public safety.

Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey said the Brown forces are not surprised by the PBA’s support for their opponent.

“We did not even seek their endorsement this time,” he said. “They endorsed our opponent the last time, and we got over 60 percent of the vote.”

Indeed, union officials convened a highly visible news conference on the steps of City Hall in 2009 to lend their backing to then-Common Council Member Michael P. Kearns of the South District.

The PBA backed Brown in his first run for mayor in 2005. It has demonstrated a history of supporting newcomers for mayor and then changing its mind come re-election time.

The police union backed Anthony M. Masiello during his first of three successful runs for mayor, in 1993, only to abandon him in the 1997 and 2001 elections.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com