Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda is prohibiting city police officers from working off-duty jobs outside local bars and entertainment facilities.
The commissioner rescinded the off-duty work permits of 20 officers in the wake of the May 11 incident at Molly’s Pub in which a patron was assaulted and critically injured while two off-duty officers were on the premises after completing a shift working outside security at the University heights bar.
The outside work has been allowed for city officers since 1998.
Police Officers Robert E. Eloff and Adam E. O’Shei have been suspended without pay while the incident at the Main Street bar is investigated. The victim, William C. Sagar Jr., 28, remains in a coma in Erie County Medical Center, and bar manager Jeffrey J. Basil, 35, of Amherst, is jailed on a charge of first-degree assault and facing likely indictment for the incident.
Derenda said he and his senior staff have chosen to take a “proactive” approach to the issue and also are working with federal law enforcement officials in their investigation of incidents involving Buffalo police officers.
Buffalo officers have never been allowed to work off-duty jobs inside bars, and now their privileges for outdoor security work at such places is rescinded, Derenda said. Officers can continue to perform off-duty security work at sports facilities and other community establishments, he added.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said he supports Derenda’s decision, stressing that while he is certain that “the vast majority of Buffalo police officers are professional, the very few that are not will continue to be aggressively punished and prosecuted if necessary.”
The mayor noted that Molly’s has been shut down in the wake of the attack on Sager, and he lauded police investigators for the quick arrest in the attack on the Air National Guardsman.
In a related matter, Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen said he would like to revive the Council’s dormant Police Oversight Committee.
Pridgen said Thursday that the panel should look into police officer training, outside employment of officers and laws on use of force.
A resolution from Pridgen, filed Thursday, calls for the reinstatement of the panel to review local laws “to ensure that they are in compliance with state laws and New York State Liquor Authority rules.”
In interviews earlier this week, Pridgen and other Council members said they believed that police oversight was already in place through the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division and the FBI. They said they didn’t believe that the committee was the right vehicle to examine the circumstances surrounding two troubling incidents involving city police officers in recent weeks.
Pridgen’s office has received several calls from constituents asking the Council to at least look at existing laws and whether they are being enforced, he said.
The Council president said that fostering communication between the public and police is essential for solving crimes and that he wants to strengthen that relationship.
“I don’t want to see a witch hunt against the entire Police Department because of the actions of a few,” he told The Buffalo News.
The oversight panel hasn’t met in years, but Pridgen could appoint members and set meeting times. He said he would like to get the support of his colleagues first.
Pridgen said that he would select a chairman from among the lawmakers who volunteer for the committee and that he would like the panel to begin meeting in the next week.
In addition to the incident at Molly’s, in the last month, a videotape surfaced that appears to show a police officer beating a man in handcuffs. John A. Cirulli, the Buffalo police officer accused of beating the handcuffed suspect, is expected to take a plea deal soon that will force him to resign from the department.
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