Council President Darius G. Pridgen wants to learn more about the dismissal of a police officer following a violent arrest more than seven years ago when two officers turned on each other.
“I know personally, for some, it will look like it’s opening up a hornet’s nest,” Pridgen said.
But the circumstances of Cariol Horne’s firing does not sit well with him, Pridgen said.
The Police Department fired Horne in 2008 after a disciplinary proceeding that reviewed her actions on Nov. 1, 2006.
Horne, an African-American, was involved in an on-duty confrontation with a white police officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, who she claimed was choking a suspect during an arrest. She was fired from her job for interfering with Kwiatkowski, sparking outrage from her supporters and highlighting racial divisions on the Buffalo police force and in the community.
The bitterness between Kwiatkowski and Horne and her one-time lawyer, Anthony L. Pendergrass, stems from the 2006 police call during which then-Officer Horne jumped on Kwiatkowski’s back while he was trying to subdue a combative suspect.
Kwiatkowski, now a retired Buffalo police lieutenant after a highly decorated career, has said in past legal proceedings that he was falsely accused punching Horne and brutally beating suspects, including David N. “Neal” Mack, the suspect in the Nov. 1, 2006 incident.
Kwiatkowski subsequently won a defamation suit against Horne.
And Kwiatkowski won vindication – but no damages – in his court battle against Pendergrass. In 2011, State Supreme Court Justice Frederick J. Marshall found that eight statements Pendergrass made about Kwiatkowski – including the remark that Mack “was being choked out by Officer Greg Kwiatkowski” – were defamatory and false.
“Absolutely deny,” Kwiatkowski said in court during the 2011 trial when asked whether he choked Mack.
In a separate State Supreme Court trial in 2012, a jury found no wrongdoing by Kwiatkowski and four other Buffalo police officers in Mack’s arrest. Mack had sued the officers. The jury, made up of five whites and one black, voted, 5-1, in favor of the police officers over Mack. The only juror who sided with Mack was a black female juror.
Kwiatkowski retired as a lieutenant in 2011. He was indicted last week on charges that he used excessive and unnecessary force in an unrelated incident in 2009.
“I want to make sure the city did everything it could to investigate that situation,” Pridgen said of the 2006 incident. “Until I have comfort to know the facts, I’m not at rest with it, especially in light of recent indictments.”
Pridgen wants the city’s Law Department to provide an overview of any disciplinary action taken against Horne and Kwiatkowski and information relating to the officers’ years of service and retirement eligibility.
Pridgen has scheduled the special session to discuss the matter at on July 8 at 1 p.m.
The session will likely be closed to the public because it deals with personnel issues, Pridgen said.
Depending on what lawmakers learn, the information could be turned over to federal authorities, he said.
“You end up with some new information that you didn’t have before,” Pridgen said. “If there’s indeed a pattern of some kind of abuse, we have to look at past actions that dealt with that officer.”
Pridgen’s resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore David A. Rivera and Majority Leader Demone A. Smith.