Robert E. Eloff is one of the busiest patrol officers in his Buffalo police district, making more arrests than most and getting some commendations for his work.
In fact, Eloff made so many arrests last year that his court time was the most of any patrol officer in the Central District, and the fourth-most among district patrol officers citywide.
In part because of the arrests he made, and the extra time he spent testifying in court, Eloff’s base pay of $66,000 grew to $106,300 last year. Almost $23,000 of that was court time pay, according to city payroll records.
And while payroll figures for 2014 were not immediately available, a review of this year’s arrests indicates that Eloff was having a busy stretch – when it comes to arrests – this year, as well.
But over the last few months, the Buffalo Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division also began investigating a complaint about Eloff, separate from the ongoing case involving the near-fatal assault of an Air National Guardsman in a bar where Eloff held a part-time job.
Internal Affairs is investigating a complaint that Eloff stopped a woman from making a video recording of him with her cellphone as police were breaking up a fight on West Chippewa Street, near Delaware Avenue, after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16.
“He knocked the phone out of my hand and stomped on it, and he wouldn’t take his foot off my phone, so I actually had to like push his foot off my phone in order to get my phone back,” the woman was quoted telling a WIVB-TV reporter.
“And then he started coming after me, demanding that I hand over my phone, and I wouldn’t. And then I kept going on, and he kept following me, and then he eventually stopped,” she told the television station.
Police sources confirmed the complaint is under investigation by Internal Affairs.
But Eloff and Patrol Officer Adam E. O’Shei face far more serious accusations following the incident in Molly’s Pub on May 11. The two were suspended without pay Tuesday by Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda for what they did – or didn’t do – while working security at Molly’s on Main Street in University Heights on the night William C. Sager Jr. was shoved down a flight of stairs, allegedly by the bar manager.
Off-duty police generally earn around $25 an hour – sometimes more – to work as outside bar security, one bar owner said.
O’Shei and Eloff were believed to have gone inside Molly’s after their shifts as outside bar security ended in the early morning hours of May 11. It was while they were inside the bar, sources have said, that Sager was pushed down the stairs by bar manger Jeffrey J. Basil, and when one of Sager’s friends called 911 to report that his 28-year-old friend was being harassed by the bar manager and two off-duty officers.
Also, Eloff’s handcuffs were placed on Sager after the fall, according to police sources, who also said surveillance tape shows Eloff and Basil going into the bar’s surveillance room just before the surveillance system went dark. Sager suffered a severe brain injury.
Eloff and O’Shei were not immediately available to comment, nor were representatives of the Police Benevolent Association.
Eloff, 39, and O’Shei, 41, both joined the Buffalo Police Department in November 2007. The two were among 12 former Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority police who lost their jobs during 2005 budget cuts but got hired by the Buffalo Police Department two years later.
O’Shei, who is assigned to the department’s Fillmore-Ferry District, seems to have had a relatively quiet career. He earned $86,703 last year, including $2,500 in overtime and $5,500 in court time on top of his $66,000 base pay.
He lived in Buffalo before moving into a $145,000 house in Hamburg that his wife bought in 2010, records show.
Eloff also lived in Buffalo before moving to the suburbs in 2011, when he and his wife bought a $156,000 house in Orchard Park, records show.
Eloff was viewed as a go-getter early in his Buffalo Police Department career.
During his first year on the job, Eloff was mentioned in a 2008 news release issued by the department.
“Four of Buffalo’s newest police officers combined to make four big arrests over the weekend. Just months on the job and the four are credited with arresting four suspects early Saturday morning on Buffalo’s West Side,” the news release said, listing Eloff among the officers.
“The four have obviously ‘hit’ the streets running,” the statement read.
Eloff’s arrests continued to make the newspaper as the years went on.
Later in 2008, he helped catch a paroled killer. In 2012, he helped catch an armed robber. In 2013, Eloff, O’Shei and another officer, Brian J. Britzzalaro, helped rescue residents from a burning building. The three received a citation for their bravery.
More recently, Eloff was cited in March 2014 at a Police Department awards ceremony.
Eloff and O’Shei also were cited in 2004 for their work as Housing Authority officers. O’Shei was cited for helping to disarm a drug dealer, and Eloff for preventing a distraught woman from jumping from the roof of a building.
Friday, Eloff and O’Shei were placed on paid administrative leave while the Police Department examined their actions five days earlier at Molly’s. Tuesday, the two were suspended without pay for their actions – or inaction.