With all the disturbing news about Buffalo police lately, it’s good to be able to say something positive. It’s too bad it’s about a brave cop whom the Police Department apparently mistreated.
Cariol Horne, who is African-American, was fired in 2008 after she tried to stop a white officer she said was choking a suspect during an arrest two years earlier. Anyone who believes that couldn’t have happened hasn’t been following the harrowing tale of suspended officer Robert E. Eloff who, if reports are correct, was a one-man crime wave.
The Horne case and issues surrounding it are a mess, starting with the firing of Horne. Gregory Kwiatkowski, the officer she says was choking a suspect, won a defamation suit against Horne and also won a lawsuit filed by the man who was allegedly choked.
Recently, though, Kwiatkowski, now retired, was indicted on charges that he used unnecessary and excessive force in connection with a separate incident. That indictment has prompted the Buffalo Common Council to consider Horne’s request to be granted pension benefits.
This should be a no-brainer. There are problems in the Buffalo Police Department, as exemplified by the Eloff case, the bribing of officers by a tow-truck operator and, also associated with Eloff, the recently posted video of a gang of officers attacking and severely beating a man outside a bar on Chippewa Street. No charges were filed against that man, Christopher J. Kozak, who was not even arrested; indeed, Eloff later gave him a ride back to his hotel.
In the Horne case, there is reason to believe the department fired the wrong person. Indeed, commenting on the raft of brutality reports coming out of the Police Department, Horne noted that, “If the message they want to give is that an officer is going to be fired if they stop it, then that’s the wrong message.”
Buffalo needs cops who will stand up for the law. If Horne had seen a civilian attacking another person, it would have been her duty to intervene. Why does that change when it’s a police officer who has crossed a line? Did that happen? The evidence is conflicting, but Horne and her supporters haven’t wavered; meanwhile, evidence of police misconduct is mounting.
Horne was fired after 19 years of service, only one year short of what the state requires to obtain pension benefits. Without them, she says, she has faced a “really rough” time, financially, emotionally and physically.
The Common Council should do what it can to rectify this matter and it should insist that the Police Department take appropriate steps to deal with a culture that seems to have given a number of officers reason to believe that they can attack citizens when they want and for whatever reason they like.