A Saturday report from The Daily Beast spotlights Buffalo, New York, and its purported history of protecting police officers from criminal charges. The report comes as two of the city’s police officers face felony assault charges after allegedly shoving 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground and putting him in serious condition. The disturbing video footage of the incident has led to a public outcry against the officers involved in the incident.
“As shocking as this all may be to outsiders, the shoving of demonstrator Martin Gugino and the defiant response of officers to an effort to discipline two of their own is indicative of the state of police affairs in Buffalo,” the report reads.
The publication points to various instances of Buffalo police aggression against demonstrators in recent days and weeks. For example, on Monday, Buffalo police attacked a demonstrator as he was interviewed by a local television station. In addition, last month, a white Buffalo police officer was caught on camera assaulting a black suspect by repeatedly punching him in the face.
According to The Daily Beast, at least four men of color — Wardel “Meech” Davis, Jose Hernandez-Rossy, Rafael “Pito” Rivera, and Marcus Neal — have died from encounters with Buffalo police over the last three years.
In 2012, Wilson Morales was shot and paralyzed by Buffalo police, which ultimately led to a $4.5 million settlement. The officers involved have since been promoted.
Per The Daily Beast, New York’s 50-A law essentially prevents the release of police disciplinary records. According to the publication, the department’s Internal Affairs handles cases of police misconduct, and more often than not, they clear officers of wrongdoing. Specifically, in the last three-year period, Internal Affairs has allegedly cleared officers in 94 percent of cases.
“The city has a human rights commission with subpoena powers that it never uses. It’s got a citizens advisory committee that is largely ignored by elected officials. And the city council’s Police Oversight Committee, headed by a retired cop, only meets a couple of times a year and rarely takes up substantive issues.”
#MartinGugino, the 75 year old man knocked to the ground by police in Buffalo, is a longtime peace activist and volunteer at the Catholic Worker, a movement dedicated to justice and peace, founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day, who also took to the streets to advocate for justice pic.twitter.com/9SxDS0705Y
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) June 6, 2020
As reported by Raw Story, officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe, who were charged with second-degree assault of Gugino on Saturday, both pleaded not guilty and received cheers from Buffalo police officers and firefighters after leaving the courthouse.
Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash recently prepared the Ending Qualified Immunity Act along with some of his House colleagues to end the immunity police officers currently have from civil lawsuits. The bill comes in the wake of George Floyd’s death and amid a stream of social media videos that capture police brutality from the protests and riots across the U.S.
The qualified immunity doctrine currently prevents police from facing civil lawsuits that would require them to pay compensation to victims or grieving families in cases of police misconduct. The doctrine was created by the Supreme Court in 1967 and, according to Amash and others, has made it difficult for holding police liable, even in cases of extreme rights violations.