Testimony: Buffalo cops use of N word not uncommon

Geoff Kelly of the Investigative Post reported on depositions of five officers in NCLEJ’s checkpoints lawsuit which reveal use of degrading language and little supervision or discipline in Strike Force and Housing units. Read full article here.

A retired Buffalo police lieutenant testified in April he’d heard his colleagues use racist epithets when dealing with Black members of the public. 

“Probably every officer” had used the “N word” at one point or another, according to retired Lt. Thomas Whelan, a former supervisor with the department’s controversial Strike Force unit. 

He admitted he’d used it himself.

“Have I ever said it?” Whelan said in a deposition for a lawsuit accusing the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Police Department of racially discriminatory policing.

“Yes, I have, obviously. I’m a human being.”

Racist language. 

Loose oversight and discipline. 

Little to no training on how to conduct an effective and legal traffic safety checkpoint.

Those are takeaways from hundreds of pages of testimony given by Whelan and four other retired Buffalo police officers, all former members of the Buffalo Police Department’s now disbanded Strike Force and Housing units. Investigative Post obtained transcripts of the dispositions from lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

The five officers were deposed this spring and summer as part of a federal civil lawsuit challenging the department’s checkpoint program, which was created by Mayor Byron Brown’s administration in 2012 and operated largely by those units.

According to the lawsuit, the program disproportionately subjected Blacks and other citizens of color to “baseless traffic stops and exploitative ticketing,” which yielded a spike in revenue for the cash-strapped city. The stops were frequently used as pretexts for searching and impounding vehicles, as well as arresting drivers and passengers, the lawsuit claimed.