Attorney General James’ Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office Releases Report on Use of Force Incident in Niagara Falls
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office (LEMIO) today released its report on a use of force incident involving officers of the Niagara Falls Police Department (NFPD). On May 12, 2022, a civilian complainant filed a complaint with LEMIO following a May 11, 2022 encounter, alleging that NFPD officers used excessive force while arresting her on a disorderly conduct charge outside her home. After a thorough investigation, including interviews with the complainant and involved officers and review of home security camera footage and NFPD policies, LEMIO concluded that Officer Travis Maggard arrested the complainant without probable cause and in retaliation for protected speech, and used excessive force in making the arrest. The LEMIO further concluded that the officers’ supervisor failed to abide by NFPD’s Use of Force Policy and failed to fulfill his supervisory responsibilities under that policy. LEMIO recommends NFPD take disciplinary action, update agency policies, and provide additional training to officers.
Overview of Incident
On May 11, 2022 at approximately 9:15 p.m., the complainant saw NFPD officers arresting an individual near her home. The complainant, dissatisfied with NFPD’s response to prior domestic abuse calls she had made, approached the officers and began to criticize them. After less than 30 seconds of speaking with the officers, the complainant turned away from the officers and began walking towards her home. Officer Maggard followed the complainant. After a brief exchange, Officer Maggard grabbed the complainant by the arm and forced her to the ground. Officer Anisa Mahmood came over to assist Officer Maggard, and the officers handcuffed the complainant and pulled her up.
The incident was captured on the complainant’s home security camera, which LEMIO reviewed as part of the investigation. After the officers transported the complainant to the police station and placed her in a holding cell, the complainant requested medical attention. Before releasing the complainant and taking her to the emergency room, the officers gave her an appearance ticket for disorderly conduct, which can be issued at the scene and does not require an arrest. The disorderly conduct charge was later dismissed.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Following a thorough review of the facts of the matter, LEMIO concluded that Officer Maggard arrested the complainant without probable cause and in retaliation for protected speech, and used excessive force in effecting the arrest. Additionally, Officers Maggard and Mahmood failed to complete Use of Force Reports as required by the NFPD Use of Force Policy, and their supervisor did not take steps to ensure a report was completed. The procedures for reviewing and reporting uses of force such as this incident were implemented as a result of a 2010 consent decree between the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the City of Niagara Falls, and NFPD.
In the report released today, LEMIO recommends that NFPD take appropriate disciplinary action against the officers, as well as additional measures, including:
- Draft and implement a disorderly conduct policy in consultation with OAG to educate officers on the elements of disorderly conduct and under what circumstances officers are authorized to charge individuals with disorderly conduct;
- Draft and implement an appearance ticket policy in consultation with OAG to provide guidance to officers regarding the issuance of appearance tickets and when they should be issued at the scene; and
- Provide additional training to officers on de-escalation, appropriate use of force tactics, the NFPD’s Use of Force Policy, and the law regarding disorderly conduct and appearance tickets.
Since the incident, Officer Mahmood has left NFPD and is now an officer with the Town of Niagara Police Department (TNPD). In addition to NFPD, OAG has also provided a copy of the report to TNPD.
The LEMIO was established by Executive Law 75 for the purpose of increasing public safety, protecting civil liberties and civil rights, ensuring compliance with constitutional protections and local, state, and federal laws, and increasing public confidence in law enforcement. Executive Law 75 authorizes LEMIO to receive and investigate complaints from any source regarding allegations of corruption, fraud, use of excessive force, criminal activity, conflicts of interest, or abuse in any covered agency. LEMIO may then determine whether disciplinary or legal action is warranted and prepare and release a public report.