Attorney General Cuomo Reaches Agreement With The City Of Niagara Falls To Reform Its Police Practices

NEW YORK, NY (November 30, 2010) Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo todayannounced that his Office has entered into an agreement with the City ofNiagara Falls and the Niagara Falls Police Department to create newpolicies to govern police practices in the City in response to claims ofexcessive force and police misconduct.

The agreement specifically requires the City to create policies andprocedures to prevent and respond to allegations of excessive force, toensure that police officers are appropriately trained, and to ensurethat complaints are properly investigated. The agreement also requiresthat prior claims filed by residents be evaluated by an independentpanel.

"Police departments must create and maintain fair and consistentpolicies that treat residents equally and complies with the law," saidAttorney General Cuomo. "There must be clear guidelines, propertraining, and policies and procedures to effectively manage employeeconduct, which this agreement seeks to achieve for all citizens of theCity of Niagara Falls."

The agreement arises out of the Attorney General's investigation intothe police policies and procedures of the City after receivingcomplaints primarily from African-American residents that officersrepeatedly engaged in excessive force. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dysterexpressed his willingness to cooperate with the Attorney General'sinvestigation to reform the policies and procedures and ensureappropriate use of force in all instances, as well as respectful andeffective policing.

The Attorney General's Office conducted an extensive investigation,including a review of policies, practices and procedures regarding theuse of force, training, reporting and accountability; internalinvestigatory files of departmental and citizen complaints; personnelevaluations of officers; dozens of interviews with City residents whohad complained of excessive force; and meetings with advocacy groups andresidents regarding complaints. The Attorney General concluded that thepolice department failed to adequately train, supervise, and investigateofficer conduct, and failed to adequately maintain or implementpolicies, procedures and practices to prevent and remedy excessive forceand race discrimination.

The court-supervised agreement requires the City to reform its policiesto ensure compliance with state and federal laws regarding excessiveforce and discrimination in the conduct of policing. Specifically, theCity must:

  • Revise its use of force policy to incorporate guidelinesregarding all instruments and weapons an officer may be authorized tocarry and appropriate use of each;
  • Ensure that all reports regarding the use of force are completedin a timely manner and appropriately reviewed and investigated bysupervisors to ensure compliance with use of force policy;
  • Collect and maintain data regarding the use of force for use indetecting patterns of improper conduct;
  • Train supervisors and officers on the new use of force policies,procedures for reporting and recording uses of force, cultural diversityand appropriate conduct during citizen encounters;
  • Amend its protocol for internal investigation of complaints ofofficer misconduct to ensure thorough investigations that include cleartimelines and guidelines for investigatory steps and notification ofcomplainants regarding investigation results;
  • Hold periodic public meetings which shall include informationabout the police department and its operations, information about filinga complaint, and an opportunity for citizens to raise concerns aboutpolice conduct; and
  • Participate in arbitration by an independent panel of priorcitizen complaints of excessive force that were submitted to the City orthe Attorney General within the past three years.

Renae Kimble, Niagara County Legislator, applauded the agreement,stating, "There have been widespread concerns in the past regardingthe treatment of City residents by police officers which has harmedrelations between the community and the police in Niagara Falls. I ampleased that this agreement includes real reform to the police policiesand procedures, as well as an opportunity for those harmed by pastpractices to be heard."

Bill Bradberry, President of the Niagara Falls Branch of the NAACP,stated "All city residents should be able to trust police officers tobe fair and effective. The Attorney General's investigation and thisagreement put in place clear, objective policies to prevent unjustifieduses of force and to redress it immediately where it occurs. I commendthe work of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on this very important civilrights issue."

Superintendent John Cella of the Niagara Falls Police Departmentstated: "I am pleased that the City of Niagara Falls and AttorneyGeneral Cuomo have worked together to enhance the services we provide tothe residents of this City. In my time as Superintendent, we have takengreat strides to build relationships with all members of the communitywhile working effectively to keep the City safe. As we continue to lookfor ways to improve, I am confident this agreement will help make theNiagara Falls Police Department one of the finest law enforcementagencies in the State."

This agreement is the second settlement agreement the Attorney Generalhas executed with the City of Niagara Falls. In November 2009, theAttorney General reached an agreement with the City requiring the Cityto create new policies for all City agencies to prevent and addressallegations of racial discrimination and harassment and to further equalemployment opportunities for all residents through a number of efforts,including the hiring of an Equal Employment Officer.

This case is being handled by Alphonso B. David, Special DeputyAttorney General for Civil Rights, Spencer Freedman, Chief Counsel forCivil Rights, and Kayla Gassmann, Assistant Attorney General, of theCivil Rights Bureau.

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