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Tolbert to Brown: Your Administration is Fudging Crime Reports

On Friday evening, the patrons of bars and restaurants on Allen Street patios, awash in the live music spilling out the doors of Nietzsche’s and Duke’s Bohemian Grove, were met with a most remarkable sight: two uniformed Buffalo Police officers cheerfully walking the beat.

Not a one-officer car rolling by. Two officers. Together. Walking. On a regular Friday night in Allentown—no street festival or parade, no outdoor concert, no manhunt for a dangerous fugitive.

“Is this really happening?” a bar patron said to the cops. “Is this for real?”

“Election year,” one of the cops said, smiling. He said that cops sometimes asked to do foot patrols in their districts but were generally told no. “You probably won’t see us after the primary,” he added. Of course not, though one could hope that the salutary presence of cops walking the beat might continue through the general election.

Political campaigns often are about creating such alternate realities, more flattering to the incumbent than the true story. The day after the beat cops appeared on Allen Street, Bernie Tolbert, who is challenging Mayor Byron Brown in September’s Democratic primary, held a press conference at his campaign headquarters at Main and Utica Streets to accuse the Brown administration of manipulating the way crimes are reported by police in order to generate more pleasing statistics for the public. To back up the accusation, he presented the transcript of a conversation between three Buffalo Police officers describing how it’s done. (You can listen to audio of the conversation at Arrest numbers are padded with traffic citations, they said. Crimes, or attempted crimes, are downgraded so that they need not be reported to the federal authorities as part of the overall crime rate in the city. “Magic math,” Tolbert called it, and “intentionally skewed.”

Tolbert offered no evidence besides the tape of the anonymous officers discussing the issue. But Donna Berry, a widely respected former chief in the Buffalo Police Department who is now a chair of Tolbert’s campaign, confirmed that the practice existed.

The claim that Buffalo Police administrators manipulate statistics to make their masters in the mayor’s office look better is neither new nor difficult to believe. Certainly it is of a piece with the miraculous appearance, three weeks before a primary election, of two-man foot patrols in a city that seldom sees such things.

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