Earlier this week mayoral candidate Betty Jean Grant called for the mandatory use of body cameras for all City of Buffalo police officers — a program that Mayor Byron Brown has long resisted without explanation. But just one day after Grant’s call on social media, Brown announced that officers would be wearing the cameras within three months.
It comes the same week that Buffalo police officers Joseph Acquino and Justin Tedesco gunned down Jose Hernandez-Rossy, a 26 year old Riverside resident.
The officers claimed that Hernandez-Rossy fired a shot at Acquino, but no gun has been recovered from the scene, propting the Attorney General’s office to take over the case. The Attorney General’s office has raised the possibility that the officers ear was damaged as his police vehicle’s
“I endorse the immediate use of Body Cameras for all law enforcement officers in the city of Buffalo, including the officers from the NFTA. A picture does not lie and it will protect the innocent as well as incriminate the guilty,” Grant wrote on social media.
Mayor Brown — a favorite of real estate developers, local attorneys, and those with city contracts — is deeply unpopular among East Side activists and political operatives expect that he will lose the Democratic Primary this September.
Brown has been lambasted for appointing Chief of Police Daniel Derrenda — who lacks a college degree and never rose above the rank of a beat cop before he volunteered on Brown’s 2009 reelection campaign. Observers say that, like many city employees, Derrenda bought his job with campaign contributions and political favors.
They say that has allowed for a perverse culture of incompetence inside the Department, as evidenced by the unjustified killing of Hernandez-Rossy at the hands of poorly trained, poorly educated officers.
For the first time in anyone’s recollection social justice activists are beginning to engage in local electoral politics in a sophisticated, deliberate way.
“Betty Jean Grant is enormously influential in the African American community’s political power structure. She is a leader of the city’s social justice movement and the only elected official on the scene who is willing to speak truth to power,” explains Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux, the founder of Young Black Democrats of Western New York and the region’s highest profile Black Lives Matter advocate.
Grant is expected to earn 80-85% of the vote on the East Side — among both Black and White voters. With a very robust contest for the inner city’s two County Legislature districts running up the turnout, that alone would be enough to win the Mayor’s office.
Brown was once thought to be viable in the Delaware District, but that’s decreasingly the case. The administration’s embrace of a longstanding pay-to-play culture at city hall will turn the Mayor’s biggest asset (an ability to solicit high value contributions) into his biggest liability, as operatives pour over campaign finance disclosures and records of city contracts.
In recent weeks, operatives have pledged to spotlight a donor’s business dealings with the city for those who contributes more than $500 to Brown’s reelection effort.
“Voters are only willing to avert their gaze from City Hall’s culture of corruption for so long. They begin to sour to it,” explains a former elected official from North Buffalo.
It is widely expected that Brown and his chief political operative, Maurice Garner, are planning to smear Grant. But observers from across the political spectrum say that such a move will backfire badly and end Brown’s political career. It ended the political careers of G. Steven Pigeon and Steve Casey.