The New York Attorney General’s Office has launched two investigations into the Buffalo Police Department amid allegations the agency is conducting more police checkpoints in nonwhite neighborhoods.
The first investigation stems from a complaint filed by Black Lives Matter-Buffalo accusing the department of “unconstitutional policing,” according to local station WGRZ. In a letter to the City of Buffalo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman highlighted the group’s claims, which stated that BPD has engaged in a pattern of policing that “disproportionately affects people of color.”
“Among other allegations, … the BPD has a practice of conducting unconstitutional vehicle checkpoints and unconstitutional, suspicionless trespass enforcement in and around Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority buildings,” the letter added, mentioning the crux of the second probe.
In August, the local BLM chapter and several other groups filed a federal lawsuit calling on the state to investigate what they considered unjust practices by law enforcement, such as “unconstitutional searches and seizures.” The complaint alleged that Black Americans were more often the target of the city’s vehicle checkpoints.
The BPD now has until Dec. 20, to provide the state with guidelines given to officers about to how to conduct police checkpoints, the protocols for selecting said checkpoint locations, and the reason for every checkpoint since January 2015, WIVB 4 reported.
“What we really need to do is to get them to stop the checkpoints. I think this is one step toward that process,” John Washington with BLM-Buffalo told the station. “I am cautiously optimistic. You know the Buffalo police department has been under investigation federally, on a state level before and nothing has happened so I’m hoping that this is the time police are actually held accountable.”
The department has refuted the groups’ claims and maintains that it is in no way discriminatory.
“As we said before the complaint was filed, any allegation of discrimination is completely false,” BPD spokesperson Michael DeGeorge said in a statement. “Since that complaint is currently being litigated, any further comment on this matter would be inappropriate at this time.”