A Buffalo police captain who is at the center of a $15 million racial discrimination lawsuit after she imploded into a 20-minute racist rant casting Black men as serial cheaters and inherently criminal has been suspended, department officials confirmed Saturday.
Two Black officers and a clinician on Capt. Amber Beyer’s team filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 21, against the city of Buffalo, its police department and Beyer accusing their boss of creating a hostile work environment.
Reports show the incident is one of many that depict the racist culture in the Buffalo Police Department. Beyer was investigated twice –– May and September–– by internal affairs because of the allegations in the lawsuit but suspended with pay Wednesday in connection to the case, reports show.
The alleged rant occurred in May after Officer Jason Wagstaff showed Beyer a viral video of two white officers in a different jurisdiction pulling over a Black officer in uniform, according to a federal lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star. The Black officer believed he was racially profiled, but Beyer said in the front of the squad that she could see “both sides.”
The captain allegedly went on to say that Black men cheat on their wives more than white men and that all the Black officers she knows are unfaithful. The “entire” Buffalo Police Department knew it, and it was a running joke on the police force, she added.
Beyer also said if she saw a Black man in her predominately white neighborhood, she would be suspicious, the lawsuit alleges. She told the officers that they should understand why a white person could be racist and then lashed out at them for reporting her discriminatory comments to internal affairs.
The captain also purported that white officers get post-traumatic stress from working in Black neighborhoods, but Black officers were seemingly immune and used to violence.
According to court documents, Wagstaff and Officer Katelynn Bolden, who filed the lawsuit, tried to challenge Beyer during her outburst, telling her the video “clearly demonstrated racist intent or motivation by the white officers.”
Bolden told the captain a white man broke into her car, but she does not now assume that all white men are thieves. However, court documents show that did not stop Beyer from continuing her racist tirade.
When Beyer stopped, “there was an awkward atmosphere in the room.” She eventually walked out, but everyone in the room remained silent until Wagstaff said, “That was awkward,” the lawsuit says.
The officers in the room and the other employees in the department’s Behavioral Health Team, which Beyer oversaw, discussed her outburst over the following days until some of them complained to internal affairs. When Beyer found out, she called Bolden and Wagstaff “liars” and “gossipers.” She also defended her remarks, arguing out loud that she did nothing wrong.
Officer Brandon Hawkins, who had worked with Beyer for several years, confronted the captain about her response. He recommended that she apologize instead of complaining about the investigation. However, she brushed off his comments.
Hawkins was one of the officers who filed an internal complaint and one of the plaintiffs in the racial discrimination lawsuit. He also attempted to avoid the captain in the months after her two outbursts. Still, Beyer made it a point to confront Hawkins, arguing that he wasn’t in the room during her rant and should get over it because everyone else did.
Court documents show Beyer fired back the next day, on Sept. 29. She read a Facebook post “in dramatic fashion,” repeatedly yelling the N-word while leaning on Bolden’s desk. Bolden sat beside Hawkins and Wagstaff and near mental health clinician Erica Seymour.
Seymour, who also joined the suit, left the room in tears, according to court documents.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of another revelation about discrimination in the Buffalo Police Department. Officers admitted to openly and frequently using racist language towards civilians during testimony for a suit filed four years ago against the agency’s Strike Force. The lawsuit accused the police unit of disproportionately stopping and ticketing Black motorists.
A 22-year Buffalo Police veteran told lawyers in his deposition, made public in mid-November, officers would often use the “N-word, degrading people.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown condemned the officer’s admissions on Nov. 17, just days before the lawsuit against Beyer was filed.
“There will be disciplinary consequences for any employee who is using discriminatory language of any type whatsoever,” Brown said after transcripts of the depositions were published by Investigative Post.
Seymour resigned from her position on the Behavioral Health Team because of the stress, and Hawkins said he was forced to take sick leave because of the emotional distress. He is unable to sleep and fears of retaliation have exacerbated his blood pressure, the lawsuit says.
“[The incident] has affected their emotional well-being, their career prospects, their future pension prospects,” said attorney Nate McMurray of Advocates for Justice, who is representing Seymour, Bolden and Hawkins.
“The reason people don’t make these claims is they’re putting it all on the line. It’s scary to do that,” he added.
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told Buffalo News on Saturday that Beyer was charged by the department with failure to be courteous and poor judgment.
“Ultimately, an arbitrator will consider the charges and determine guilt or innocence,” Evan said.