By Sabirah Muhammad
Former police officer Cariol Horne made a heart wrenching observation about the vindictive theft of her pension after rescuing a citizen, Neal Mack, from a potentially fatal choke hold in November of 2006.
“When he (former officer Gregory Kwiatkowski) went to jail, I felt like, now they will believe me, because he went to jail for using unnecessary excessive force. So now I’ll get my pension. Years later, I still don’t have my pension.”
It was more than reasonable to think that a man who admitted to slamming the heads of four handcuffed teens into a police vehicle before tossing them into it, and to repeatedly punching one of them at the police station could be capable of choking a handcuffed Neal Mack – just as she and Neal Mack reported he did. Kwiatkowski’s racist motivation is more than plausible, after he admitted to calling the four Black boys “savage dogs.” Cariol recalls another incident, where Kwiatkowski even choked another officer in anger because that officer wanted to leave his platoon. Are we to believe that he choked another officer, but didn’t choke Neal Mack? It’s clear that the firing of Cariol Horne and the taking of her pension had nothing to do with the truth of the matter.
Fourteen years later, Buffalo’s special brand of racism and brutality is on national display, after Buffalo Police stepped over the bleeding body of an elderly man they’d just pushed to the ground – and kept on walking. They lied when reporting that 75-year old Martin Gugino tripped and fell, just as they lied when protecting Kwiatkowski.
This is the culture that received national exposure this week with high profile CNN anchors. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has also covered Cariol Horne’s story as well as The Washington Post.
Community leader Sam Radford helps to shed light on the precarious position that Black Buffalo has always been in.
“People don’t realize that Buffalo isn’t like other major cities,” he said. “Buffalo is ground zero for racism. This is one of the most segregated cities in the US. In Buffalo, the (police) union will say: this is where the buck stops. We protect our racists here. We have a Sherriff who’s an outright racist, who literally stood in front of City Hall in front of Confederate flags. Every county in Western NY except Buffalo supported Trump. These are the people who teach our kids, police our communities, and provide social services – card carrying Trump supporters.”
Wow. That pretty much says it all. This is Buffalo. This is where Black boys took to wearing hooded sweatshirts because the police hunt them regularly and throw them into freezing cold cells. Can you imagine a circumstance so routine that you begin to dress for the occasion? How many of us have had vehicle issues and been carted off in handcuffs, despite having proof of the right to drive with temporary documents? Sadly, episodes like this are a minor inconvenience. How many Black families have not had a loved one “suicided” in the city’s jail?
There’s no doubt that what’s happening now with nationwide protests against police brutality and outright murder is a reckoning that’s long overdue. In every corner of the nation, police are beating, spraying, tazing, shooting and killing unarmed, peaceful protestors.
There’s no tolerance for an officer like Cariol Horne.
Bro. Sam sums it up well. “We want to right the wrong that was done in 2006. Every day that it’s not dealt with, Cariol and her family continue to suffer unnecessarily and unjustifiably.” Amen. Make it right!
Support for Cariol’s Law
More Than 60 Community Organizations and Small Businesses Issue Public Letter Demanding Action on Cariol’s Law and the Reinstatement of Officer Cariol Horne’s Pension
A wide array of Buffalo-based community organizations and small businesses recently sent a public letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Byron Brown, the Buffalo City Council and the WNY State Delegation demanding immediate passage of Cariol’s Law and the reinstatement of Cariol Horne’s pension.
On November 1, 2006, Officer Horne, a 19-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, intervened to stop a fellow police officer from choking Neal Mack, a handcuffed African American man, during an arrest. Rather than being honored by the Department and the City for her heroic act, she was terminated and has been denied her pension. Mr. Mack credits Officer Horne with saving his life.
“The heart of a community is the mother. Cariol Horne is a mother of five. She has suffered for 14 years for intervening in police abuse. Together we can help to restore her with the passing of Cariol’s Law and payment of her pension for her 20 years of service to the community as a Buffalo Police Officer, and for pain and suffering. Cariol’s Law is about accountability, protection and change. Our community needs a Cariol’s Law,” said Drea D’Nur of Feed Buffalo.
“Cariol’s case has national implications and is being followed closely by advocates and organizers in the movement to end police brutality. I am hopeful that Cariol’s Law will be adopted in Buffalo and beyond as a key strategy for shifting the culture of police departments away from racism and toward accountability,” said Terry Watson of Strategies for Justice, a Pittsburgh-based advocacy organization.
“I have always had broad-based community support for what I did to intervene in the abuse of Neal Mack. The sixty-plus organizations stepping up to demand action, work in neighborhoods all over our city. They are representing the will of the people to see justice in my case, and to prevent abuse in the future,” said Cariol Horne.
Cariol’s Law would:
A. Create a mandatory Duty to Intervene to stop abuse perpetrated by fellow officers.
B. Create punishments for those who do not intervene.
C. Protect officers from retaliation for intervening and ensure that all investigations are housed in an independent body controlled by community representatives, not political appointees.
D. Punish officers who alter reports or omit facts related to abuse and police intervention in abuse.
E. Ensure that violators of Cariol’s Law result in termination, registry reporting, and that they impact departmental funding.
F. Put in place a restorative justice process for intervening officers / whistleblowers.
Elected officials in the region were recently invited to attend a webinar on the components of Cariol’s Law .