Story by Myles Carter – IG @myles4sheriff Photo by @TRuiNKMedia
Mother’s Day just passed, and it is the time that we honor the women in our lives for the sacrifices they’ve made. There’s no shortage of sacrifice that has been made by Cariol Horne, a native of Buffalo and a mother to the community. It’s been over a year since NY Supreme Court Judge Dennis Ward vacated the courts previous ruling in the case of the fired Buffalo Police Officer, but she has yet to receive her pension and back pay. Horne has spent years working on the streets of Buffalo, two decades as a police officer and more than a decade as an activist working to overturn the very system that waged war against her.
It was in 2006 that Horne arrived at the scene at Neal Mack’s home, responding to an officer in distress call. What she found was the complete opposite. Horne entered the home to find Officer Gregory Kwiatkowski repeatedly punching Mack in the face. She was able to usher Kwiatkowski and Mack outside where Kwiatkowski then placed Mack in a chokehold while handcuffed. Horne heard Mack cry out “I can’t breathe,” the very same words that shook the nation with the murders of George Floyd and Eric Garner, except there was no cell phone footage or bodycam to capture this moment. Heroically, Horne intervened to save the life of a Black man. Kwiatkowski ultimately ended up assaulting Horne in the process.
It’s what came next that shook Horne to her core and made her realize that doing the right thing, as a police officer, was not the right thing for your career. Following the events of that evening, Horne did what she was supposed to do by filing her complaints and grievances. After multiple hearings and inner department meetings, Horne and the department appeared before an arbitrator where the recommendation was made to terminate Horne.
She took the department to court to challenge their decision, and the judge ruled to stay the termination. From there, Kwiatkowski filed a defamation suit against Horne and was awarded a default judgement of over $65,000. Horne asserts she was never notified of the court date, and the ruling was made in her absence.
Cariol Horne dominated national headlines in 2021 when, after her 13-year fight to win her pension, NY Supreme Court Judge Ward vacated the courts previous ruling awarding Horne nearly two years of service that qualified her for back pay and access to her pension.
Upon the news, Kwiatkowski’s defamation suit, that Horne was unable to pay , was renewed and it was adjusted for interest at over $44,000 – bringing her total amount owed to Kwiatkowski to be over $100,000 ($20,000 has been paid)! Today, Kwiatkowski is no longer a Police officer after he served four months of jail time and an additional year of supervised release for his conviction of excessive force and the violation of civil rights from an unrelated case. The details of the case are disturbing, as it was found that he referred to a group of four Black teenagers as “savage dogs” as he accused them of “shooting BB guns at White kids,” prior to assaulting them one by one and slamming their heads into the police car.
Horne on the other hand, has a clean disciplinary record and has never been suspended. She uses her platform to continue to advocate for the very real issues of police brutality and mass incarceration.
Perhaps the most profound and far reaching impact of her advocacy has been the passage of Cariol’s Law, Duty to Intervene.
“The one thing that the Blue Wall couldn’t do was silence my voice,” states Cariol. “ I wanted to create solutions to break through that blue wall of silence. In 2016, I wrote Cariol’s Law. I shared with Terry Watson, founder of Strategies for Justice, who added to it and through the work of advocates, activists and our politician, it was adopted as Law in September of 2020 and signed by the Mayor, almost a month later, into law in the City of Buffalo. It wasn’t fully adopted as written, but it is a step forward. The same city that fired me for intervening in 2006, now has a law called Cariol’s Law, Duty to Intervene.”
It is no secret that Horne’s heroism and the sacrifices she has made to continue to put truth and justice at the forefront has cast a spotlight on the very real issues that exist within Buffalo’s police department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. When someone in our community is faced with a case of brutality, or a family loses a loved one in the depths of the holding center, Horne is the mother who receives that call. She coordinates rallies, press conferences and has been the figure head for countless seminars on addressing the violence in our communities.
While Horne won the battle to vacate the courts prior ruling on her termination, she still faces very real financial challenges. Horne’s home needs substantial repair to ensure she has a safe functioning home environment for herself and family. Additionally, Horne’s youngest son, a high school teenager, is facing felony charges in a case where the lead investigator, Officer Krug, was a codefendant in Kwiatkowski’s police brutality case and she must rely on a public defender because she cannot afford an attorney. Not to mention, Horne’s family continues to grow with the birth of another grandchild just last month.
In December 2021 Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.7209/A.8026) which grants Horne retroactive access to her pension stating, “New York owes Cariol Horne a debt of gratitude for her service to the Buffalo community and for her bravery in a moment of crisis.”
Several calls have been made to the office of Buffalo Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams by Horne and others, to help bring resolution to her missing funds. Horne is awaiting correspondence from Miller-Williams directly, as other communications have been forwarded to city payroll or the state pension fund with no resolution.
The Muslim society of Buffalo has partnered with the crowd funding platform Launch Good to fundraise for Horne to help alleviate some of the financial burden Horne is faced with. When questioned about the fundraiser, a spokesperson for the Mosque is quoted “as a Muslim, it’s our responsibility to stand up for the oppressed. Our Sister Cariol is in this position because she was courageous, and we see it as our responsibility to help provide for her in any way that we can.”
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