Lawsuit: Police captain went on racist ‘rant’
Two Black officers and a mental health clinician say their supervisor with Buffalo police made a series of outrageous, derogatory remarks at a May meeting and later kept it up with extensive use of the N word. By Geoff Kelly A Buffalo police captain told officers she supervised that Black cops were more likely to cheat on their wives than white cops.
The captain said she’d be suspicious if she saw a Black man in her neighborhood.
She claimed white police officers suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from working in Black neighborhoods, but Black officers did not, because they were more accustomed to violent crime.
The captain told Black officers they should try to understand how the criminality of Black people justified some racism.
These claims are detailed in a lawsuit filed Monday evening in federal court by two Buffalo police officers and a civilian mental health clinician. The target of the lawsuit is Captain Amber Beyer, who oversees the department’s Behavioral Health Team , a unit created two years ago to respond to people suffering mental health crises. The City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Police Department are also named as defendants.
The complainants are Officer Brandon Hawkins, a 15-year veteran of the department; Officer Katelynn Bolden, a six-year veteran; and mental health clinician Erica Seymour, who was employed by an agency contracted by the department to provide mental health services.
According to the lawsuit, Beyer offered these opinions on May 2 in the Behavioral Health Team’s office in police headquarters on Court Street.
That day, a member of the team, Officer Jason Wagstaff, showed Beyer “a viral video … of an incident in which two white police officers in a different jurisdiction racially profiled and pulled over a Black officer (who was wearing his uniform).”
After watching the video, Beyer said she saw “both sides” of the incident, according to the lawsuit. Officers Bolden and Wagstaff pushed back, saying the video demonstrated the white officers’ “racist intent.”
Beyer responded with a 20-minute “rant,” according to the lawsuit, in which she made the claims about Black criminality and marital infidelity.
After asserting that Black men cheat on their wives more often than White men, she asked for affirmation from a white mental health clinician, according to the lawsuit. The clinician did not respond.
Beyer added that all the Black officers she knew were unfaithful and their infidelity “was a running joke” in the department.
She said it was understandable that a white person who had been robbed by a Black person would have racist views.
An uncomfortable silence fell over the room. Eventually Beyer walked out.
“That was awkward,” Wagstaff said, according to the complaint.
This is the second allegation of racism made against the Buffalo police in the past week.
Last Monday, Investigative Post reported on a deposition by a retired lieutenant who claimed “[p]robably every officer” has used the “N word” while interacting with Black citizens, and that he had done so himself. The deposition is part of an ongoing federal lawsuit alleging racially discriminatory and unconstitutional practices by Buffalo police.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Monday are represented by attorney Nate McMurray of Advocates for Justice . The lawsuit seeks $15 million in damages, as well as attorney fees.
“[The incident] has affected their emotional well-being, their career prospects, their future pension prospects,” McMurray said.
“If you calculate these things, the damage claim is justified,” he said, adding that those financial considerations also discourage police officers from speaking out.
“The reason people don’t make these claims is they’re putting it all on the line. It’s scary to do that.”
Pressure and retaliation
In the days that followed the May 2 incident, several of those present for Beyer’s “rant” discussed the incident via text messages, according to the lawsuit.
At least one officer filed a complaint with the department’s Internal Affairs Division, in accordance with the department’s policy governing allegations of racist language or misbehavior in its ranks. An investigation was opened.
This rankled Beyer, according to the lawsuit.
On May 11, according to the complaint, she told members of the Behavioral Health Team that Wagstaff and Bolden were “liars” and “gossips.” She said they should have brought their issues to her directly. She insisted she had done nothing wrong and the investigation would go nowhere.
She was so aggravated and loud in her own defense that a lieutenant in a nearby office emerged twice to tell her to stop discussing a matter subject to an ongoing investigation. Beyer ordered the lieutenant to “get out” of the team’s room, according to the lawsuit.
Hawkins told Beyer she should apologize, instead of complaining about the investigation. He told her he was one of the officers who complained about her remarks.
Indeed, Beyer’s remarks — and her subsequent defense of them — made Hawkins so uncomfortable that he skipped an out-of-town conference rather than stay in the same hotel as his team captain.
On September 28, Beyer demanded that Hawkins “tell me to my face” why he’d skipped the conference.
“I do not feel comfortable around you. I think what you said is racist,” Hawkins replied. The next day, according to the lawsuit, Beyer printed out the text of a Facebook post “by a Buffalo citizen who was mentally unwell and who she wanted the team to check on.”
From the lawsuit:
48. …She began to read the Facebook post in dramatic fashion, repeatedly yelling the word “Niggas.” She was leaning on plaintiff Bolden’s desk beside Plaintiff Officer Hawkins and Officer Wagstaff (where ¾ of the Black Officers from that team sit).
49. The entire Behavioral Health Team was disturbed by this. Plaintiff Officer Bolden spoke out, “Can you please say the ‘N Word’ instead?”
50. Defendant Captain Beyer then said with sarcasm, “I’m just reading the post.”
51. Of note, she never read a post like that (or any other) before the team before.
Seymour — the mental health clinician who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit — “left the room in tears,” according to the lawsuit. She later quit her job “because of the stress caused by the hostile working environment.”
No conclusion to Internal Affairs probe
Investigative Post asked Beyer to comment for this story via her departmental email address and her personal Facebook page. She did not respond.
Investigative Post asked Michael DeGeorge, spokesperson for both the police department and Mayor Byron Brown, for the results of the Internal Affair investigation into Beyer’s conduct. DeGeorge replied via text message that the department was “aware of the complaint and have been investigating through the Internal Affairs Division.”
McMurray, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Investigative Post his clients had not been notified of a determination by Internal Affairs regarding their complaint — usually a sign that an inquiry is still open.
Beyer was tapped in September 2020 to head the Behavioral Health Team, the formation of which was part of a package of police reforms presented by the Brown administration in response to that summer’s protests against police misconduct, especially against people of color.
The team consists of six police officers, two lieutenants, and three mental health clinicians employed by a private contractor, Endeavor Health Services . The team responds to calls involving people experiencing mental health crises, working to defuse what are often volatile encounters.
The program has been lauded as a success by city officials.
“What we try to do is engage before somebody gets into a point where they are in a mental health crisis … The further we can engage and make sure the people are up to date with their counseling and taking their medication, patient services, getting where they need to go. And that’s what the Behavioral Health Team does,” Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said during a March town hall meeting on police matters, according to a Buffalo News report .
In April Gramaglia lobbied the Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee to use federal COVID relied money to expand the team, so it would be available for calls seven days a week and into nighttime hours. It currently is on-call weekdays only.
DeGeorge did not respond when asked if the commissioner or the mayor would like to comment on the allegations against Beyer.
Another pending lawsuit
Prior to being put in charge of the new unit, Beyer was in charge of crisis intervention training for the department. She joined the force in 2008, the same year as Hawkins, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Monday night. Before joining the force, the two worked together for the Federal Transportation Administration.
Beyer made $112,095 in 2021, according to state payroll records, and is slated to earn $135,122 this year. She identifies as “Hispanic or Latino” in a database of city employees provided to Investigative Post by the city comptroller’s office.
She is married to John Beyer, a Buffalo police lieutenant. Both Beyers are on the Erie County District Attorney’s “Brady-Giglio list” of officers whose disciplinary records might undermine their credibility when they testify in court.
John Beyer landed on the list at least in part because of his involvement in an altercation between a detainee in the city lockup and his former partner, Officer Joseph Hassett . Hassett was charged with misdemeanor assault, but found not guilty.
Amber Beyer made the DA’s Brady-Giglio list at least in part because she was observed coaching her husband as he gave testimony in Hassett’s trial, according to a law enforcement source.
Both Beyers are defendants in an ongoing federal lawsuit , along with Officer Richard Hy , a.k.a. “The Angry Cop.”
Gregory Ramos, currently incarcerated in a state facility in Malone, filed a lawsuit in 2018 accusing Hy and John Beyer of beating him three years earlier during what he alleged was a “false arrest.” When Amber Beyer arrived on the scene, Ramos told her his face was injured from the beating. She laughed and told him “if my eyeball falls out she would tape it to my face and that would be the only medical attention I would receive,” according to Ramos’s complaint.
Ramos said Hy and John Beyer kept him handcuffed in the back of a patrol car “for 3 to 4 hours,” before driving him to Central Booking, where the officers claimed his injuries were the result of a car accident.
All three officers were with B District when the incident occurred. Court records reveal no other lawsuits against Amber Beyer.
Last Thursday, Gramaglia and Brown responded to the story Investigative Post broke regarding the use of racist language in the police department. Both questioned the sworn testimony of the retired lieutenant, Thomas Whelan, and defended the department, according to a Buffalo News report . Gramaglia said in his 28 years on the force he’d never heard officers use the racist language Whelan described in his deposition.
“If and when [racially discriminatory language] is brought to our attention, we take it seriously,” Brown told The News. “There will be disciplinary consequences for any employee who is using discriminatory language of any type whatsoever.”
McMurray, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said his clients “want what’s best for the police force and what’s best for the city.
“When you become part of the police force, it’s not just a job — it’s brotherhood or sisterhood. The social contract my clients had with the Buffalo Police Department has been violated.”
posted 2 months ago - November 22, 2022