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Buffalo Common Council Asks Attorney General To Revisit Cariol Horne's Case

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In 2008, a police officer named Cariol Horne was fired by the Buffalo Police Department. The reason - she had jumped on the back of a white cop - one of her colleagues - in order to stop him from holding a black man in a chokehold. When Horne was fired, she was just one year away from securing her pension. The department claimed she had put her fellow officers at risk. And now the Buffalo Common Council is asking the New York state attorney general to take another look at her case. Darius Pridgen is the president of the Buffalo Common Council, and he joins us now.

Welcome.

DARIUS PRIDGEN: Thank you.

CHANG: So I understand that you have asked for a meeting with Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, about this case. Have you heard anything back from her office yet?

PRIDGEN: Yeah. First of all, thank you for having me on. And yes, the attorney general's office did call today. We actually asked for an investigation into the matter. They called today to get more specifics on exactly what the Common Council unanimously approved.

CHANG: OK. So tell me - what do you want to see ultimately happen for Cariol Horne?

PRIDGEN: You know, I think ultimately, especially as we look at, you know, the climate and atmosphere right now and the attention, is that she should at least be able to receive her pension and the year that she lost as a police officer so that she can, at the least, be able to receive her pension.

CHANG: OK. Now, this isn't - this incident that we're talking about - it happened back in 2006. Horne was ultimately fired two years later in 2008. Why did it take 12 years to push for a review of this case?

PRIDGEN: Well, we've been asking for - as a matter of fact, I was looking in my office today. I've only been elected about 10 years. But right when I began my term, we began asking and becoming more involved with her case. The attorney general - former attorney general had looked at it at the request of the mayor and also the comptroller. Those two persons came back with no findings or that she was fired rightfully, at least as far as the previous attorney general. We now have a different attorney general. We now have a different atmosphere in this country. And so it isn't a 13-year - now we're looking at it. We've been trying to get attention to this for the last 13 years.

CHANG: And I understand that your council passed two other resolutions related to the Buffalo Police Department, one asking the police department to train officers on a duty to intervene. Tell us what that means.

PRIDGEN: Yeah. So we had on our books a duty-to-intervene policy, which basically says that if an officer sees someone in distress, regardless of whether it is by a fellow officer, they have a duty to intervene and - just as Cariol did. And because, more than likely, that was not on the books as a policy then, Cariol suffered the ultimate fate, and that is the loss of her job. And so now we're saying, train these officers. They should know - something happens, regardless of whether it is one of your colleagues, stop and help. Your job is not just to protect. The job is to serve.

CHANG: And you mentioned that this policy is now officially on the books. So how much have you been seeing the police department actually following this policy now?

PRIDGEN: Well, you know, I mean, that's hard to say. You know, we have had an incident here recently in the city of Buffalo of a 75-year-old man - you can see in the video that has gone around the world - an officer who seems to want to help. But another policy or at least procedure said that when you're in a crowd-control situation, keep moving forward. And so that's why we're asking, clarify these policies so that these police officers are not caught in a Catch-22.

CHANG: That is Darius Pridgen. He is the president of the Buffalo Common Council.

Thank you very much for joining us today.

PRIDGEN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.