UPD union criticizes consulting firm following racial profiling investigation

The University Police Department and SUNY Buffalo State are at odds over a recent investigation into racial profiling claims against the department by professional services firm Margolis Healy & Associates.

Representatives from Margolis Healy were on campus last week to conduct an analysis of UPD, which concluded Friday afternoon with an exit meeting where the firm’s preliminary observations were presented to Buffalo State administration and UPD Chief Peter Carey.

The private firm was hired by Buffalo State earlier this semester after accusations of racial profiling were filed against campus officers. Prior investigations by the Office of Equity and Diversity as well as an internal investigation by the University Police Department showed no evidence to these claims.

The weeklong visit included interviews with officers who called into question the professionalism of the representatives as well as the true independence of the investigation.

The investigation prompted a statement Tuesday from the New York State Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents UPD officers, calling into question the conduct of Margolis Healy.

In the statement, the BPA affirmed its support for the officers “against a biased consultant conducting an unprofessional investigation of the department.”

“It is very clear from the accusatory tone, as well as the disrespectful nature and immature nature of the consultant’s employees that they have already concluded our department is somehow dysfunctional, unprofessional and in need of their expensive services,” said Michael J. Mabee, PBA vice president and director of the State University Police Lieutenants Association.

“We are a professional organization providing the campus with the best law enforcement possible,” Mabee continues. “What’s more, we provide equal treatment and protection to every person who spends time on our campus. Any suggestion to the contrary is outrageous, unfounded, and reckless.”

PBA executive director Dan DeFedericis said Margolis Healy was critical of the department before the investigation was completed.

DeFedericis said the firm suggested that the department’s accreditation was insufficient, the use of bulletproof vests and side arms by officers was unnecessary, and that enforcement was heavy-handed.

“They asked an officer why the department doesn’t let DWI suspects off with a warning, and why wouldn’t they call a cab for the suspect,” DeFedericis said. “Interestingly, the consultant happens to offer expensive services that address some of the conclusions they will likely draw in their report. This is a hatchet-job and an effort to up-sell unnecessary services to the college at the expense of taxpayers and campus safety.”

When asked to respond to these claims of unprofessionalism and up-selling, Nicole Twohig, a member of the communications department of Margolis Healy, laughed but said it is the company’s policy not to comment on work they are conducting with clients.

“The university hired us so it is up to them to comment on these claims,” Twohig said.

In an email, Buffalo State interim President Howard Cohen called the PBA’s concerns “completely premature” given that the investigation is still ongoing.

“Margolis-Healey was brought to Buffalo State to assess our police operations against best practices for campus policing,” Cohen said. “The consultants were not here to evaluate any individuals, personnel actions, or specific complaints.”

A final report from Margolis Healy is expected in 30 to 60 days.

Cohen said he will share the recommendations with all faculty, staff, students and members of the University Police Department.

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Twitter: @MikeVProvenzano