Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner has disciplined two of his officers for their behavior during the arrest of 23-year-old Shaolin Moore for loud music on Grace Street on May 31st.
At the same time, the Chief is defending and deeming appropriate the officers’ use of force when they pried Moore out of his SUV and pinned him to the ground, actions criticized by community members.
The arrest was caught on camera by Moore’s passenger, when the two were pulled over for music too loud on Grace Street. The video was posted to social media and viewed thousands of times over the past two weeks.
The Syracuse Police Department used the cell phone video combined with footage taken by the body cameras worn on the uniforms of Syracuse police officers. The department provided these videos as an explanation for its decision.
The body camera footage starts recording 20 seconds before Moore’s passenger began his camera.
Chief Buckner says this 20 seconds show Officer Christopher Buske initiates the traffic stop, exit his police car, approach Moore’s SUV, opens the door and orders him to get out.
From there, both videos show an argument between Officer Buske and Moore, as officers pulls him from the SUV, pin him to the ground and handcuff him.
Chief Bucker says it’s apparent to him, watching the videos, that Moore consistently showed no attempts to comply, further defending the officers.
The officers in question are Christopher Buske, who initiated the traffic stop, argued with the suspect and pulled him out of the vehicle, and Len Brown, who pinned the officer to the ground.
Both Buske and Brown are facing discipline for violating the police department’s “Traffic Enforcement & Administration” guidelines, which lay out how officers are expected to behave during traffic stops.
The chief cites the officers’ use of foul language and Brown’s mocking the suspect’s decision once he was arrested.
A third officer, who is seen in the video taking the passenger’s phone away, and a fourth officer, called in as back-up were not disciplined. As such, ot is NewsChannel 9 policy to not name them in our reporting.
Moore is still facing criminal charges of violating the noise ordinance and resisting arrest.
Written decision provided by the Syracuse Police Department:
SYRACUSE POLICE DEPARTMENT REPORTS ON OUTCOME OF INVESTIGATION
INTO GRACE STREET ARREST
Officers disciplined for violation of demeanor policy; review determines Officers’ actions to bring suspect into custody were necessary and consistent with policies and training
Chief Buckner and Mayor Walsh promise continuing conversation on use of force
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Syracuse Police Department reported the outcome of its investigation into a May 31 arrest on Grace Street. In a press conference, Police Chief Kenton Buckner announced that two Officers have been disciplined for violations of the Department’s demeanor policy. The investigation also determined that the Officers’ actions to bring the suspect into custody were necessary and consistent the Department’s policies and training.
On May 31st, 2019 at 8:22 P.M., Officers conducted a traffic stop of a 2010 Cadillac in the 100 block of Grace Street. The vehicle was playing music which could be heard in excess of 50 feet, which violates City of Syracuse Noise Control Ordinance, Section 40-16 (b), sound reproduction. Upon engaging the driver, Shaolin Moore, 23, of Syracuse, Officers requested that Moore exit the vehicle to conduct a search of his person incident to his lawful arrest for excessively loud music. Moore refused Officers’ requests to exit the vehicle. Officers then had to physically remove Moore from the vehicle and, when Moore resisted arrest, use force to place him into custody. Moore was subsequently arrested and charged with local law sound reproduction and resisting arrest.
Following the arrest, the Department’s internal affairs function, which is housed in the Office of Professional Standards, and Department leadership conducted a comprehensive review of the arrest.
The review included interviews with Mr. Moore and Officers, as well as extensive review of video of the arrest from body worn and personal cameras.
The review concluded that two of the Officers involved in the arrest, Officer Christopher Buske and Officer Leonard Brown, violated the Department’s policy on demeanor in a traffic stop. Additionally, when the suspect failed to comply with the Officers’ lawful requests to leave his vehicle and resisted arrest, the investigation determined that the Officers’ actions were necessary to bring the suspect into custody and were consistent with the Department’s policies and training.
“The use of force in this particular incident is difficult to watch and hard to understand. It has raised many legitimate questions from our community and even our leaders,” said Chief Buckner. “This incident has created an opportunity for a frank discussion about the use of force. Why is it used? When is it OK to use? How much force is appropriate before it infringes on our community’s sacred civil rights?“
Chief Buckner and Mayor Walsh confirmed that the Department expects to hold a public forum on use of force on Friday, June 28. The time and location of the forum will be announced shortly.
“I urge all members of our community to participate in this dialogue,” said Mayor Walsh. “The forum will be the first of many conversations and I am confident they will lead to greater understanding. To all in our community, I pledge this: we can do better. And if we all work together, we will.”
The NAACP released this statement:
The Syracuse Onondaga NAACP commends Chief Kenton Buckner for his review of this unfortunate incident. The arrest of Shaolin Moore on Grace Street did not aid in bridging the gap between members of law enforcement and the community. However, we believe actions taken today are a hopeful step in the right direction.
The NAACP appreciates the transparency the Police Department has exhibited and looks forward to reviewing the body camera video. We also applaud the newly revised use of force policy as it contains several improvements over its prior policy, including encouraging de-escalation.
The image of a young man being dragged out of a car by his neck for a noise ordinance violation is jarring. Watching several officers dogpile on top of him, while one officer used two hands to hold his head to the payment is difficult to observe. While it has been determined the use of force was lawful, the underlying question of whether it was necessary or appropriate on a minor traffic violation has been left out of the equation. Hopefully, the new use of force policy will prompt those questions and produce better answers.
We continue to raise concerns regarding the detainment of the passenger, Yamil Osorio. While we understand the Police Department’s explanation that Mr. Osorio was ordered to put down his phone so that he could be detained without a weapon in his hand, thus far there is no reasonable explanation as to what crime he committed, as the passenger of the car, to be handcuffed. This unfortunately leaves the impression that he was detained and handcuffed for simply being in the car and recording the interaction. In this day and age where citizens feel compelled to record police interactions, the Police Department should avoid issuing orders that leave the impression a person does not have a right to record such interactions.
Incidents like the Grace Street arrest only serve to highlight the need for a diverse well-trained police department to serve and protect. As noted in our June 4, 2019 letter, we do not agree with the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s resolve to end the consent decree governing the hiring practices of the police department. We must all stand together to support the decree and engage in a community effort to rebuild and diversify our police department. We are pleased to join the City in this endeavor.
The NAACP will continue to be a strong voice when it comes to community law enforcement. We will count on Mayor Walsh and Chief Buckner to continue this open dialogue. To the brave men and women who choose to protect and serve the community, we recognize, appreciate and depend on you to continue to work together to create trust. Let us go forward together to a better future.
On June 27th we invite the public to join us at St. Lucy’s Church in Syracuse to hear the NAACP presentation: “Is History Repeating Itself? The Ongoing Civil Rights Struggle In Our Own Backyard.”
Linda Brown-Robinson, President
Syracuse Onondaga NAACP