In just a few moments on a beautiful Buffalo Saturday, mayor candidate Bernie Tolbert will hold a press conference at his campaign headquarters. He will address allegations from Mayor Brown's camp that his statistics on the number of officers employed by the Buffalo Police Department are incorrect. He will also reveal details of a tape of Buffalo Police officers describing questionable crime reporting practices directed by their superiors.
According to the senior officers on the YouTube video, the BPD has been fudging the numbers in an attempt to disguise the true level of violent crime in the City of Buffalo. The officers allege that supervisors routinely instruct officers to reclassify violent crimes as non-violent, therefore rigging broader statistics to make the Mayor and police leadership look better in the public eye.
The officers, with their voices disguised on the audio recording, claim routine traffic tickets are counted as arrests to beef up numbers, especially in high crime areas. They also say violent crimes - like robbery - are downgraded to non-violent offenses, like larceny.
This kind of manipulation can fundamentally change statistics that politicians watch carefully. Brown features a statistical drop in crime and police hires effectively in his opening TV advertisement, now in full rotation on Buffalo stations.
The Tolbert campaign's spin: violent crime isn't down in the city - lying on police reports is up. Coming from the former regional director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, voters have to take this accusation seriously.
Campaign operatives have noted that this kind of information is usually promoted anonymously, even nefariously. Instead, Tolbert stapled his impeccable law enforcement credentials to the video - and that's news.
If this is true, it is damning stuff. But the Mayor's got a million bucks to spend on his reelection - and you can erase just about anything with that kind of money in a citywide campaign.
The video below is worth a few minutes of your weekend. Maybe watch it.