© 2024 WSKG

601 Gates Road
Vestal, NY 13850

217 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY 14850

FCC Public Files:
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Community activists call for firing of Binghamton police officer who used excessive force

Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Community organizer Terri Weathers and others rallied outside Binghamton City Hall Wednesday, calling for the termination of Officer Brad Kaczynski.

Activists and community advocates are demanding that a Binghamton police officer who knelt on a man’s neck during an arrest last year be fired.

Their calls come after the New York State Attorney General’s Office found that Officer Brad Kaczynski used excessive force during an arrest last year. The AG's office recommended the department discipline Kaczynski, including possibly firing him.

“We, the residents of Binghamton, agree with the attorney general's recommendation that Officer Kaczynski be terminated. This has been our stance since the beginning,” said community organizer Terri Weathers at a rally outside Binghamton City Hall Wednesday.

Weathers stood surrounded by a small group of local activists and community members to demand that the city fire Kaczynski and take disciplinary action against officers who failed to intervene during the arrest.

The city has yet to announce any discipline against Kaczynski, though he was put on administrative duty shortly after the arrest.

It is unclear if Kaczynski remains on administrative duty. Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham declined to comment, and the Binghamton Police Department did not respond to requests for comment. But WIVT News reports Kaczynski has returned to regular duty.

The attorney general’s investigation was released two weeks ago. In a statement shortly after, Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham said that the report “fails to accurately portray the full circumstances of the incident.”

“In the coming days, we will be reviewing this report and all surrounding information and intend to conduct a thoughtful, comprehensive, and thorough evaluation of the report,” Kraham said.

The Binghamton Police Department has 90 days to respond to the attorney general’s report, outlining steps the department has taken to respond to the recommendations.

Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Activists are calling for disciplinary action against officers who did not intervene during the arrest and who were involved in the internal investigation. They are also pushing for all charges against Waddell to be dropped and his family financially compensated.

Calls for change

In the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2023, Kaczynski was off duty but in uniform and working as a security guard for a downtown Binghamton bar, according to the attorney general’s investigation. He and several other officers intervened when several fights broke out after the bars closed.

Kaczynski and another officer arrested and handcuffed Waddell, who police said was involved in the fight. Kaczynski knelt with his right knee and shin on Waddell’s upper back and neck for over a minute, according to the attorney general’s investigation. Waddell shouted that he couldn’t breathe, and bystanders told Kaczynski to stop kneeling on him, according to the report.

The attorney general’s investigation found Kaczynski used excessive force during the arrest. It also found officers did not follow standard arrest procedures by failing to search and secure Waddell before putting him in a police transport van.

The report called a subsequent internal investigation into the arrest flawed. The attorney general’s office said investigators used “leading questions” when interviewing Kaczynski. Other officers did not fully review footage, showed bias in favor of the officers, and treated Waddell’s version of events with “undue skepticism.”

Along with recommending disciplinary action against Kaczynski, including potential termination, the attorney general’s office also said the police department must update its internal affairs policies, and train all staff on use-of-force standards.

During Wednesday’s protest, activists called for the city to discipline officers who failed to intervene during the arrest.

“We demand disciplinary action against the members of the [Binghamton Police Department] whose conduct is documented in the [attorney general’s] report, including the captain responsible for the fraudulent internal investigation,” demonstrator Dara Silberstein said.

They are also calling for all charges against Waddell to be dropped and his family financially compensated. The activists expressed frustration that Attorney General Letitia James and Broome County District Attorney Paul Battisti have not charged Kaczynski for his use of force.

In addition, the group argued the city should pass legislation barring officers from doing private security work in uniform. The group of activists are also calling for the reinstatement of the city’s Human Rights Commission, which investigated discrimination cases and has been effectively defunct since 2016.

Ongoing protests

Waddell’s arrest last year sparked outrage among some community members and activists, as well as a series of protests across the city in response to the arrest. In February, 15 protesters were arrested during a protest at Wegmans in Johnson City. The activists are now calling for those charges to be dismissed.

Weathers, the community organizer, was one of the people arrested that night. She alleged that Johnson City police searched the car of a protester after the arrests at the Wegmans.

In a statement, Johnson City Police Chief Brent Dodge called the allegations “another false claim in a long chain of false claims.”

“We did not search any vehicles at Wegmans, related to the protest or otherwise. Not only did we not have any reason to conduct any searches, the scene was far too dynamic and chaotic,” Dodge wrote.

The protesters arrested at Wegmans have court dates scheduled for early next month. Waddell, who pled not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, also has a court appearance in his case set for June.