Why isn’t Buffalo Police Officer Robert Eloff not in jail?

When it comes to police misconduct, few do it better than Robert Eloff.  The fact that he’s still employed by Buffalo is astonishing, but that may finally be changing.  Currently Eloff is on unpaid leave pending the investigation into an incident at Molly’s Bar in Buffalo.  Bar manager, and Eloff’s off duty employer, Jeffrey Basil is currently facing 1st Degree Assult charges over an altercation that occurred in Molly’s on May 11th.  Little is known about the event, since police are actively investigating, but what is known is not looking good for Eloff.

Witnesses claim that Basil pushed William Sager, Jr. down a flight of stairs.  Sager’s family reports that the doctors believe he was already unconscious before he was pushed, since there is no evidence that Sager tried to protect himself in any way.  It is clear that Sager was unconscious and bleeding from his nose and ears when he landed at the bottom of the staircase.  That’s when Eloff got involved.

Eloff and another officer allegedly dragged Sager out of the bar.  This is a violation of every medical text and concept about what to do for someone with a traumatic head injury.  Eloff should have known better than to move Sager at all.  But it gets worse.  It is reported that Eloff propped him against a wall quite a distance from the bar and then handcuffed him.  Eloff called 911, but didn’t give the bar’s name or location, instead a nearby cross street.  It is important to note that Eloff was under the employment of the bar at the time.  When medical personal arrived, Eloff removed the handcuffs and Sager was rushed to the hospital, where he remains unconscious today.  At some point after Eloff and his partner, also off duty and working for the bar, moved Sager, the video system inside the bar stopped working.  The tapes (reports differ, but it seems to have been some sort of electronic device, and not tapes) were found in the dumpster of a nearby convenience store.

As a result of this incident, Eloff was put on unpaid leave, and cops in Buffalo no longer are allowed to work directly for bars.  The fact that New York state law banned them from working directly for bars, and has for decades, is irrelevant.  Buffalo had allowed off duty officers to work for the bars as long as they stayed outside to handle crowds.  At the time of the assault, both off duty officers were inside the bar.

Being so directly involved with such an assault is bad enough, the fact that Eloff, to the medical detriment of Sager, attempt to cover it up is repulsive.  Eloff also arrested one of Sager’s friends who came to check on him for trespassing, a charge that didn’t stick.  The goal would seem to be clear, Eloff was trying to protect Basil, his employer, by getting Sager as far from the bar as he could before calling for help.  Instead of acting like an officer and preserving the scene of the crime and securing the evidence from the video system, Eloff conspired to try and hide the crime.  There really is no other way to view it.

Christopher Kozac after his run in with Officer Eloff.

Had this been Eloff’s first brush with police misconduct, it might be understandable.  But it isn’t.  Since Eloff’s been on leave, at least four more have come forward with testimony that he used excessive force with them.  Just this week, a man filed notice that he is suing the city of Buffalo over Eloff’s unprovoked attack outside of the Bottom’s Up Bar, where Eloff was again working as security.  This event was back in March 11, 2014.  Video from the event shows Eloff tackling Christopher Kozak right after he left the bar after witnessing an altercation inside.  Eloff and other officers tackled Kozak to the ground, leaving Kozak bloodied and bruised.  And what was this level of force used for?  Absolutely nothing, Kozak was not charged with any crime.  This is how his attorney put it:

“Assault and excessive force, assault battery and excessive force against my client. I can not charge them with false arrest and malicious prosecution because they didn’t even charge my client,” said Cercone.

– Ronald Cercone as reported on WIVB’s Website

Video of the attack can be found here.

On St. Patrick’s Day, just a few days after the beating Kozac suffered, Eloff was implicated in another incident.  A woman was filming police breaking up an altercation during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  She has video of Eloff walking up to her and knocking her phone out of her hand.

Eloff has also been implicated in a double incident from January 2013.  In this incident, Devin Rooney was at one of two bars that are side by side on Elmwood in Buffalo.  He noticed a young black man handcuffed sitting in the entrance to Toros Tapas Bar, the bar next door to the one he was in.  Rooney stepped out on the sidewalk and snapped a photograph of the man, because he suspected that he was being mistreated.  After snapping the picture, Rooney returned to the bar next door, but off duty and again working for the owner of both bars, Eloff followed Rooney into the bar, demanding that he turn over his phone.  When Rooney didn’t comply, Eloff reportedly slammed Rooney’s head into the wall of the bar three times, handcuffed him, and forced him out of the bar and back to Toros.

With all of these incidents, and more coming forward since the assault at Molly’s, the question isn’t why Eloff isn’t working, but why he isn’t in jail.

H/T To Scott Greenfield

15 thoughts on “Why isn’t Buffalo Police Officer Robert Eloff not in jail?

  1. Perhaps he is not in jail because (1) he has not been indicted for a crime, or (2) he has been released pending trial. I know: most people just don’t agree that conviction generally precedes incarceration.

    I find jailing people without indictment or refusing reasonable bail to be infringements on constitutionally guaranteed rights. My heart is quite in favor of throwing the book at cops who break the law, but my head is totally in favor of vindicating the bill of rights. I know that lots of people have a more nuanced view: they favor insisting on constitutional rights for those they favor and denying constitutional rights to those they disfavor. I have a strong repugnance to such nuance.

    • You are of course, absolutely right. He has not been indicted, much less convicted. And you’re right, constitutional laws should apply to everyone.

      But when you have an officer that has repeatedly violated the very policies of his department, and then gets to sit and wait while the department does an investigation on itself,, who else has that right? Only cops. Cops have the luxury of having extra rights that you and I don’t have. We don’t get to do our own investigation, we don’t get to hand pick who investigates us.

      I’ll even admit that BPD has a nasty habit of seriously threatening people who file complaints against them, so much so that the FBI is currently investigating. Yes, the swept so much under the rug, the FBI has taken notice. One of the reasons for this investigation is repeated reports that BPD has deleted people’s Cell Phone Footage of them in action, a direct violation of the 1st Amendment that has been upheld time and again by the Supreme Court.

      Look at it this why, it took less than a month for BPD to take the case of Jeffrey Basil to the grand jury and have an indictment against him for the assault. It’s now been over two months, and BPD has yet to finish the investigation into Eloff. Why? They have the video showing Eloff was inside the bar and working for Basil, a violation of both state law and BPD policy, yet nothing has been done on that, even though the same video was enough to get Basil indicted. They have the video that shows Eloff moved Sager, in direct contradiction to both medical and police ethics, and still have released nothing to a grand jury. Eloff’s partner has testified before the arraignment hearing that Eloff and himself were inside the bar, and had been drinking. Again, directly violating BPD policy and state law.

      I absolutely confirm Eloff’s constitutional rights. Eloff should have the full due process of law. I just don’t understand why due process for the police is so much different than due process for the rest of us.

      Here in Huntsville, we had a police shooting. An off duty and out of county Sheriff’s Deputy recognized a wanted man at a local Wal Mart. The man was wanted on a non-violent warrant and had absolutely no history of violent behavior. The deputy confronted the man, who ran away. The deputy then shot the man in the ass has he fled across the parking lot. It happened on a Tuesday. The deputy was arrested on Friday, charged with Assault. By Monday, he was no longer a deputy.

      While that’s all find and good, much more timely than things are going in Eloff’s case, why did the deputy get four extra days of freedom, when if you or I did the same thing we’d be in jail the day of the shooting?

      It’s all fine and good to argue that everyones rights are equal. But cops have rights you and I don’t enjoy. And that’s why cops like Eloff don’t get charged very often and don’t lose their jobs and extremely rarely go to jail. Right now, it looks like the local deputy is going to get convicted. And I suspect if the local media keeps the pressure on BPD, Eloff will get indicted. But that doesn’t explain why police, on duty or off, get treated so significantly different than you or I.

  2. Michael

    You are deflecting. If what has been alleged is true, then this cop is a violent criminal and should be indicted, tried, and, if found guilty, incarcerated, preferably for a long time in some place like Attica where I am sure he will find many delighted to make his acquaintance. In fact, I would go so far as to say that penalties for violating the law under the color of law should be very severe, say an extra ten years without possibility of parole over the penalty for the underlying violation.

    But you were implying that the guy should be jailed without indictment or trial. Because some jerk with a badge in Alabama pulled out his roscoe in a parking lot and started blazing away is hardly evidence that a different person in a different state committed a crime.

    We either believe in the right to trial, or we don’t. When you say I believe in trials, but …., you are in fact showing that you either do not understand or do not believe in the right to trial I get that you don’t like cops; many do get away with a lot that the average citizen cannot. But standing up for the right to trial for a member of a class you despise is what demonstrates real belief in the right to an individual’s trial in accordance with law.

    • Jeff,
      I honestly don’t think Michael was implying that this cop should be incarcerated summarily; rather it was a rhetorical device as to the variations in treatment afforded LEOs v. common citizens (a distinction that is a fallacy unto itself.)

      If you read Michael’s response he affirms the civil rights of the LEO, and dissavows any implication of abridging them. If you were confused by the story; then fine. If you remain confused after the clarification then I suggest you look at your precepts.

      • Well, there isn’t supposed to be a difference between LEO’s and the common citizen, but the reality is that there is one. Police Union’s around the country have been damn near successful in getting their contracts to say that following a shooting, the officer involved won’t be questioned for two days, to have time to cope with the stress. You go try and shoot someone and ask for two days before you answer.

  3. Your headline was “Why isn’t X in jail?” Since he has not been tried and convicted, there is a very obvious answer unless you were suggesting that he be incarcerated without trial and be denied his rights.

    • And had you or I done anything approaching what he did to any one of the now six people that came forward, we would be charged, indicted, and probably tried. Yet, he gets to walk free. So how is that him being denied his rights? How is that not the rest of us not having the same rights he has?

    • Mike is not deflecting. You’re simply missing his point. This officer has had a pattern of battery for several years, which has been covered up by the BPD. There is actual video evidence of his crimes. Incidents of battery that should have resulted in charges, prosecutions and considering the numbers of violations…jail. So Mike’s inquiry of why this man is not incarcerated is quite reasonable under the circumstances.

      My question is this…when the police decided to take the “Us vs. Them” attitude towards average citizens, did it not occur to them that citizens would return that in kind? That society would begin to see them as the enemy? There was a time when you could call the police if something was wrong. Now…you have to consider if calling them will be worse than the situation you are facing.

      • Having a dog in your house, and wanting to keep the animal alive should weigh heavily on the decision to call them during the break-in; or after the burglar is down and bleeding.

        Remember; big bullets let more blood out and more air in…

  4. No, I am not missing the point. The original question asked why someone who has not been convicted of a crime was not in jail.

    Michael is now making a different and much more cogent point, which he could have made in his original post. How quickly would an ordinary citizen be indicted for the alleged behavior, given the evidence that has now been uncovered? (By the way, it’s not clear when all this information became available.) But an ordinary citizen would not be in jail on the basis of allegations, either bail would have been granted or the accused would have been released on personal recognizance. The right to bail is also a constitutional right. If Michael had intended to make the point that indictment has been at least delayed and perhaps will never occur when there is compelling evidence that crimes have been committed, then his headline should have have been “Why has X not been indicted yet?” Perhaps that is what Michael intended, but it is not what he said.

    The militarization of the police and the growing lawlessness of both police and prosecutors is a disgrace. The solution is not to deny the equal protection of the laws to the police, but that is what the original headline, which has not been revised, implied: jail before indictment.

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