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Mobile Response: Gary Teague

“It made my family nervous for a while,” Detective Gary Teague says of his police work, “but I reassure them that I’m trained at what I do, and my awareness is acute. I’m trained to use my instincts, and that keeps me safe.”
Teague is a Detective in the Mobile Response Unit of the Buffalo Police Department and a member of the Police Hostage Team. His most notable case of late was last May’s standoff on the I-190, when Teague stayed in constant contact with an armed man who held a hostage in his car, stopping traffic for nearly two hours. This month will mark Teague’s 29th year in the police force.
Teague grew up in what he describes as a tough neighborhood in the Fillmore/Ferry area of the late 60’s when political activism was high and the results were often misguided messages to “the establishment”.
“I went to college as a political science major. I thought I’d go into law or politics, but I became disenchanted with school,” Teague said. As a young man from a big family, the wait for real work seemed too long and he wanted money in his pocket—right now. Taking a job as a truck driver for a delivery service, he often made stops at city hall. One day a woman he saw frequently on his city hall route stopped him and asked, “Young man, what do you plan to do with your life?”
When he told her he planned to work, period, she asked him to do her a favor and took him downstairs to the civil service office. He reluctantly acquiesced, but when he scored in the top 100 on a police exam and won an interview, he went along with it.
Early in his life as an officer, Teague was recruited to a special task force that was investigating a series of brutal sexual assaults perpetrated on young boys. “They always had female officers interview female sexual assault victims before, so this was new.” He explains that now all officers interview both male and female victims.
They never did catch the serial offender. “This was prior to DNA linking. All we had to work on was connections and modus operandi through statewide and national teletype. When particulars and descriptions turned up we’d get notifications, but it was nothing like today. Now we have faster tracking methods. The Internet completely flipped our capabilities. Now the world is at our fingertips.”
Teague says that the perpetrator was never caught, having either died or been picked up and held for another crime. “Criminals of this nature don’t change,” Teague said, “so the reasoning is that they’re not able to indulge in their crime anymore.”
As Teague’s career focus has changed, so has the Buffalo Police Department. “Over the years, different divisions were phased out, and the precincts were made smaller. The new administration has gone after quality-of-life crimes—things that tear up a neighborhood. Now when there are complaints of drugs in a neighborhood, we flood the area with uniforms. We’re as dedicated to making [the drug dealers’] lives as uncomfortable as they made the neighborhood.”
Teague recalls, “We had an incident recently on the West Side where neighbors were seeing traffic at all hours of the day and night. Shots were fired. We got an order from the judge and hit the house. When we came out with the perps in cuffs, the neighbors came out and applauded. One man said, ‘We thought we were going to have to move.’ People need to realize there’s a unit they can turn to and they shouldn’t be afraid to call 911 directly.”
Aside from drugs, Teague believes that there’s a problem with youth in the community. “The perception is that criminals are getting younger, but it may be that we’re getting older.” Likewise, he says, “Media attention to crime has increased, but we address it as best we can. We’re on the winning edge right now; homicides are down through our focus on gangs.” The city, the schools and different programs through churches and community organizations are working to create opportunities for youth to better spend their time. “We’re talking openly about it, and that’s a good thing,” Teague says.
A lot of the problem stems from the parents in Teague’s opinion. “When you have babies having babies, there is no parent to take charge. Parents used to enforce rules and hold children accountable. I know mine did,” Teague said. “And then there was that community—the networking—there were watchful eyes everywhere and people who would call your house if they saw anything wrong. Residents looked out for each other, but now they tend to stay in.”
For this reason, Teague and his police colleagues hold absentee landlords accountable for a lot of wrong that goes on in neighborhoods. Like one resident in a house next to a drug bust said to Teague, “Now we can reclaim our porches.”
As to police presence, Teague says, “Everything is affected by the economy. The city is trying to go back to having beat police with a high presence, officer friendly. We’re trying to get rid of the buffer between police and community—open trust. We want to have people see police, and not just at negative times. There is a social aspect to police work.”
Teague is made privy to the public perception of police through friends and family. “I have friends who comment on what the police do or don’t do,” he says. “Some have an idea that all we do is sit around and collect pay. I do my job because I have family in this city. I have been a resident of this city all my life. For years I’ve worked with people who have a desire to do their best, putting their heart and soul into solving crimes, turning over every lead. It’s my city; my heart is here—I’m going to work it that way.”
Of the smaller force, Teague says, “As a policeman, I wish we had more. As a citizen, I wish we didn’t need them.”

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