What’s With the Erie County Sheriff’s Department?

By Victory Ross

What’s with the Erie County Sheriff’s Dept?

“Creo que hay tantas facetas de la ignorancia en nuestra sociedad que tienen que ser corregidas si realmente vamos a tener una sociedad democrática y una sociedad que sea justa y que respete a todos los miembros de esta sociedad, independientemente de quiénes sean, de qué color sean, qué orientación sexual tengan o qué género. ya sabes, resulta que lo son.”

Dolores Huerta

“There’s just so many facets, I think, of the ignorance in our society that have to be corrected if we’re really going to have a democratic society and a society that is just and that respects all of the members of this society regardless of who they are, what color they may be, what sexual orientation that they have or what gender, you know, they happen to be.”

      Dolores Huerta 

For Erie County to have a truly just and democratic society, the way people are treated by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department must change.

The Metcalf family was awarded $95 Million in a judgment against Erie County and 5 deputies in the Sheriff’s Department. Richard Metcalf was in an extreme mental health break-down while in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, when he suffocated by deputies’ improper use of restraint devices (they kept him facedown with both a spit mask and a pillowcase on his head). He was taken to Erie County Medical Center where he was taken off life support two days later. 

Sheriff John Garcia has insisted that the Erie County Holding Center (ECHC) is much different now that it was in 2012 when Richard Metcalf’s death happened. Sheriff Howard was in office from 2005 to 2021, during which period there were over 30 deaths in the Sheriff’s custody. 

However, is the current Sheriff’s Administration different from the previous one? 

Upon his election, Sheriff Garcia hired the former sheriff as a clerk (at an annual salary of $46K), with his responsibilities to include reviewing pistol permit applications. Tim Howard’s previous refusal to enforce NYS’s gun control SAFE Act made this assignment particularly troubling. 

We grieve that at least six inmates have died in custody since Sheriff Garcia took over in 2022.  We say at least, because the August 2023 death of Shaun Humphreys went under the radar until his daughter received a death certificate saying her father’s death was “a homicide due to asphyxia.” The Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigation is now conducting an investigation. 

Inadequate oversight was also clear when William Hager died in November 2023 from drinking too much water. 

While Sheriff Garcia gets the benefit of the doubt from legislators and some media, information continues to be deficient. Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank, sued the department after it refused their 7-month-old FOI request. Garcia said “They sue over everything,” despite the suit being PPG’s first since its 2007 inception (Investigative Post). 

We need the EC Sheriff’s Department to respect the lives and rights of those in its custody, the law, and the truth. Stay tuned for ways to help! Si, se puede!! Juntos!!

Tags: ,

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment