Buffalo News: "Report urging Sheriff's Office reforms approved by Erie County Legislature"

Date: March 25, 2021

By Sandra Tan | March 25, 2021

The Erie County Legislature adopted a report Thursday recommending numerous Erie County Sheriff's Office reforms to foster diversity and transparency, hold deputies accountable, and improve community outreach and policing.

Both legislators and reform task force members stressed that the report should be a starting point for Erie County leaders.
"This is a step in the right direction, but this in no way should be a one-and-done," said Melody Baker, a statistical consultant on the task force who described how she, a Black woman, was wrongly jailed by suburban police. "We do need to be reconvened, and it does have to be more representative of people who have been most affected by issues with the criminal justice system." 
The task force has recommended better diversity recruitment efforts that rely less on the "friends-and-family plan," and providing more citizen oversight over complaint investigations and the hiring of top administrators, among other changes. 

But Black members of the committee pointed out that while the initial recommendations are worthwhile, the Police Reform Citizen Task Force had a short time to meet, and most of the task force members and public feedback to the task force surveys came from white people living in suburban and rural communities.
They said that going forward, more people who are likely to be the victim of police brutality should have a greater voice in reforms. 
"I think it's important that people are directly impacted by this issue have a greater role in deciding what we do about it," said J. Miles Gresham, a Black committee member, public defender and policy fellow for Partnership for the Public Good.

Legislator Howard Johnson, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said discussion of Sheriff's Office reforms will remain a committee priority.

Read the full article with key report and task force recommendations on the Buffalo News website here.