John Garcia describes vision for upgrading Erie County Sheriff's Office – Buffalo News

John Garcia talks with Tammy Norris as he campaigns at Harlem Road Community Center in Amherst, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Erie County sheriff candidate John C. Garcia said Thursday he would transform the Sheriff’s Office in six key areas, though the current leadership team already focuses on each to a degree.
At a news conference outside his campaign’s headquarters in South Buffalo, the Republican candidate elaborated the most on the need to house and treat mentally ill defendants outside the county’s jails, or at least stabilize them in a clinical setting before placing them in a cell.
“Just like those suffering from addictions,” his statement said, “individuals with mental health needs should be treated in a medical facility.” And he said officers need more training on recognizing people in distress and dealing with them.
John C. Garcia, the Republican candidate for Erie County sheriff, speaks at a news conference Oct. 7, 2021, about improvements he plans to make to the Sheriff’s Office.
Police from many agencies in the county, including the Sheriff’s Office, often take mentally ill defendants in clear need of treatment to Erie County Medical Center’s psychiatric emergency room before taking them to jail. The Sheriff’s Office also trains personnel in “crisis intervention,” an approach to recognizing someone in mental distress and dealing with that individual. To settle a 2009 lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department, the Sheriff’s Office spent years under the direction of a federal monitor seeking to improve programs for mentally ill inmates.
Garcia promised a more global approach, involving the county executive and the Legislature, to respond to the mentally ill defendants who, in a bygone era, would have been in asylums before states began closing them decades ago. The seismic shift made severely mentally ill people the responsibility of police, courts and jails.
“This isn’t just an issue for law enforcement,” Garcia said.
He acknowledged that the Sheriff’s Office’s most important component is the Jail Management Division, which spends more than any other unit as it runs the Holding Center in downtown Buffalo and the Correctional Facility in Alden.
He promised to work closely with the state agency that regulates local jails, the Commission of Correction, and disagreed that Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, who has endorsed him, did not work well with the commission.
Read the full story by Matthew Spina here.
The commission sued Howard twice during his 16 years in office and called his jails among the state’s worst run. “If there’s something we can improve on, I want to improve on it,” Garcia said.
Garcia, who was a narcotics detective during part of his career with the Buffalo Police Department, promised to aggressively pursue the drug traffickers flooding the streets with opiates and fentanyl, who already command the attention of Erie County’s police and prosecutors. He offered to work more closely with school resource officers and to ask deputies to work with social services agencies to keep at-risk youths away from violence. He said he would institute forums for the Sheriff’s Office to meet with the community, describing one format as “coffee with a cop.”
He also said he would seek to eliminate unnecessary administrative posts so he could put more deputies on patrol. He would come up with jobs to trim after a “top to bottom assessment,” he said.
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Eugene Sibick, father of Thomas F. Sibick, said he donated to Garcia’s campaign because he sees him as the best candidate in the field.

As major party nominees, Garcia and Kimberly Beaty are likely to pick up cash and support from their party organizations in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
John Garcia talks with Tammy Norris as he campaigns at Harlem Road Community Center in Amherst, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
John C. Garcia, the Republican candidate for Erie County sheriff, speaks at a news conference Oct. 7, 2021, about improvements he plans to make to the Sheriff’s Office.
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