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Niagara County Sheriff explains his 'hot spot' policing to reform committee

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Niagara County Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti explains his policing priorities Monday evening.

Like every police agency in New York, the Niagara County Sheriff's Department is being forced to look at how it operates in a racially diverse society and what it will do in the future.

Not everyone agrees that police forces are doing things correctly in these times. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered every police agency to look at itself and produce a report on what changes it will make to reinvent the department.

That report has to go to the legislative body and be approved before going to the governor by April 1 of next year. The cops might not like the order, but the governor will cut off state money if the studies aren't done.

Acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti showed off what his department is doing to re-align its operations. Filicetti said policing in the county is difficult because it's large and varied.

"We put a less number of patrols in the north end of the county. They have a bigger area to cover, but they don't have as many calls," he said. "But if you come into the Town of Lockport, where it's very busy, and we'll have more patrols. It's a smaller area, but we have a larger call volume here. And, obviously, those patrols are put out with a concern for officer safety. We re-align patrols based on crime activity that's going on, hot spot policing."

The meeting at Lockport Town Hall Monday turned into a complaint session from the public about past interactions with the police, some spread over years.

At-Large Delegate Tina Schultz said the sheriff's department probably needs some budgetary re-invention for crisis interventions.

"Another look at how budgeting is concerned, so that when you do have those 911 calls that involve situations that aren't within the expertise of police, such as mental health issues, that someone is already there on staff. You don't need to wait 45 minutes to an hour to have someone respond from home or from the agency," Schultz said.

That's a frequent issue in police departments, dealing with policing's status as the front line of the mental health system.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek explained how there is outside supervision of local police.

"What I do and I've had to do it, unfortunately, since I've been district attorney, I get a call in the middle of the night, early morning, and then I have a hot line number that I call and give the facts to and they send members of the Attorney General's office out to that scene, that night, to do their own investigation, simultaneously," she said.

Another meeting of the Reform and Reinvention Collaborative meets Tuesday evening at the Wheatfield Community Center.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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