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Union brings complaint against body cameras worn by Erie County Sheriff's deputies

A body camera worn by an Erie County Sheriff's Department medic
Avery Schneider
This body camera worn by a Erie County Sheriff's Department medic is similar to those worn at the Holding Center and Correctional Facility.

The Erie County Sheriff's Department now has 50 body cameras being worn by guards at the Holding Center and Alden Correctional Facility — and a complaint about them has already been brought to the Public Employment Relations Board.

Body cameras in the lockups have been a subject of contention for several years, partially because of the cost of purchase and operation. There have also been issues about regular surveillance cameras that don't cover all parts of the jails, leaving non-monitored areas.

Speaking Tuesday evening to the Corrections Specialist Advisory Board, Jail Management Division Superintendent Thomas Diina said the cameras are turning into a labor dispute.

"As you folks all know, we've had 50 body-worn cameras in place at the Holding Center and Correctional Facility for probably the last six weeks or so. Now that is going to be the subject of PERB, Public Employment Relations Board, matter."

Undersheriff John Greenan said the Teamsters Union, which represents guards, says the Sheriff's Department has to bargain with the union before putting the cameras into service. The department's position is that it has the power to put the cameras into service without labor negotiations.

"We very strongly believe that the proof is in the pudding and if you have cameras on every square inch where we can legally put them within the facility, then that makes it easier for us as administrators to sort out the facts when something occurs," Greenan said. "And by the nature of the business we're in, something occurs."

Greenan said the union is particularly concerned about the camera footage being used for disciplinary purposes.

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.