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Erie County Holding Center guard fired, accused of beating inmate

Erie County Holding Center Superintendent Thomas Diina stands at a podium with news media microphones on it
File Photo
Erie County Holding Center Superintendent Thomas Diina said a guard was terminated after being caught on camera beating an inmate.

A guard at the Erie County Holding Center has been fired for beating a prisoner. It was an easier case than most for the Sheriff's Department to prove because the incident was caught on camera.

There are some cameras at the Holding Center, but there are blind spots with no cameras watching. Criminal justice advocates want many more cameras, including body cameras for everyone. There is a plan to ask the County Legislature for more than $1 million for 270 body cameras. Right now, there are 50.

One was used in this case. It wasn't on an officer. Jail Division Superintendent Thomas Diina told the County Corrections Specialist Advisory Board Tuesday about the case.

"We did have a termination of a staff member two weeks ago," Diina said. "This individual was observed on a body camera excessively using force against an incarcerated individual and then lying about it."

Diina said the prisoner involved was considered difficult. A body camera was mounted on the wall overlooking his cell block and the camera caught the corrections officer attacking the prisoner.

"This was a very high needs, high-maintenance individual and because of the level of issues we had been having with this person, we mounted a body camera to the wall, directly across from his housing unit, so that we could see everything that was occurring with this individual," Diina said.

Diina said the camera footage made the case.

"The body camera footage was instrumental because this would have been one of those situations where had we not had access to it, we would not have been able to prove misconduct," he said."So he was terminated after he was afforded his due process under our collective bargaining agreement and the DA's office was notified of the incident and provided all of the relevant documentation."

Diina told the advisory board he doesn't have enough people to monitor the cameras that are installed now.

That termination is subject to arbitration and firings like that have been reversed on what amounts to an appeal.

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.