Erie County creates new Behavioral Threat Assessment Team to help prevent another 5/14
In the wake of the May 14 massacre at Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, the Erie County Sheriff's Department is setting up a new division for behavioral threats.
There are lots of police agencies in Erie County — federal, state, county and municipal — and many doing the same things. By the end of summer, the goal is to get them on the same page through the Sheriff's Department Behavioral Threat Assessment Team.
Appearing with an array of local agencies Thursday afternoon, Sheriff John Garcia said the unit will include specially trained duties who can be called to evaluate and take action on potential threats.
It also will be built on top of existing work, like the people from the District Attorney's Office who are assigned to individual local governments and school districts as a resource, and the little-publicized police deep monitoring of social media for crime and problem threats.
"If there is a threat, we're going to follow through with the threat. And maybe all it takes is a knock on the door by us and one of our partners, the FBI and so forth, to stop that threat," Garcia said. "You [currently] have to staircase these steps, where you have behavioral threats and then actions taken, and we want to stop that."
The sheriff made it clear this isn't a temporary task force to deal with a problem and then go away.
County Legislature Chair April Baskin said the unit will get the resources it needs to operate.
"That targets individuals who are exhibiting behaviors that could pose a threat to our communities, our neighbors and our families," Baskin said. "The mass shooting, the slaughtering of innocent Black people, the massacre that happened on Jefferson Avenue demonstrated that Erie County is not immune to domestic terrorist attacks."