AG: Sheriff’s Office must report incidents at facilities in timely manner

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — After a lawsuit was filed against both Erie County and Sheriff Timothy Howard, Attorney General Letitia James has announced an agreement.

The Office of the Attorney General says on multiple occasions, the Sheriff’s Office has failed to report serious incidents at the Erie County Correctional Facility and Holding Center in a quick enough manner.

“The Erie County Sheriff’s Office must finally confront the harsh realities of its correctional facilities and take real measures to end the widespread sexual misconduct perpetrated by its correction officers. The policies that the Sheriff’s office will now be required to put in place will go far in preventing the misconduct that jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of incarcerated individuals for far too long. New Yorkers deserve transparency, accountability, and honesty from their law enforcement agencies, and this agreement ensures that they get it.”

Attorney General Letitia James

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According to the New York State Commission of Correction (SCOC), the Sheriff’s Office is supposed to report alleged sex offenses to the SCOC within 24 hours of the incident occurring or being discovered.

The Attorney General’s office says at times, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office went months or years without reporting these incidents.

Examples of other incidents that weren’t reported in a timely manner are an erroneous release, an assault and a number of suicide attempts, the Attorney General’s Office says.

The Attorney General’s newly announced agreement has been submitted to the Erie County Supreme Court for review. It includes the following stipulations:

– Forcing the Sheriff’s office to uphold the SCOC’s regulations;

– Directing the Sheriff’s office and the county to appoint an independent monitor to conduct a retrospective audit of incident reporting, and provide an annual audit for the next three years;

– Directing the Sheriff’s office to provide the SCOC with proof of training for correction officers related to New York’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct in correctional facilities, how to handle situations where incarcerated individuals allege sexual misconduct, and the SCOC guidelines for reporting such misconduct;

– Directing the Sheriff’s office to provide specialized training for investigators and other appropriate staff regarding investigating sexual abuse in correctional settings; and

– Developing and/or revising procedures related to the review, investigation, and assessment of reportable incidents, and to work with the SCOC to develop and improve upon existing policies and procedures.

Office of the Attorney General

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Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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