Have impartial third party investigate Sheriff’s Office
I read with horror the report on the Commission of Correction’s investigation into the death of Richard Metcalf, who, according to the commission, was suffocated by sheriff’s deputies while he was detained in the Erie County Holding Center. That was surely a human rights violation.
But there’s more: Higher-ups in the Sheriff’s Office appear to have covered up his death, blaming Metcalf himself for it. As reported by The News, when the commission asked Holding Center administrators, including Superintendent Thomas Diina, about the circumstances of Metcalf’s death on five separate occasions, they failed to disclose the truth. In other words, they lied by omission.
I believe these were not the only occasions that sheriff’s personnel lied about this horrific incident. Six years ago, the Erie County Legislature empaneled the Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board in response to complaints and charges of abuse by deputies at the Holding Center. I had the honor of serving on that board, as did Diina. At a monthly meeting in 2013, he was asked about Metcalf’s death. As I recall, he assured the board we had nothing to be concerned about since Metcalf had died of natural causes.
I wonder what other abuses the Sheriff’s Office is hiding from the public. If sheriff’s administrators lied about Metcalf, based on the history of prisoner abuses at the Holding Center, they probably lied about more human rights abuses inflicted on prisoners. The problem is that when prisoners or their family and friends complain about mistreatment at the hands of deputies, it’s the Sheriff’s Office itself that investigates. Given its disregard for truth and refusal to accept responsibility for its actions, I question the results of its investigations. It’s time for the sheriff to hand off its investigative authority to an impartial third party.
Nan L. Haynes