Voters have to hold Howard accountable
On Aug. 1, National Night Out Against Crime took place across Erie County. This annual event is meant to promote police and community partnerships, thereby furthering crime prevention and strengthening neighborhoods. Local law enforcement, including Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, made appearances to shake hands and, ostensibly, promote cooperation, teamwork and safety. Yet, since 2005, Howard’s policies and practices have shown profound, disturbing lack of accountability and responsibility. When it comes to the genuine safety of all people in Erie County, this single evening will not erase a tenure of lies, deaths and hate.
Safe communities require authentic collaboration. In 2009, Howard shut out the Department of Justice during its investigation into the county jails. Despite rhetoric of community partnership, the sheriff has not demonstrated the capacity to professionally work with other stakeholders.
Safe communities also require transparency and security. It was recently found that the Sheriff’s Office mislabeled inmate suicides as “individual disturbances.” When labeled as such, they avoided regulatory oversight. Moreover, 20 people have died in his jails since 2005.
Safe communities are buoyed by consistency. In April, Howard appeared at a rally, in uniform, in the midst of Confederate symbols and racist literature. This is grossly inconsistent with the values and beliefs of many folks in Erie County.
I see strong, empowered communities as those that recognize and celebrate all human life and dignity. As a white, suburban woman, I see that Howard is unwilling, unable and closed to authentic community partnerships, despite the language of National Night Out. It is my hope that he will put the language of cooperation and collaboration into practice. Absent a substantial change, though, this November, it is my intention to use my vote to show him what a safe community truly looks like.