Sheriff Tim Howard, body cameras and Jesus

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard was questioned by legislators about the possibility of deputies wearing body cameras during a March 14 meeting of the Erie County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. The proposition has won support among many legislators, particularly in the majority Democratic caucus, in the wake of a December 2017 incident in which a sheriff’s deputy severely beat a man during an arrest at a Bills game in the parking lot of New Era Field. 

In the following exchange between Howard and Legislator April Baskin, who chairs the committee, Howard compared those who support his deputies wearing body cameras to Doubting Thomases who question the resurrection of Jesus. 

Howard: “We use force. We are authorized by law to use force. Unnecessary or excessive force is the problem, and we have not had any showing of inappropriate or excessive force, any pattern for that, within the sheriff’s office.”

Baskin: “Is the ability to provide transparency with regard to any use of force a benefit to public safety?”

Howard: “I can’t help but think this, and to make this somewhat religious: How did Jesus feel when Thomas didn’t believe that he came back from the dead? And how did all those other apostles feel when Thomas said, ‘You’re lying, Jesus didn’t come back,’ until [he] stuck [his] fingers in the holes in his hands and placed [his] hands in the holes in his side. ‘I will not believe.’ I wonder if Jesus was mad or if the apostles were mad. 

“I do have to say that I am offended, and our deputies on the road who put themselves at risk must be more greatly offended. These are honorable people. We go to great efforts to find honorable people and to teach them and provide them what they need. We are all concerned about their morale. And to say that ‘We don’t believe you—die for us, but we don’t believe you’—is not really the relationship I’m trying to build between the deputies and the people of Erie County.”

Give a listen.

 

Before and after Howard’s sermon, the committee discussed issues including the costs of storing data gathered by body cameras, how long it would be stored, and who would own and have access to it. Howard recently has said he’d support the limited use of body cameras if legislators identified a funding source that would not compromise the department’s ability to purchase, for example, a new helicopter.

Earlier this year, the Buffalo Police Department released its new policy governing the mandatory use of body cameras by its officers during calls for service, stops and searches, and other interactions with the public.