MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead in helping local law enforcement tackle police reform as mandated by New York State’s Governor.
Sheriff Jim Quattrone is holding meetings this month with local police agencies and other government officials.
He has already met with officers in the Town of Carroll, Town of Ellicott and Village of Fredonia, and over the next week, plans to meet with police in Silver Creek, Dunkirk and Lakewood.
Quattrone, meeting with Town of Ellicott Police, shared results from a recent police survey, saying results showed 93 percent of the respondents agree police are an important part of the community and that a majority believe local police are well trained.
In addition, the survey showed residents believe officers are held accountable for their actions and 72 percent said they are confident their complaints about officers will be heard and resolved.
Ellicott Police Chief Bill Ohnmeiss said his agency will look into any and all complaints regarding personnel, but can’t correct some problems if he is not aware of them.
He encouraged residents to call his department with any issues.
“I think we’ve got a great community, overall, we have problem areas just like anybody else,” Ohnmeiss said. “Not everybody gets or hears the answer they want to get when we’re out there. We certainly try to do the best for all. We certainly, again, strive to make our victims whole, make them feel safe in a safe community. I’ve always said if there’s a problem with our officers, I need to hear it. I can’t correct it if I don’t hear it. I would welcome that.”
Ellicott officers are told to cruise area side streets slowly, so they are seen and to get out of their cars and talk with people and show that they are a community presence.
Quattrone said among the policies being looked at are seeking better ways for officers to connect with the community and to take advantage of technology such as body cameras to improve services.
Also being looked at are de-escalation, use of force and community relations.
Progress is important and continuing to improve is vital, Ohnmeiss said.
“If we’re not striving to get better, we’re falling behind,” he said.