HAMBURG — The job of a police officer is more demanding than ever. As members of the Buffalo Police Department can attest, the scrutiny over their conduct is at an all-time high. Surveillance cameras and cellphones seem to be everywhere.
As a sign of the need to protect these people, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the first round of awards to law enforcement agencies in New York on Aug. 4, through the attorney general’s inVEST Partnership, a statewide program that offers law enforcement agencies the opportunity to purchase bulletproof vests for officers. The program includes $156,738.30 to support the purchase of 375 vests in Erie County.
In a press release issued by Schneiderman’s office, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the grant demonstrates an understanding of the needs of law enforcement officers and that sheriff’s deputies “will be better protected themselves, as they protect the residents of Erie County.”
The attorney general’s office committed $3.5 million from criminal and civil forfeiture funds to create the inVEST Partnership, according to the release. For those departments that receive awards, matching funds will cover up to 50 percent of the total costs of vests, vest carriers, attachments, inserts, fitting, shipping and applicable taxes. Funding is available to equip newly hired officers or to replace expiring vests for veteran officers.
Ironically, the announcement came just three days after members of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office paid the ultimate honor to one of their own.
All sworn officers and civilian personnel of the department honored fallen Deputy Fredrick Kaesser on Aug. 1 by wearing a black badge band or ribbon on their uniform.
On July 28, 1925, Kaesser, along with other sheriff’s deputies and Buffalo police detectives, was trailing three armed robbery suspects. The trail led them to a tavern in Lancaster.
According to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Police Benevolent Association’s website, John Ziola, the tavern owner, retreated to his room and began shooting through the closed door. Kaesser was hit in the abdomen. He was rushed to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo for treatment but died from complications related to the gunshot wound on Aug. 1, 1925.
Respect for the police has taken a nosedive during the past few months, across Western New York. While I still subscribe to the idea that these officers are honorable men and women, many others do not. The actions or alleged actions of a few continue to tarnish the reputation of many.
Respect works both ways. If officers are patient and professional, they will most likely see the same traits in the public.
While the added availability of bulletproof vests is a serious matter, one has to wonder if law enforcement officers are getting burned out from responding to an astounding number of frivolous, silly complaints. Some people are simply helpless.
For example, state police responded in January to a location in the town of Colden. The complainant stated he had evidence that a neighbor had stolen his tree stand.
In Kenmore, a resident reported that a young man in a brown jacket looked “distraught” and was flailing his arms. The man told police he was listening to music and dancing while waiting for the bus.
A young boy in Cheektowaga called the police because he was upset that his father didn’t want to watch the Super Bowl.
A woman in the parking lot of a pizzeria on Union Road told police she was upset with the quality of her pizza.
A town of Tonawanda man said another man was calling him names while he was mowing his lawn.
A Cheektowaga motorist reported an injured deer near a flagpole. It turned out to be a lawn ornament.
You might think twice before taxing the resources of your local police department for something low on the list of real emergencies. Officers might be needed for something a little more serious than a missing tree stand. And most of them still deserve our respect.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.