Stronger Together WNY, Corp. (STWNY), a nonpartisan, action organization of more than 13,000 members that encourages informed, active civic participation and political engagement, today announced their inaugural endorsements of candidates, including Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff. In making the announcement, The STWNY Organization noted Tolbert’s qualifications.
“We are standing with Bernie Tolbert because he has shown he cares about people, regardless of their situation. He will use his 30-years of experience in the highest levels of law enforcement to address the suicides at the holding center, and to address the opioid epidemic plaguing Erie County. He will improve the county jails, and restore a culture of respect and civility in the sheriff office. We have an opportunity to elect a highly qualified, and respectable person for Sheriff of Erie County and that is why we are endorsing Bernie Tolbert.
STWNY was established on November 9, 2016 under the title of Pantsuit Nation WNY. Shortly thereafter, the organization changed its name, network affiliation, and mission in order to more strongly focus on action. The leadership team of STWNY is comprised of nine administrators for the main Stronger Together WNY Facebook group. Those administrators coordinate with 23 moderators to answer questions, approve members, delete inappropriate content, guide discussions, manage events, and oversee programs. Each chapter and affiliated group has administrators and moderators represented in the STWNY leadership team. Currently there are chapter and affiliated groups in Clarence, East Amherst, East Aurora and the surrounding area, Orchard Park, Snyder, Williamsville, Niagara, Geneseo/Livingston County, Rochester and surrounding areas and the Southern Tier/CNY.
In acknowledging the support of STWNY, Tolbert spoke of the power of citizen action groups in effecting change in communities and governments.
“I am honored by this endorsement of the STWNY members, all of whom are dedicated to making a difference and taking action to actually make that difference.” Tolbert said. “I look forward to building on this endorsement by continuing to engage with Stronger Together once I am elected sheriff. Such collaboration was part of my administration as the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Office and what I know can improve the relationship between the sheriff’s office and our community in making Erie County safer for all.”
About Bernie Tolbert: Bernie Tolbert is the former Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo office overseeing the Western New York region. He has more than 30 years of professional experience at the highest levels of law enforcement and corporate security. Born and raised in Buffalo, Mr. Tolbert holds a master degree in social work from the SUNY Buffalo and worked in education and social work in Erie County before launching a career with the FBI.
Mr. Tolbert’s campaign is focused on the following:
- Twenty-two inmates who have died in Erie County jails during Sheriff Tim Howard’s tenure, the most recent occurring in July of this year.
- Testimony from deputies in the Richard Metcalf homicide case that have made clear that sheriff’s office personnel are not properly trained in required restraining techniques and the need for Crisis Intervention Programs (CIP), the standard across the country for training law enforcement officers in how to deal with mentally disturbed persons, which apparently are not employed in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
- Admonishments issued by the State Office of Correction against Sheriff Howard for covering up suicide attempts to avoid reporting them to Albany and the sheriff’s publicly stated policy of not reporting all suicide attempts to the OOC.
- Numerous lawsuits filed against the sheriff and analysis of the litigation fees and associated costs arising from those lawsuits showing a known total of $2.5 million in extra, unbudgeted costs to taxpayers and a conservative estimate of $4 million overall once additional and still undisclosed cases.
Mr. Tolbert’s campaign platform features four primary agenda items:
- Clean up the county jails and restore pride and professionalism to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
- Beat the opioid and heroin addiction epidemic ravaging Erie County.
- Collaboratively work to turn back the tide of rising street crime.
- Restore a culture of respect and civility.