Monroe County Risk Assessment Team a model for other communities trying to stop mass shootings

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – In the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo that took the lives of 10 people and injured 3 others, the Sheriff of Erie County says he plans to create a “behavior threat assessment team” compromised of his deputies, mental health professionals and education professionals to identify those who may be a risk to the community. “Falling through the cracks is not going to be an excuse we’re going to use in the future,” Sheriff John Garcia said at a press conference last week.

Monroe County was the first in New York to create a threat assessment team. It’s called ROCTAC (Rochester Threat Advisory Committee), “if we have a school district or an employer that just has that one case that’s so different… everybody’s dealing with stress, mental health, and they deal with it all the time but it’s just that one particular case that’s off the charts, going a little different than every other scenario they can bring it before this think tank if you will,” explains Sheriff Todd Baxter.

Jennifer Lewke – So, you all sort of look at the case and you say okay what is the threat to the community and how can we connect this person with the services that may alleviate that threat?

Sheriff Baxter – Right, so there is a predictability to some of these cases. The targeted violence cases, you go back and study them which we do and you look at this ladder of evolution towards a grievance they are upset with something, towards ideation I can’t get off it I’m fixated, towards some kind of overt action so I start to study or post more online or come up with things that they’re constructing around that, it’s very predictable if you see it ahead of time.

The 30 agencies in ROCTAC meet every two weeks to hear cases and see how they can work together to help the person in question, “maybe there’s someone in the community that knows him/her, maybe there’s another avenue, maybe we can get a pastor involved, maybe we can get a mental health professional involved, Sheriff Baxter says.

So far ROCTAC has heard 38 cases, “there’s a school case out of Irondequoit that was just so successful the student is on a path of being a very productive citizen and it’s quite amazing to watch and that was breaking down just some barriers and egos and silos and just get people in a room to talk. In a case we had in Penfield with a domestic violence case we haven’t heard from that guy since,” says Sheriff Baxter.

ROCTAC has been in communication with teams in the Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo regions looking for guidance in setting up something similar, “I was on the phone Friday with the Erie County Sheriff and saying whatever you need, whatever you want… you can have all our policies, our paperwork, our procedures, I’ll send a deputy down the road to help if that’s what you need,” Baxter says.