In talking about Genesee County’s threat assessment and management program, Undersheriff Bradley Mazur often referred to one county over, and how Rochester Threat Advisory Committee, or ROCTAC, will serve as a role model of sorts.
No wonder. All of New York State is watching the Monroe County program, which was announced in June. And Genesee County is nearly ready to jump on board, Mazur said Thursday.
"Governor Hochul passed executive order 18, which required each county to come up with a domestic terrorism prevention plan. So what we did, we put our plan together. And in our response, we believe that to mitigate this type of threat in our community, our best action would be to create a Genesee County Threat Assessment management team, or a TAM team is what they're called," Mazur said. "This is kind of very similar to Monroe County's ROCTAC ... a Rochester threat advisory committee that they developed, I think, last year. So a lot of the counties are kind of going to mimic what they've done. Ours is going to be a threat assessment committee. And this is going to be a diverse team. We have individuals from mental health to GCASA, social services, school administrators, and our SROs. The goal is early intervention to prevent any types of violence."
Similar to Rochester’s Threat Advisory Committee, so too will Genesee County have a cohesive group of representatives from law enforcement, social services, probation, GCASA, emergency management, school administrations, and school resource officers, he said.
A primary goal is “to mitigate any threat to our community,” he said, through early detection and intervention of potential threats of domestic violence, school shootings, workplace assaults, stalkings, and any other similar threats of violence.
This effort takes money, which will come from a related $172,000 state grant previously announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul. After the May shooting in Buffalo that left 10 people dead, Hochul began to charge each county in the state to develop a threat assessment plan, signing an executive order and providing funds to ensure that could happen.
Monroe County had already established its own version of a threat advisory team as a proactive measure to help prevent deadly assaults, so state leaders pointed to that team as an example for other counties to follow.
Although Genesee County is a small, rural area, it is just as susceptible to such violence as is any big city, Mazur said.
“The biggest threat to our community is any type of community radicalization. And I think their ability to use the internet and social media to reach out to anybody anywhere. And that's our focal point right now, is that use of social media and the internet," he said. "They try to push their social or political agenda. And oftentimes, it advocates for the use of violence. And using the internet and social media, I think you could have a vast audience, of which some people may be susceptible to their messaging."
The grant money will go toward training and training-related costs, such as overtime to cover officers while they’re in training. The grant is good for two years, and it does not cover equipment, only “training costs and related items that we need to establish the program,” he said.
“We submitted our plan to the state for approval,” he said. “The Genesee County Legislature reviewed the plan, and we’re going to move forward … we’re hoping to have the training completed in February. This will include all law enforcement in Genesee County."
Given this new initiative, the plan also includes promotion: “We will be doing an awareness campaign,” he said.
That campaign will be rolled out to the public so that anyone can participate in the program. For example, if a resident reads or hears something that seems like a possible threat to the community — an online discussion about attacking a school, for example — that resident will be more equipped to know where and how to report it, and the threat advisory team would assess the situation to determine how to proceed.
"So people know, obviously, in an emergency situation, they're going to call 911. But we're also going to have another reporting system that may not reach that level yet," he said. "And the management team or the TAM team would then get together and assess it and see if we can intervene and get resources out there at that early stage."
As Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter put it: The team is “a holistic group that gets together and analyzes their case, looks at it, and sees how we can mitigate the risk and take someone off that path and stairway to targeted violence.”
More details will be publicized once the county’s plan is officially approved and the training is complete, Mazur said. Squad 9 LLC, which was used by Monroe County, will conduct the training and consulting work.
Squad 9 is led by two veteran Federal Bureau of Investigation experts who provide consultative, training and research services related to threat assessment and management, behavioral intervention, international and domestic terrorism, interview and interrogation, and risk management needs.
Mazur presented the plan to the Legislature this week, and he expects for there to be more public discussion and details to be provided after state approval and completion of training in early 2023.
File Photo of Genesee County Undersheriff Bradley Mazur talking to Genesee County legislators during a meeting at the Old Courthouse in Batavia, by Joanne Beck.