BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hundreds gathered at the Tewksbury Lodge on Ohio Street, Thursday, to watch John Garcia take the oath as the 54th Sheriff of Erie County.

Garcia spent 25 years with the Buffalo Police Department. In fact, as a narcotics officer, he was once shot in the face while on duty as a Spanish interpreter for the hostage negotiation team in February of 2010. “You know, I thank the Lord for being here, for many reasons, and that’s one of them.”

He says that tragedy was one of the many examples where he feels mental health can be a factor in crime. “I’m looking forward to working with the clergy, and they’re gonna have 24-7 access come January first to come into the Erie County Holding Center and the Alden Correctional Facility, because my job, you always want to de-escalate.”

Garcia hopes to improve life skills opportunities for inmates before they get out of jail. “I don’t want to see people come back. It’s not a business where we want to see return customers, we want to set them up for success.”

Among his top-level appointees will be Timothy Donovan, who has been the president of the Erie County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association, but will now head up the Internal Affairs Division. Donovan tells News 4 he doesn’t consider it in any way a conflict, in fact, he believes it helps him to see all sides.

His new boss agrees with that assessment. “I can’t think of a better person, a more qualified person, who has the knowledge of having worked inside the jail, road patrol, a criminal investigator, but is also familiar with contract negotiations,” said Garcia. “Chief Donovan, knowing the contract inside and out, knowing what you should’ve done and then what you did and so forth, we’re about correcting bad behavior. As we prevent crime, we prevent bad behavior.”

As sheriff, Garcia also hopes to improve diversity in the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Unit, which has 150 deputies, but only is black and one is Hispanic. “So, do we need diversity, yes sir,” said Garcia.

George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.

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