Social media posts spark conflicts in Wheatfield
By David Yarger
In recent weeks, there have been several rumors regarding the relationship between the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Wheatfield.
The Town of Wheatfield Town Board has discussed extending the duties of its Constable Department at recent meetings, leading some residents, according to Supervisor Don MacSwan, to believe the town is disbanding its relationship with the NCSO.
MacSwan recently reached out to the Tribune and said that the rumors couldn’t be any further from the truth.
He added that, due to the posts, employees and deputies had reached out to see if the rumors were true and he assured them they were false.
At past meetings, the board, along with Head Constable Roger Thompson, discussed furthering the capabilities of a town constable. The initiative, MacSwan said, stems from several incidents that have occurred on the Town Hall campus.
“The whole intention was we extended the Constable Department (because) we were having some incidents here at the Town Hall,” MacSwan said. “When we decided to put constables in here during the day, it wasn’t so much to expand the Constable Department; it was a necessity, because of all the incidents that happened. And you just don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
MacSwan added, “We’re not eliminating the sheriff’s department; we’re not cutting their budget. The only thing we’ve done is expand the constables’ responsibilities and duties for the safety of our employees here and our residents.”
Certain constable duties include a presence during the daytime at Town Hall, as well as patrolling areas for parking tickets, school zone tickets, home checkups for residents on vacation, providing security for town events, and traffic control, amongst others.
“When rumors fly, people thrive on it and go on it,” MacSwan said. “We’re not trying to create a police department, we’re just trying to cover the Town Hall here for the benefit of the residents. … We’re not doing anything that would affect the sheriff’s office or anything that would enhance my position. We’re just trying to be responsible.”
MacSwan added that changes have been made in the Constable Department, all which benefit the well-being of the town. Notable changes include the addition of constables and improved emergency vehicles to help the department become more efficient.
A law to expand the duties of the Constable Department has not been approved by the town. MacSwan set a timetable around July for a possible approval, but said the town first needs to have a meeting between the Constable Department and the NCSO. The town will take in what’s discussed at the meeting and make a decision from there.
“We’re going to meet with the sheriff and we’ll talk about it,” MacSwan said. “We don’t jump into anything. … All of a sudden everyone was in this panic mode that we’re trying to take over the sheriff’s office authorities. They (constables) don’t even have the authority to do what the sheriffs do. We can’t pursue; we can’t do felonies – nothing like that. People overreacted.”
MacSwan reiterated that having a quality Constable Department to go hand-in-hand with the NCSO is a good benefit for the town’s residents and employees.
“For the employees, it brings a certain amount of … security and peace, because we had nothing prior to this. I think they realize now that it does bring a good feeling of security here knowing they’re (constables) going to be here during the day. … All the constables are good people and they have their hearts in Wheatfield, and that’s important.
“We’re hoping that, once we get done with this meeting with sheriff and the town, we have a better understanding, so we can work together. … The (NCSO) is very, very important. Wheatfield is probably one of the busiest communities in Niagara County. You have a lot of outlying communities that don’t have the traffic, they don’t have the density and population. They provide great service for us. There has been times where we had trouble areas (in the town) and they respond immediately. … We have a good rapport with the sheriff’s office, and if there’s a problem area all I have to do is call them up and they’ll address it. So they’re extremely important.”
He said constables on site at Town Hall also help residents who may be confused on where to go upon entry. MacSwan said the constables reflect Wheatfield in a positive light by them being greeters and helpful.
The official powers of a constable can be read at https://www.wheatfield.ny.us/372/Constable-Department.
The next Town Board meeting is at 7 p.m. July 1.