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Allegany County “Threat Assessment Management” team is becoming a reality

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Sheriff and team brief legislators on new TAM Team

By Andrew Harris, pictured are Sheriff Cicirello, Deputy Tim Hand listening to Undersheriff Walt Mackney

Law enforcement officers across the nation have been forced to deal with the unspeakable violence that has emerged, best described as a “mass shooting,” or “mass casualty,” event. Tops Market in Buffalo, Uvalde, Las Vegas, Columbine when I was a kid. Today these events are commonplace and Allegany County Sheriff Scott Cicirello started the presentation to legislators:

The Allegany County Sheriff’s Office received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in 2022. The focus of the grant was counter terrorism training and preparedness (to include domestic terrorism). A specific focus is the creation of a Threat Assessment Management Team. The purpose of the TAM Team is to prevent acts of targeted violence such as terrorism, school shootings, mass attacks in public spaces by identifying those threats or observable behaviors that may concern others as well as recognize intervention strategies to move individuals off a pathway to violence. The TAM Team consists of members from multiple disciplines throughout the County that all have a stake in the community with varying resources. It will not be just LE, the Team will include members from schools, medical field, health, mental health, DSS, probation and many more. Every Team member provides a unique perspective and has specific resources at their disposal.

The goal is early intervention to prevent violence. This is a unique opportunity for Law Enforcement as we usually investigate crimes after they happen.

The creation of this team has taken us a year and a half. I designated Deputy Tim Hand as the project lead and he was assisted by Undersheriff Mackney. The undertaking included the development of policies, mission statement, agreements among participants and mostly training. All TAM Team members must be trained in Basic Threat Evaluation Reporting Course- BTERC and Threat Evaluation Reporting Course (TERC). We recently hosted this training at the Alfred Lake Lodge. The training focuses on understanding targeted violence. It will also teach behavioral threat assessment and management, as well as the process of identifying concerning behaviors. Then learn how to apply behavioral threat assessment and management best practices to assist in preventing acts of targeted violence, which is the ultimate goal.

Now that we are fully trained, before we go operational we just need final approval of our policies and procedures and to officially establish our Team members.”

“Threat Assessment Management” teams now exists in many counties, cities, and large school districts in America. Sheriff Cicirello started this process back when he was the Undersheriff by applying for federal grant funding and doing general research on how to build a TAM Team in Allegany County.

Today the Sheriff’s department gave county legislators an overview of where the county TAM Team project stands. Cicirello has entrusted veteran lawmen Deputy Tim Hand and current Undersheriff Walt Mackney to lead the formation and implementation of the TAM Team. Hand gave legislators a in-depth look on what a TAM Team looks like, what functions it performs, and how he brought the team together.

Hand’s first step was to identify the institutions in Allegany County which should be represented and incorporated into the team. Schools, colleges, major employers, local law enforcement, District Attorney’s Office, EMS and Fire Departments, mental health professionals, social workers and addiction specialists are just some of the stakeholders required.

As Deputy Hand explained, the TAM team is built to prevent a mass casualty or targeted violence event of any kind. The team acts as a group ready to take action when presented with a threat to public safety. Because the team is a multi-disciplinary group, they stand ready to receive threat information and act accordingly based on training. The group has already meet for a training session at the Alfred Lake Lodge in preparation of the work ahead.

Legislators were largely supportive of the new initiative with some questions about general operational policy and recent events.

District 4 Legislator Gary Barnes representing Wellsville/Andover asked how the team would have impacted the recent event which closed school. Deputy Hand explained that the TAM team is a prevention tool not an emergency response tool.

County Chairman W. Brooke Harris from Alfred asked if the general public will be able to alert the TAM team to potential threats:

“Is there an avenue for a member of general public to activate the team ? “

Deputy Hand told the board that a major public relations effort will be coming soon. Expect radio, print, flyers, and internet information to be rolling out soon. A hotline phone number and an email are being set up for the public to contact the TAM Team.

Legislator Gretchen Hanchett of District 2 asked about the salaries that will be required to manage the TAM team. Sheriff Cicirello stepped in to explain that funding is provided for staff to coordinate the team as the work progresses. Sheriff made it clear that funding aside, this project was a must do on his list with some pretty strong words:

“It is a full time job honestly, probably a two person full time job because there are a lot of components to this. Frankly this isn’t a matter of if we have a critical event, it’s a matter of when and everyone here knows that. I’m not going to be the Sheriff that says, ‘well I guess we should done this and gotten this up and running.’ I’m just not going to be that guy. I’d much rather us try and get ahead of this and work on the prevention aspect. We are finally in a really good place, Deputy Hand has done a great job, the Undersheriff has done a great job. We are finally in a place we can get this up and running.”

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