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Old Boys Network in the Erie County Sheriff's Office

On November 2, 2012, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office finally announced Thomas Diina as superintendent of the Holding Center. This process took over six months to complete.

Let’s take a close look at what really happened.

Thomas Diina, age 37, has 11 years in the Sheriff’s Office and a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. If the name sounds familair, you’re right: Thomas Diina is the nephew of Rocco Diina, the former Buffalo Police commissioner and cadidate for Erie County sheriff. Such name recognition is a positive guarantee of unlimited and uninhibited career advancement and promotions within the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, orchestrated by what is well known as the good old boys network.

Less than two years after being hired as a sheriff’s deputy, Thomas Diina was promoted to sergeant. Diina did pass the sergeant’s promotional exam; whether he scored highest on the exam is another question. The sheriff has the final say on who is promoted, no matter what your score is—this is called good old boy politics.

Two years pass and Thomas Diina is again promoted. Only this time why bother with a promotion to lieutenant or even captain, which are next in line for a sergeant? Thomas Diina is appointed to the position of chief. The sheriff can appoint a deputy or even a civilian to the position of chief if he so chooses. Remember the good old boy network—it is well at work in the Sheriff’s Office.

Next, Thomas Diina is appointed by the sheriff to the position of first deputy superintendent of the Holdign Center, with no prior experience. Less than two years later, Thomas Diina is appointed acting superintendent of the Holding Center. All of this with less than 11 years experience in total. To a layperson it might seem that Thomas Diina is either a genius or positioning himself to one day run for Erie County sheriff.

There were nine candidates who interviewed for the position of superintendent of the Holding Center. I was one of those candidates. I recently retired after 29 years of service in the Sheriff’s Office; I served 16 years as a sergeant. I was Thomas Diina’s supervisor and training instructor.

To the layperson Thomas Diina’s rise to the top might give the impression that he was meant for the position. Thomas Diina has been part of the command staff for approximately nine years, but improvements have not been made under his watch. Suicide levels have not been reduced, only now is the Sheriff’s Office reluctantly working with the Justice Department, and the Commission of Corrections has not accredited the Holding Center for a number of years.

The problems at the Holding Center are still present and will continue and intensify so long as we allow the sheriff to play musical chairs with his command staff. Promotions in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office are not based on what you know or how well you perform your job. Promotions in the Sheriff’s Office are based on who you know. The good old boy network at its best.

- Larry C. Garrison, Jr., Sergeant, Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Retired

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