Erie County Sheriff's Office reacts to fan behavior

Erie County Sheriff's Office Chief of Patrol Scott Joslyn spoke with 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik about Buffalo Bills fan conduct.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik spoke with Chief of Patrol Scott Joslyn with the Erie County Sheriff's Office about everything from the influence of social media on fan behavior, to his agency's relationship with the Bills and other law enforcement agencies.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office covers the Bills' lots and the stadium while Orchard Park Police cover the private lots. They work together and with the New York State Police and federal agencies to make sure everyone has a safe game day experience.

Sunday, the Erie County Sheriff's Office arrested nine people.

Here is the transcript of the full interview with Chief of Patrol Scott Joslyn:

"What resources, right now, are dedicated to the Bills games?" asked Dudzik.

"Well, we have and control all of the, we have an inner perimeter, a for lack of a better term, like a middle perimeter, and an outer perimeter. And, the resources that we have are obviously Erie County Sheriff's Deputies. We work with the Orchard Park Police, the New York State Police, and some of the federal agents," says Joslyn.

"Can more be done? What do you think, in your opinion, can be done additionally to curb some of the behaviors that we're seeing?" asked Dudzik.

"Can we do more as an agency or law enforcement, I don't think so. Okay? We can't directly control the actions of those that attend the games. We're there to provide and ensure a safe environment so the fans have that ultimate game day experience. And, unfortunately, at these mass gatherings, there are those that like to intrude on others' rights to have that ultimate game day experience, and those are the subjects that we deal with. In this past game against the Saints, we only had nine of those interactions. When you're talking nearly 70-thousand people getting together, and there are a total of nine arrests, that's a fairly low number," said Joslyn.

"And, that's not including the behaviors that are happening off of Bills' property, correct?" asked Dudzik.

"Yeah, correct. Again, anything off of Bills' property would be the Orchard Park Police Department and they would handle those, whether they're accidents, whether they're fights or disorderly conducts. Orchard Park, and I can't speak to how many arrests they have, but the Sheriff's Office, we provide all of the security, including traffic control along with security in each and every one of the Bills' lots. So, our units are out there. They're marked for a reason. We want a high visibility, we want that to be a deterrent, and we want those that are there that aren't looking to infringe on everybody else’s right to have a good time to feel comfortable and safe while they're there," says Joslyn.

"In your experience, how has the rise of social media impacted fan behavior? Because now instantly we're seeing the people jumping onto the tables, and a lot of that is happening on private property, so it's not happening on a Bills' lot, but when you're seeing that, how does that make you feel as somebody in the law enforcement community to know that that behavior is out there, and some people are celebrating it?" asked Dudzik.

"Yeah. Well, that's a double-edged sword actually, okay? We also monitor social media sites. So that gives us a handle on exactly what is happening, whether it's on Bills' property or off Bills' property, and then when we meet with the Bills and the security team, we make and adjust every game based on what we see and where it's happening. For instance, we did see two games ago that there were disorderly conduct, let's say, in the bus lot and we focused our efforts there. And, in working with the Buffalo Police Department and Commissioner, he was gracious enough to allow to use their police Sky Watch, which is nothing more than a mobile tower that we set up in the Bills' lot that puts you high in the air and gives us a bird’s-eye view of what's taking place. So, what we weren't able to see in previous games, these last two games, we've been able to see. So, the arrest numbers are slightly higher, but that's because we're doing quite frankly a better job, and we're able to now see what once we couldn't, and we're making arrests or making ejections, in fact, in certain circumstances where we didn't three games ago," says Joslyn.

"Are you satisfied with your relationship with the Bills and how they are enforcing and putting that code of conduct out there?" asked Dudzik.

"Yes, absolutely. Without the code of conduct, there's certain actions that we see take place that we could not arrest a fan for. But, because of the code of conduct, whether it's no glass, or any type of disruptive or disorderly conduct, it allows us at the very minimum to eject them off of the Bills' property. And, the relationship between the Sheriff's Office and the Bills has never been better. They support us 100-percent, and I personally reach out before fans are ejected or buses are ejected, I run through the scenario, sometimes it's more than one interaction with a particular bus, and we have always received the support that we need. So, we're very happy with that," says Joslyn.

"With that Sky Watch situation, you said you're able to monitor buses better now. Talk about how you're able to make sure buses with people with bad behavior, maybe aren't following the code of conduct, have you kicked any of them off and told them you're not welcome to come back to games?" asked Dudzik.

"We have ejected a total of four buses in the last two games. And, that was because there was conduct that was in violation of the Buffalo Bills’ fan code of conduct. We advised them to cease, and we came back a second, and once we come back a second time, we make the phone call to the Bills. We get the authority from the property owner to make that ejection, and those ejections were made, and again, they support us 100-percent. We're going to continue doing that. We are going to have, for the rest of the season, access to the Buffalo Police Sky Tower, and it's a very valuable resource and asset," said Joslyn.

"What can you do in a situation like yesterday where you have a streaker, and it's not like somebody who's trying to bring an illegal item into the stadium. How can you tell if that person is going to do something like that? You can't. So, how do you prevent that? Is that preventable? Or do you just have to react?" asked Dudzik.

"Well, if it's on social media let's say, and there's talk that is may happen, then we'd be extra vigilant, right? But, to answer your question more directly, for law enforcement, it's reactionary. We can't prevent a fan, if they're bent on getting on the field, from getting onto the field. All we can do is react to what we're presented. And it's unfortunate. Last game we had two field intrusions, both of which were arrested. And, without those two arrests, we would have only had one arrest which was an attempted larceny of a Buffalo Bills sweatshirt. So, prior to that late game event, we would have only had one arrest. So, all in all, the Bills fans are behaving wonderfully. It only takes a couple, one or two, to give this community and the Buffalo Bills and the whole venue, quite frankly, just national exposure that I think the real, true, hardened Bills fans don't deserve," says Joslyn.

"When they do get that national exposure, are you seeing fans of other teams coming just to have that experience? Because it seems like on social media, some people are saying, I'm not from here, I just want to go and experience the game day experience because of the behaviors that are posted on social media," said Dudzik.

"I don't personally see that, and I don't think or suggest that my deputies would say that. We do know that there are many that attend the parking lot that don't have a ticket. Yesterday, we dealt with two who we ejected who denied having a ticket to the game. We advised them that they were being ejected from the Bills' property, we gave them a personal escort off of the Bills' property, advised them not to return, that they were not welcome because of their behavior, and they eventually entered the stadium with a ticket, and we identified them on the way out, and they were subsequently both arrested for criminal trespass, which is a B misdemeanor, and they both face up to three months in jail for that conduct. So, all of these arrests are in the hands of the District Attorney's office now and the court in Orchard Park, and the biggest deterrent is going to be some discipline, let's say, whether it's jail time, whether it's fines, because that will deter that future conduct," says Joslyn.

"What message do you have for fans and families who want to go to a Bills game and have a positive game day experience?" asked Dudzik.

"Well, first and foremost, I think my message for them is that it is a fan-friendly atmosphere. All the agencies are working collaboratively together to ensure your safety, and we want you to have that experience. We want you to be able to bring your kids. We feel that the atmosphere is such that you can do that. And, that if you see something, say something. There's plenty of us around there. You're hard pressed to walk around too far without seeing a uniformed police officer. That presence is there for a reason, and we're going to continue, and we're going to continue monitoring social media, and we're going to evaluate and change our protection plan as situations arise or become known to us," says Joslyn.

"Would you say the bigger problems are off of the Bills' property?" asked Dudzik.

"I have no comment on what happens off of the Bills' property. The Sheriff's Office isn’t responsible for, and we do not respond to calls for service, they go directly to the Town of Orchard Park. So, I'm not sure what's happening in private lots, again, folks that want to, in a private lot maybe, want to climb up onto a car and jump off of their own car onto their own table, for whatever reason, there's really no violation there unless somebody, we have a complainant. Without a complainant, nobody can be arrested. So, Orchard Park is pretty much, they have a situation to deal with that the Sheriff's Office does not because we simply just evict people. It's a different story on someone's private property," says Joslyn.

"So, you end up having to deal with some of the people who have tickets to the game who are partying on private property and then going into the stadium, so you've got to be able to identify any bad behaviors that continue once they get into the game," said Dudzik.

"Yeah, when they're in line, we have deputies that are actually wearing high visibility vests to be clearly seen that are actually keeping an eye on those that are in line looking for folks that are intoxicated. If you're intoxicated, you're likely not going to make it through the line, and you're not going to make entry to the game. And, that's what you risk if you're going to drink to excess and be intoxicated because once you get in, you can purchase additional beer, and then all you do is ruin it for those that are around you," says Joslyn. "We have deputies that are assigned, multiple deputies, to every point of ingress and egress to each one of the Bills' owned lots. If we see activity that is taking place in front of us, and we see it, we will absolutely act on that. We don't just turn a blind eye. We will notify Orchard Park, they'll start over there, and together both agencies will deal with the issue, so, absolutely. The more uniformed law enforcement you can put out there, the more of a deterrent it is. Ultimately, folks are there, I think, for one reason, and that's to get into the game. If you get arrested or you're intoxicated, you're likely not going to get into the game. So, I go back to 70-thousand plus people, and maybe it's more, maybe there are five or ten-thousand that show up just for the parties in the lots. There were nine arrests. And, those are incredible numbers, you know? Back 15, 18 years ago when I started working Bills games, it was not necessarily an atmosphere that you felt comfortable or safe being at because the presence wasn't there. That's completely different now."

"So, you've stepped up staffing for sure," said Dudzik.

"Without a doubt. We have SWAT teams. You walk around you see a SWAT team, and this is what we're being presented with as law enforcement what's happening with whether it's terrorism, or whether it's just a couple of attendees that are just looking to get a few moments of fame. The more we play the videos, the more we talk about it, the more likely, in my opinion, that somebody's going to try it again. The gentleman that went on, the field intrusion, he's facing more than six months in jail. And, I think if that happens, that would be a strong deterrent. So, hopefully there's the courts and how this all plays out, will be the deterrent that law enforcement and the Buffalo Bills need to put this type of conduct at bay," says Joslyn.

"Do you talk to other law enforcement agencies in other NFL cities and compare notes? How is it different having the stadium in a suburb and not in an urban area?" asked Dudzik.

"Well, I can't comment on how it's different because I've never worked a different one other than Orchard Park, but what I can tell you is again, we talk about and it's portrayed as this crazy animal house party festivities, and I'll tell you, I'm there. I'm boots to the ground working with my guys, and it's everything but that and when we see something, we take action. We're going to continue to take action, and eventually, the word's going to get out there. I don't know, maybe we ask to ban tables. Right? And, what do you do at that point, right? And, that's really all they're doing, but we saw instances where they're lighting tables on fire," said Joslyn. "Arrests are going to be made in that situation because that is now conduct which is over and above just violation of fan code of conduct. Lighting yourself on fire and potentially lighting others on fire is beyond a violation of fan code of conduct, and you're going to get arrested for that type of behavior," said Joslyn.

"But, if it's happening on private property, do you still need a complainant or would the video be evidence enough to file charges against somebody?" asked Dudzik.

"That's not a black and white question with a black and white answer, there's a lot of grey there. And again, I know the focus is maybe what's happening off, and Chief Pacholec and I are in constant conversation all day long talking about different situations. They have a difficult time because they can't necessarily just drive down a driveway and start walking around private property in the backyard. Where, if you're on Bill's property, you're likely going to see several sheriff's deputies and hopefully on your best behavior and you get to watch the game and go home at the end," says Joslyn.

"And, keeping everybody safe is the top priority," said Dudzik.

"That is our number one priority. We have, just looking at what's happening across the world, I'm confident that you're not going to stop everything. It's reactionary, but I'm very confident that the Sheriff's Office, in collaboration with all the other law enforcement agencies, are going to be able to respond to any type of incident that comes before us very quickly," said Joslyn.

Joslyn also says they've ejected four buses in the last two games because fans violated the code of conduct. If you get ejected for violating the code of conduct, in order to be allowed to go to a Bills game again, you have to take a four-hour online course. It costs $250.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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