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Erie County Executive now has a visible security detail

An unfamiliar site regarding an elected official who most often drove himself to various events and appearances.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has been observed as of late being escorted by a security detail, an unfamiliar site regarding an elected official who most often drove himself to various events and appearances.

Plainclothes Erie County Sheriff’s deputies could be seen walking near the county executive before and after he delivered his annual State of the County Address on Wednesday.

When asked about it, Poloncarz told 2 On Your Side, “I would just say that in this environment that we deal with, with regards (sic) to the political climate today, we've had an uptick in some serious incidents that we worry about."

When asked to be more specific, however, Poloncarz replied, “I’d rather not get into it.”

Sheriff Timothy Howard described it as a “dignitary” detail, provided to public officials upon request.

But Howard also declined to say what led to the formation of this one.

Pistol Packing Comptroller

“I wholeheartedly understand because I received a death threat from an inmate," said Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw.

Mychajliw explained that his office collects bail money and serves as a pass-through for people who have foreclosed homes and that he received a threat he deemed credible enough to report to police. However, he did not request security personnel.

“I did not ask any law enforcement for a detail or armed guards, or for a vehicle. Instead, I paid my own money for a concealed carry permit in order to carry a firearm… which I do wherever I am legally allowed to do so.”

Poloncarz insists his new security detail is not just to watch his back, but to also protect others and to deter anyone who might show up at an event like the State of the County with the idea of doing harm.

“We want to ensure the safety and welfare of not only myself, but anybody who comes to events like these,” Poloncarz said.

Changing and Unsettling Times

“It didn’t used to be this way,” said Michael Caputo, who has never been an elected official but has worked with many who have been, or sought to be one.

Caputo, who once served as an adviser to the successful 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, is a popular guest on national shows about politic, a subject which these days have taken on the fervent tone of a religion, sometimes with such zeal that it has led to violence.

"I'm still doing the job I've always done, I've just had to adapt," he said.

In particular, he has had to quickly recognize the difference between someone being harshly critical of him and someone who may pose a credible threat to his safety or that of his family.

“I typically go to the police whenever I can actually positively identify one of the people who threaten me," Caputo said.

He does so whether those threats are direct or implied.

“My wife received a piece of a sniper rifle in the mail,” he recalled.

Many times, however, it is difficult to track down those who make threats because they often do so anonymously and take steps to cover their tracks.

“It’s gotten a lot more intense and I think it has to do with the internet and technology and social media," said Caputo, regarding a realm where perceived anonymity emboldens keyboard courage.

“That perceived anonymity gets people to work up muscles that they normally wouldn't," he said. "They're cowards in the day, or at least normal during at the day, and at night they grow muscles they didn't know they ever had, and they flex them online and end up getting themselves in trouble and scaring someone."

If a threat is serious enough, those who make it can be charged with aggravated harassment and Caputo says he presses charges against those he can identify.

“I would just hope people tone down the rhetoric out there,” said Poloncarz. “You can disagree with an individual regarding a political opinion, but you can do it in such a manner without threatening people."

“Problems that would normally just cause someone to want to debate, or to speak loudly about, or even call someone a name over cause other people to want to kill or to hurt someone,” said Caputo. “And you don't know who is going to be the one that snaps.”

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