Safety first for Niagara County Sheriff Mike Filicetti

Nov. 4—One could say Michael Filicetti is living the dream.

The Niagara County sheriff is currently in his third year of his first elected term. During his career, spanning 30 years now, he has worked for both the Village and Town of Lewiston police departments and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, where he started out on road patrol in 1997.

Filicetti attended the Niagara University Police Academy as soon as he was able and graduated in 1993, but the story goes back further than that.

"It was a lifelong dream," he said during an interview in his office. "My dad was a part-time police officer growing up and from an early age I thought it was a really noble profession. I went to the police academy when I was 20 years old. It's been my dream job ever since."

Filicetti was frank, though. Despite his enthusiasm, the job isn't easy, he said. It has a lot of moving parts.

"You carry a lot of responsibility for the safety of 210,000 plus residents and during major incidents," he explained. "You carry the responsibility to take care of 340 employees here. ... the toughest job is just making sure that everything goes right today. Then the next day and the next day."

Looking back on his career, Filicetti said there have been a few memorable events. He said one of the most valuable parts of it was attending classes at the FBI National Academy for 10 weeks in 2009.

"Not a lot of law enforcement gets to go to the FBI Academy, so that was really a notable thing that I got a lot out of by training with not only the FBI, but also with law enforcement from across the United States and also a lot of international law enforcement that was there. It was quite an honor to be picked to attend that," he said.

In the end, Filicetti said he wanted residents to understand that when they call 911, there will be somebody on the other end of the line that is devoted to helping them and every layer of law enforcement that comes to that call prioritizes serving them.

In a word, Filicetti said, it's about "safety."

"I want them to know that their safety is our priority, not just at the sheriff's office but law enforcement across this county," he said. "Whether that means when they are at home, traveling on the roadways, when they send their kids to school. When they call 911, I want them to know that we have trained people that answer their calls so they're going to get the right help when they call. Or that means we make sure we keep our inmates secure in the facility so they're not out back in society where they shouldn't be."

Filicetti also pushes another priority of community outreach. He said that a quick look at the Niagara County Sheriff's Office Facebook page can show what his employees are doing outside of catching bad guys.

It's a simple fact, Filicetti said. If a resident knows the member of law enforcement who'll be responding to a call, they're going to trust them more.

"Safety is important but the other priority I push is community outreach," he said. "If we look back to 2020, one of the things that was really pushed during police reform was making sure the community knows who we are. So we've made a really big effort."

Some of the things Filicetti is talking about includes summer events and as we get into fall, the Trunk or Treat event where children can get dressed up in their spookiest costumes and meet some real life Niagara County first responders.

"If you look at our social media you see the community outreach we're involved in," Filicetti said. "I think, and I've said this numerous times at speaking events: the community that knows its law enforcement or knows its sheriff's office is more inclined to trust their sheriff's office. Because you're typically not calling us at your good moments, you're typically calling at your worst moments. A medical problem, somebody's breaking into your house, something bad has happened. It's helpful to know the people that are coming to your call are people you've met before at community events and it just makes a better trust between law enforcement and the community."

So while Filicetti said his job means "paying attention" and putting "good people in the right places," he's dedicated to the task.

"There have been changes over the 30 years I've been doing this," he said, "but I would say, overall, it's been a very rewarding career."