Surveillance footage of an off-duty Nassau police officer pulling a...

Surveillance footage of an off-duty Nassau police officer pulling a gun out at a Farmingdale bar. Credit:

Why is it that twice in the past few months, off-duty Nassau County police officers pulled guns on civilians?

It's essential that there's transparency in both cases as one wends its way through court and the other comes under probable scrutiny from the department's internal affairs unit.

Last week, a police officer pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment for drawing a loaded service pistol and pointing it at the back of a bartender's head in Farmingdale.

Then came word Monday that charges against a cabbie who was shot and wounded by another off-duty Nassau officer in Huntington Station had been dropped.

Both incidents ought to send a chill up the collective public spine. Officers are trained to seize control of situations, not help create them.

In Farmingdale, a video shows the accused officer, Richard Hefferon, arm outstretched, pointing a loaded service revolver. The video also shows him holster the weapon, pull it out again, remove the clip and eject a round from the chamber. The officer then places the clip, the bullet and the handgun on the bar countertop.

In Huntington Station, the off-duty officer, Anthony DiLeonardo, fired several shots at the cabbie, Thomas Moroughan, after a skirmish that involved another off-duty officer. Moroughan was hit twice.

At a court hearing Monday, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl said there was "some evidence" that both off-duty officers had consumed alcohol prior to the shooting. The officers, according to the Suffolk district attorney's office, refused to provide blood and urine for an alcohol test at the hospital, Pearl said.

The cabbie did not testify before a grand jury. And the cabbie's girlfriend, who was on the scene, declined to talk to investigators.

The incident should go to the Nassau police department's internal affairs unit. In addition to divulging the unit's findings, the department ought to review the policy on carrying firearms while off duty with officers, too.

Two incidents are too many. The bartender's lucky the off-duty officer didn't shoot; the cabbie's lucky his wounds weren't life threatening; DiLeonardo's lucky his other shots -- it's unclear how many -- didn't hit anyone else.

The conduct of both officers -- again, Hefferon has pleaded not guilty; DiLeonardo has been charged with no crimes -- reflects poorly on a department already reeling from a scandal growing out of its forensics lab.

But the incidents should not stain the 1,700 police officers on the job in Nassau -- which also saw two of its officers killed in five weeks, the first on-duty casualties since the early 1990s.

Transparency is necessary so that the public knows what happened in each case and why. A review of department policy with officers makes sense to keep it from happening again.