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Oyster Bay Town Board approves arming public safety officers

Oyster Bay will arm its public safety officers

Oyster Bay will arm its public safety officers after a unanimous vote. Credit: Newsday / Ted Phillips

The Oyster Bay Town Board on Tuesday approved allowing its bay constables and public safety officers to carry firearms and authorized them to use deadly force in certain situations.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said after the board meeting that the policy, which passed unanimously, was necessary for “the safety of the public and the safety of those officers.”

Town Public Safety Commissioner Justin McCaffrey said 20 of 48 public safety officers and all 18 bay constables are eligible to carry weapons.

Under state law, bay constables already were allowed to carry weapons but have not, town officials said. Town spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email that bay constables must purchase their own department-approved 9 mm pistol, but bay constables who do not wish to carry firearms will not be required to.

Town officials said many bay constables in the state already carry firearms. Hempstead, for example, allows its bay constables to carry weapons, Hempstead town spokesman Michael Fricchione said.

The policy for armed public safety officers requires that they have a “full carry pistol permit” issued by the Nassau County Police Department, an armed security guard license issued by New York State, and be approved by the Oyster Bay public safety commissioner.

Armed public safety officers and bay constables would be authorized to use deadly force if they “reasonably believed” the person presented an imminent threat to the officer or others, under the policy. Under certain circumstances involving suspicion of violent crimes, an officer would be authorized to shoot fleeing suspects.

The policy would require armed officers and constables to undergo background checks, a psychological evaluation and annual training in the use of deadly force.

Before the vote, Sea Cliff resident Arthur Adelman, 68, asked the board, “If they are not currently armed, what is the necessity of arming them now?”

Town Attorney Joseph Nocella responded with an example of bay constables approaching duck hunters on the water.

“As they approach someone who is armed … they themselves are unarmed,” Nocella said. “It’s a terrible situation. It’s one that mandates that they protect themselves and perhaps most importantly protect other people.”

Saladino and Nocella said arming public safety officers would only apply to active duty or retired police officers. The policy did not, however, restrict arming only public safety officers who were current or former police, rather it said they must have a full carry pistol permit issued by Nassau Police. The Nassau Police handbook on pistol licenses includes a full carry license for civilians who demonstrate they are in a threatening situation.

McCaffrey said the town’s policy may need “clarification” to restrict weapons carried by public safety officers to only active and retired police officers.

“We’ll announce any and all clarifications,” Saladino said.

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