Nassua County Executive Bruce Blakeman at a March 4 news conference...

Nassua County Executive Bruce Blakeman at a March 4 news conference in Mineola.  Credit: Rick Kopstein

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's administration is calling on residents with gun licenses — particularly retired law enforcement or military veterans — to become provisional special deputy sheriffs "for the protection of human life and property during an emergency." 

Applicants would need to meet the minimum qualifications of: being 21 to 72 years old, a U.S. citizen,  a Nassau resident, a property or business owner; possessing a pistol license; consenting to a full background check and random drug testing, and providing a fit-for-duty letter from a doctor, according to a county flyer and an advertisement published March 17 in Newsday's classified section.

The nonunion position comes with a stipend of $150 a day and "will have no police powers unless an emergency is declared by the County Executive and they are activated." 

Blakeman spokesman Chris Boyle declined to comment. Nassau County Sheriff Anthony LaRocco did not reply to requests for details such as how many positions were available, how applicants would be vetted and trained and during which emergencies they would be deployed.

In creating the team of special deputy sheriffs, Blakeman, a Republican, cites New York State County Law 655: "For the protection of human life and property during an emergency, the sheriff may deputize orally or in writing such number of additional special deputies as he deems necessary." 

Legislators and union leaders said they had little knowledge of the initiative and the administration did not seek legislative approval nor consult with union officials. Most were unaware of the measure until a Newsday reporter brought it to their attention.

In Suffolk County, special deputy sheriffs are appointed by the sheriff and "basically serve as community ambassadors. They do not get paid and they are not required to have pistol licenses or be firearm trained because that’s not in their duties,” Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Vicki DiStefano said.

“At this time we would not utilize these deputies in the event of an emergency,” DiStefano said.

Nassau has about 60 deputy sheriffs who are members of a unique Civil Service Employees Association unit. They are employed under the Sheriff's Department, where the majority of workers are based at the county jail in East Meadow and are represented by the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

Nassau's Police Benevolent Association represents the majority of the county's law enforcement. There are about 2,500 Nassau County police officers. 

Deputy sheriffs have the full authority of police officers but do not respond to 911 calls. Their tasks include executing warrants, serving family court orders of protection, and conducting evictions and property seizures. They are police academy trained, enforce state and county laws and drive marked "deputy sheriff" county vehicles. 

Robert Arciello, executive vice president of CSEA Local 830 and president of the Nassau County Deputy Sheriffs' Unit, declined to comment on the special deputy team. 

Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), the legislature's presiding officer, said he believed it would be "potentially useful and important in the event of a significant emergency. I assume, of course, that these people would be carefully vetted and trained before they are allowed to join this program."

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), the minority leader, said in a statement: “Nassau County isn’t the Wild West. We already have one of the largest and best trained police forces in the nation.”

She continued: "So the last thing we want during an emergency is a bunch of untrained residents running around with guns, playing junior detective at the behest of the County Executive."

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