Lawmakers in the Nassau GOP majority announced legislation Friday to require county police to ask individuals arrested on nonviolent charges, such as driving while intoxicated, petty theft and other misdemeanors, if they served in the armed forces so their cases potentially can be directed to the county’s Veterans Treatment Court.
The bill, to be considered Monday by the legislature’s Rules Committee, would add a box to county police reports indicating if the individual is a U.S. military veteran.
“Part of honoring our veterans must be respecting those with daily struggles that are all too often a byproduct of their service,” Legis. John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown), chairman of the Veterans and Senior Affairs Committee, said at a news conference in Mineola.
“The proposed legislation . . . is a crucial step in ensuring veterans are identified so they receive the critical support they have earned by serving each and every one of us.”
The treatment court, which opened in First District Court in Hempstead in 2011, identifies veterans whose crimes are related to mental health or substance abuse issues they developed as a result of their service.
Veterans found to be eligible for the court are given an opportunity to plead guilty and get treatment rather than going to jail.
“We will make sure the data is collected and will push it forward for the courts so they can get the services they so well deserve and need,” said acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Legis. C. William Gaylor III, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, called the bill a “no-brainer” that will better identify vets whose offenses are connected to their time in combat.
“Whether it’s post-traumatic stress disorder-related, combat injury-related, injuries sustained while on the battlefield or not, our veterans have special needs,” said Gaylor (R-Lynbrook).
Veterans Service Agency director Ralph Esposito said his staff visit the county jail in East Meadow weekly to identify veterans.
With the legislation, “we will have a better opportunity to find out which veterans are in need of the Veterans Court,” Esposito said.