Protesters decried Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's plan hire armed 'special deputies' in case of emergencies. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

With signs like “Nassau is NOT the Wild West,” “Professionals Not Provisionals,” and “Eclipse Blakeman's Militia,” advocates and residents joined county Democrats on Monday to oppose Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's plan to build an emergency volunteer reserve of gun owners to serve as deputy sheriffs. 

More than 100 people rallied on the steps outside the county executive and legislative building in Mineola, including leaders from the NAACP, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women, to express concern over allowing Blakeman to mobilize citizens with firearms. 

The plan creates fear — particularly in communities of color — and increases the likelihood of an accidental shooting along with an unnecessary legal liability for county taxpayers, they said. 

“The reality is that this idea to deputize armed citizens is just another example of how extremist government leaders want to push the gun lobby's agenda of guns everywhere under the guise of public safety,” said Laura Burns, an advocate with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

At one point during the rally, the crowd chanted: “Blakeman has to go!” 

Blakeman along with Nassau County Sheriff Anthony LaRocco last month called on members of the public to become special provisional deputy sheriffs “for the protection of human life and property during an emergency.” LaRocco has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Blakeman, a Republican, defends the plan, calling it an effort to build a database of former law enforcement officials he hopes “to never have to use.”

Training would begin this week and the first group of 25 would be ready, if needed, by the end of May, Blakeman told reporters in an event after the rally Monday. Applicants are largely retired law enforcement or military veterans who already have much of the training, he said. 

He said “there is no controversy” over the program and said it was “nothing more than a list, a database of people who would be willing to volunteer in the event that there was an emergency.”

“This has been in the law for years — it goes back over 100 years here in New York state — and what I'm doing is not waiting for an emergency. I'm preparing in case, God forbid, we would ever have to activate,” Blakeman said.

He said the special deputies would be called upon to secure “critical infrastructure” and help police but would not go on patrol or wear body cameras. Blakeman called the fear from residents in communities of color “ridiculous.”

Jermaine Rucker, 30, of Roosevelt, who owns Little Minds Universe child care centers in Freeport said, as a father, resident, and business owner in a community of color, he was concerned about whether the program was going to offer enough training and continuing education to the volunteers. 

“We have a legitimate police department that is already in place and doing the job. If we call them, they'll come. They show up. It's just about utilizing the resources we have instead of deputizing individuals just because they have a license to own a gun,” Rucker said. “Who's really going to monitoring this process?”

Nassau has a county police force of more than 2,500 officers. 

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.”

Nassau already has about 60 deputy sheriffs who are members of a unique Civil Service Employees Association unit. CSEA President Ron Gurrieri declined to comment Monday.

Nassau PBA President Thomas Shevlin did not respond to a for comment. 

The county also has a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, that offers training to volunteers 18 and older who are called on during emergencies. 

With signs like “Nassau is NOT the Wild West,” “Professionals Not Provisionals,” and “Eclipse Blakeman's Militia,” advocates and residents joined county Democrats on Monday to oppose Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's plan to build an emergency volunteer reserve of gun owners to serve as deputy sheriffs. 

More than 100 people rallied on the steps outside the county executive and legislative building in Mineola, including leaders from the NAACP, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women, to express concern over allowing Blakeman to mobilize citizens with firearms. 

The plan creates fear — particularly in communities of color — and increases the likelihood of an accidental shooting along with an unnecessary legal liability for county taxpayers, they said. 

“The reality is that this idea to deputize armed citizens is just another example of how extremist government leaders want to push the gun lobby's agenda of guns everywhere under the guise of public safety,” said Laura Burns, an advocate with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

At one point during the rally, the crowd chanted: “Blakeman has to go!” 

Blakeman along with Nassau County Sheriff Anthony LaRocco last month called on members of the public to become special provisional deputy sheriffs “for the protection of human life and property during an emergency.” LaRocco has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Blakeman, a Republican, defends the plan, calling it an effort to build a database of former law enforcement officials he hopes “to never have to use.”

Training would begin this week and the first group of 25 would be ready, if needed, by the end of May, Blakeman told reporters in an event after the rally Monday. Applicants are largely retired law enforcement or military veterans who already have much of the training, he said. 

He said “there is no controversy” over the program and said it was “nothing more than a list, a database of people who would be willing to volunteer in the event that there was an emergency.”

“This has been in the law for years — it goes back over 100 years here in New York state — and what I'm doing is not waiting for an emergency. I'm preparing in case, God forbid, we would ever have to activate,” Blakeman said.

He said the special deputies would be called upon to secure “critical infrastructure” and help police but would not go on patrol or wear body cameras. Blakeman called the fear from residents in communities of color “ridiculous.”

Jermaine Rucker, 30, of Roosevelt, who owns Little Minds Universe child care centers in Freeport said, as a father, resident, and business owner in a community of color, he was concerned about whether the program was going to offer enough training and continuing education to the volunteers. 

“We have a legitimate police department that is already in place and doing the job. If we call them, they'll come. They show up. It's just about utilizing the resources we have instead of deputizing individuals just because they have a license to own a gun,” Rucker said. “Who's really going to monitoring this process?”

Nassau has a county police force of more than 2,500 officers. 

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.”

Nassau already has about 60 deputy sheriffs who are members of a unique Civil Service Employees Association unit. CSEA President Ron Gurrieri declined to comment Monday.

Nassau PBA President Thomas Shevlin did not respond to a for comment. 

The county also has a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, that offers training to volunteers 18 and older who are called on during emergencies. 

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