Democratic members of the Nassau Legislature say County Executive Bruce Blakeman is ignoring their emails and letters. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez

Minority Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature on Thursday called on County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Republican legislators to disclose more details about the training of volunteers in a new program that would give police powers to civilian gun owners. 

Six weeks after Blakeman, a Republican, called on county residents and business owners ages 18 to 72 with registered guns to join a reserve ready in the event of an emergency declaration, questions remain about who has signed up as well as how and where they are being trained, the legislators say. 

"This program is causing a lot of fear in many of our constituents," Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said at a news conference outside the police department's Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City. "The one thing I can picture adding to their fear is to have the type of training we are hearing about now. We can't get any information on it. We're not sure how many people are being trained ... we don't know any of the details." 

Blakeman spokesman Chris Boyle did not respond to Newsday's questions about how many people have signed up to be special deputy sheriffs, how many are being trained, where they are training and how often it is occurring, and what training exercises are involved.

Blakeman last month said the first group of 25 would be trained by the end of May. He has rejected allegations by Democrats and some county residents and advocates that the program lacks transparency, increases the likelihood of an accidental shooting and creates fear, particularly in communities of color.

He has defended the idea as an added safety measure and the volunteers, mostly retired law enforcement or military veterans, would not have police powers unless they were called on to secure “critical infrastructure” such as power plants, water districts, hospitals and government buildings.

Blakeman and administration officials have said little about the special deputies program since answering questions during an April 8 news conference in Mineola. 

Leaders from the NAACP, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women have come out against the plan. Residents submitted a petition with thousands of signatures and dozens have voiced their concerns at public meetings. 

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said legislators, their constituents and taxpayers have the right to know the details of this plan. She said Thursday no one from the Blakeman administration had responded to her April 12 letter inquiring about the training. 

"This plan for civilian deputies to be armed on our streets has been done in the cloak of darkness," Bynoe said. 

Majority Leader Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) also did not reply to questions about the training, saying in a statement that the initiative "would ensure that volunteers are qualified and ready to serve . . . " 

Minority Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature on Thursday called on County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Republican legislators to disclose more details about the training of volunteers in a new program that would give police powers to civilian gun owners. 

Six weeks after Blakeman, a Republican, called on county residents and business owners ages 18 to 72 with registered guns to join a reserve ready in the event of an emergency declaration, questions remain about who has signed up as well as how and where they are being trained, the legislators say. 

"This program is causing a lot of fear in many of our constituents," Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said at a news conference outside the police department's Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City. "The one thing I can picture adding to their fear is to have the type of training we are hearing about now. We can't get any information on it. We're not sure how many people are being trained ... we don't know any of the details." 

Blakeman spokesman Chris Boyle did not respond to Newsday's questions about how many people have signed up to be special deputy sheriffs, how many are being trained, where they are training and how often it is occurring, and what training exercises are involved.

Blakeman last month said the first group of 25 would be trained by the end of May. He has rejected allegations by Democrats and some county residents and advocates that the program lacks transparency, increases the likelihood of an accidental shooting and creates fear, particularly in communities of color.

He has defended the idea as an added safety measure and the volunteers, mostly retired law enforcement or military veterans, would not have police powers unless they were called on to secure “critical infrastructure” such as power plants, water districts, hospitals and government buildings.

Blakeman and administration officials have said little about the special deputies program since answering questions during an April 8 news conference in Mineola. 

Leaders from the NAACP, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women have come out against the plan. Residents submitted a petition with thousands of signatures and dozens have voiced their concerns at public meetings. 

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said legislators, their constituents and taxpayers have the right to know the details of this plan. She said Thursday no one from the Blakeman administration had responded to her April 12 letter inquiring about the training. 

"This plan for civilian deputies to be armed on our streets has been done in the cloak of darkness," Bynoe said. 

Majority Leader Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) also did not reply to questions about the training, saying in a statement that the initiative "would ensure that volunteers are qualified and ready to serve . . . " 

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