Officials in Islip have brought peace officer training in-house for its newest group of park rangers — a decision that officials said will allow them to customize the curriculum so officers are best prepared to work in their communities.
Historically, the town has sent its park rangers to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office for peace officer training regulated by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, but town officials sought and in November won permission to teach their own basic course for peace officers.
“The beauty of it is, unlike when we send someone to the county, what they learn has to be applicable to what work they will do in the town,” Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said.
The goal of in-house training was to speed up the process for new park rangers, who would have otherwise had to wait until February to take the standard course, said Anthony D’Amico, the town’s public safety commissioner. The new class is made up of five men and one woman.
“If we had to wait, that’s two more months our guys aren’t on the street,” D’Amico said. “We wanted to get them trained and get them working.”
The four-week course started Nov. 27 and runs through Dec. 21, he said.
The new hires are learning from a curriculum that the state division uses, covering topics such as state penal and criminal procedure laws, how to defend themselves and how to interact with the public, D’Amico said.
However, each lesson can be customized with examples that can be applied on the ground in Islip’s park system, he said. Peace officers are law enforcement officers with specialized duties, such as animal control officers, parole officers or court officers.
State Criminal Justice Services officials said the decision to allow a municipality to offer such training locally depends on whether it has the resources — such as a facility and certified instructors — to provide the training in a way that meets state standards. The 101 hours of course material must be certified by the Municipal Police Training Council, state officials said.
The localized approach has been rewarding for the new hires, said Robert Bozza, 23, a park ranger recruit from Oakdale.
“I think it’s great we’re doing it in-house,” he said. “Our job is very specific to the Town of Islip, and we’ll be able to apply all of what we’re learning to our daily experience.”
Town officials said they have been trying to increase the number of park rangers after a decline. The number had fallen to 11 rangers earlier this year, down from 14 in 2016 and 2015. The new hiring brings the total to 17.
“You’ll see more of a presence” at the town’s more than 100 parks, D’Amico said of the latest round of hiring.
More park rangers will also help the cut down on overtime spending and meet the greater need for rangers since the reopening of Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park this summer, Carpenter said. The park had been closed for three years during the cleanup of more than 40,000 tons of contaminated construction debris that had been dumped at the site.