Blakeman calls for DeRiggi-Whitton’s resignation after comparisons of special deputy sheriffs to Brownshirts

Blakeman calls for DeRiggi-Whitton’s resignation after comparisons of special deputy sheriffs to Brownshirts
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman stood in front of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center Thursday to denounce Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton's comment relaying resident comparisons of the emergency special deputy sheriffs to Brownshirts. (Photo by Karen Rubin)

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman called for the resignation of County Legislature Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton on Thursday after she said his program to recruit residents and business owners with gun licenses to become “provisional” special deputy sheriffs had brought back memories of Nazi Brownshirts.

“She has no right to be a public officer and a public servant in this county,” Blakeman said at a press conference. “She should go away. She should resign.”

DeRiggi-Whitton called Blakeman’s attacks a deflection from the issue, saying residents had contacted her with concerns and she would continue to fight against the program.

“Thankfully, the public is seeing through his antics,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “My office continues to receive many emails and phone calls thanking me for my opposition and encouraging me to continue fighting this irresponsible proposal – and that is what I will do.”

On March 17, the county had an ad published in Newsday calling for special deputy sheriff applicants “for the protection of human life and property during an emergency.” Specifically being sought after were individuals with law enforcement or military backgrounds.

‘We’re preparing for an event that we hope never happens,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman said at the press conference that political protests that escalate to riots would be among the kinds of county emergencies in which the special deputy sheriffs would be activated.

The announcement took Nassau County officials by surprise. 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

In the wake of the announcement of these positions, many residents and local officials have scrutinized the program for the danger it could present.

“Nassau County isn’t the Wild West,” DeRiggi-Whitton said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “We already have one of the largest and best-trained police forces in the nation. The last thing we need during an emergency is a bunch of untrained residents running around with guns, playing junior detective at the behest of the county executive.”

Great Neck resident Sabine Margolis started a petition that demands the program be suspended. By Friday, the petition had received more than 900 signatures.

Coming to the forefront of the scrutiny are residents and officials comparing the resident law enforcement group to the Brownshirts – an early Nazi paramilitary organization comprised of former soldiers and street fighters.

At a press conference Thursday, Blakeman denounced the comparison.

Comparisons to the Brownshirts

In an interview with Patch, DeRiggi-Whitton said that residents have come to her with concerns about the deputy sheriffs and residents comparing them to Brownshirts.

“I’ve had some people tell me it’s actually causing them a lot of anxiety,” DeRiggi-Whitton told Patch. “It reminds them not only of the Wild West but of times in Europe with uncertainty. There was something called the Brownshirts, which was basically having civilians all of a sudden become part of law enforcement without the training.”

Blakeman said DeRiggi-Whitton’s statement trivialized the Holocaust, calling them “deplorable and disgusting.”

“Equating these men and women who would be willing to devote their time to protecting our county, people who have prior experience in law enforcement, served this county, served this country, military veterans who would be willing to step up to the plate again for this community, calling them Brownshirts?” Blakeman said. “…How could you [DeRiggi-Whitton] possibly disgrace your office by making such an untrue and damning statement and trivializing the Holocaust?”

The county executive was joined by county officials, law enforcement and Jewish religious leaders for the press conference in front of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center, including its Executive Director Moji Pourmoradi.

He qualified the comments as a personal insult.

“Am I the leader of the Brownshirts?” Blakeman questioned. “A Jewish American?… I’m offended by that.”

Blakeman said these special deputy sheriffs would not be loyal to the county executive or a political party.

He demanded DeRiggi-Whitton apologize to the applicants for the comparison and called for her to step down from her role in the legislature.

DeRiggi-Whitton said she stood by her criticisms of the special deputy sheriffs, which she said the county executive intended to deflect community concerns.

“The idea of any county executive having a private, armed group of people to deploy at his sole discretion is risky, unnecessary, and has created tremendous anxiety in people across Nassau County,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “It is telling that his response to overwhelming criticism has been to distort my relaying of constituents’ heartfelt concerns with hopes of manufacturing false outrage and changing the subject.”

Sabine Margolis, who started the petition against the special deputies, said they can be compared to many historical examples of militarizing residents for political gains.

She called Blakeman’s attacks against DeRiggi-Whitton a stunt and an attempt to take away a frame of reference for calling out the potential harm of such groups. She said private militias are dangerous, no matter what they are called.

Margolis grew up in Germany and said she was taught the ways to identify rises in fascism. She said this education is what alerted her to concerns about the mobilization of residents as emergency special deputy sheriffs.

She said she supports law enforcement and their ability to protect citizens but not the use of special deputies.

She questioned the ability of residents to do that in place of law enforcement – suggesting they volunteer with other emergency response organizations already established like the Red Cross.

“To me, getting people with guns is a trigger,” Margolis said. “It doesn’t mean safety in any way, shape or form… Emergency response doesn’t need guns, emergency response needs information.”

What are the emergency special deputy sheriffs?

Upon the announcement of the positions, much uncertainty arose on what the responsibilities of the emergency special deputy sheriffs were and the subsequent selection and training process.

The establishment of these positions is in the intent of preparing for potential emergencies, Blakeman said.

“I didn’t want to find myself in a circumstance where we’d have an emergency, and it would be a very significant event like Superstorm Sandy, and scramble to get volunteers who wouldn’t be vetted and wouldn’t be pre-trained,” Blakeman said.

The county executive said that the New York State and local law allows the deputizing residents during emergencies. He said the implementation of the special deputy sheriffs did not need to be approved by the legislature as it is the power of the executive branch to implement.

He described the establishment of these special deputies as a database of individuals who can be called on during an emergency.

Blakeman said the special deputy sheriffs’ responsibilities would be limited to guarding buildings and infrastructure. They would not be patrolling officers.

He said doing so would allow police officers to better respond to emergencies and perform patrolling functions.

Emergencies where these special deputies would be used include natural disasters, like Superstorm Sandy, Blakeman explained.

But other emergencies the county executive said they could be used in are political protests that evolve into riots. He said if a riot escalated to buildings being burned down and communities being harmed, then that would constitute an emergency.

Applicants are vetted first by the Sheriff’s Department and then by the Police Department. Once their credentials are evaluated, then the chosen applicants will be trained.

The county is prioritizing applicants with prior law enforcement or military training. They would then be trained even further by the county sheriff’s office on the penal law, deadly force and weapons.

About 100 people applied to be emergency deputy sheriffs. Blakeman read off a list of applicants’ backgrounds, all having prior law enforcement or military experience.

The county executive said a list of the deputy sheriffs will be released once all have been screened and approved.

Even with the addition of these special deputies, Blakeman said he is seeking to hire additional police officers this year. He touted that the county already has one of the largest police forces in the United States.

Petitioning against the program

Upon learning the news of the new emergency special deputy sheriffs, Margolis said she had chills going down her spine.

“It is just so reminiscent of something that I have learned to always be afraid of and to stop in its tracks,” Margolis said, referencing her German education to identify fascism.

So Margolis started a petition to express her and the community’s disapproval of the emergency special deputy sheriffs.

She described her petition as a spark to aid people in acting against the program.

“I’m finding more and more people [in support of the petition],” Margolis said. “There’s a majority against this and they don’t know how to voice this, so I am giving them the opportunity for the opposition in a normal discourse – this is not aggressive, this is the way a democracy should work.”

But through the fear in response to this program, Margolis said there is also hope.

“Together we can make a difference in civil discourse,” Margolis said. “This really is an issue for our whole county and we shouldn’t be pitting neighbor against neighbor.”

She said her petition is intended to recognize “patterns of injustice and speaking up before they can manifest themselves.”

The petition, which set a goal of 500 signatures, garnered 900 signatures by Friday. A new goal has been set for 1,000 signatures.

No posts to display


  1. Not even the most crime ridden parts of the country ever came up with a hare-brained idea like this.
    Blakeman, being Trump’s Gauleiter on Long Island, wouldn’t know a Nazi if he was staring in the mirror.
    This man just wants to stir up resentment and views governing as theatre, as you would expect a Trump sycophant to do.
    It’s Blakeman who should resign.

  2. “Blakeman said at the press conference that political protests that escalate to riots would be among the kinds of county emergencies in which the special deputy sheriffs would be activated.”

    Do tell. That’s got official thuggery written all over it

    Thanks, Mr. Cairo. You picked another genius.

  3. The one who should “go away” is Blakman. The atrocity of a County Executive having his own personal army is profoundly unAmerican. He’s taking a page from would-be dictator Trump, someone who also would like armed people at his beck and call, to serve his own personal and political ends. If Blakeman actually does this, I hope that Nassau Democrats, in office or not, will call for his impeachment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here