Blakeman’s sheriffs allegedly being trained in secret at night

Blakeman’s sheriffs allegedly being trained in secret at night
Nassau County Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton speaks in front of the Nassau County Police Academy surrounded by legislators Carrié Solages, Seth Koslow, Scott Davis and Siela Bynoe. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Nassau County Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said she received multiple reports that the special deputy sheriffs sought out by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman have been secretly training at night at the county police academy in Garden City.

DeRiggi-Whitton, joined by a group of Democratic legislators, demanded transparency from Blakeman on the suspected night training sessions. She said she had asked the executive for clarification multiple times to no avail.

“The county executive is deliberately obscuring the specifics of this militia training,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “The bottom line is it’s just absolutely the wrong approach to take. If you are training people, it should be out in the open.”

A spokesman for Blakeman did not confirm or deny to Blank Slate Media whether special deputy sheriff training has begun, but News12 reported that seven Nassau residents have completed their deputy training.

“Democratic legislators who consistently support pro-criminal policies that make us less safe continue to denigrate law enforcement retirees and military veterans who are willing to donate their valuable time as an added level of protection in the event of an extreme emergency,” Blakeman told Blank Slate Media in a statement.

The group of Democratic legislators pushed for details on how thorough the special deputy sheriff training is, citing a risk to taxpayers.

“If these deputies are not trained to the level of, for instance, our police who endure a five-month rigorous program, and something God forbid ever went wrong, it would be the taxpayers’ money that would have to go out to cover any type of lawsuit,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “We will be liable as taxpayers.”

The legislators questioned the cost of the program itself, including how much the deputy sheriffs are being paid – that is, if they are receiving a salary at all.

Legislator Seth Koslow, who represents parts of Freeport and Merrick, said the special deputy sheriffs must be paid if they are being trained or it is a violation of the law. On the flip side, if the sheriffs are being paid more than $3 an hour, Blakeman is required to face the Legislature to request more money for payment, which he has not done, Koslow said.

“Either [Blakeman is] making people train for free and using them as labor without payment, or he’s paying them more than he is entitled to pay them,” Koslow said. “Either way, he is violating the law.”

The Democratic legislators said they have received complaints from their constituents, who are fearful of the proposed program.

“These mothers in my community are coming to me, like Elizabeth Forbes, who has two sons, two young black men, who are concerned about the details of this plan,” said Legislator Carrié Solages, who represents Elmont and Valley Stream.  “If individuals who have no training, no bias training, are gonna be armed under the collar of law and do something against someone, that would be irreversible.”

Nassau County resident Sabine Margolis is behind a digital petition demanding that Blakeman halt the creation of the citizen sheriff program. The petition has received more than 2,500 signatures.

When Margolis questioned legislators Mazi Melesa Pilip and Scott Strauss on the sheriff program at a civic meeting in April, Strauss mentioned a similar program run “successfully” in Westchester County.

The exact Westchester program Strauss was referring to is unclear. One possibility is the Public Safety Emergency Force, a specialized reserve unit made up of part-time deputy sheriffs.

All members of the PSEF are “duly sworn peace officers” who often assist with traffic and crowd control at special events, like street fairs and fireworks celebrations, and have worked with the Westchester County Police in the past during the Sept. 11 attacks, hurricanes, power outages and presidential, vice-presidential and papal visits, according to the Westchester government website.

Members of the PSEF have “full police powers” while on duty and all volunteer members are provided with a county-issued firearm, according to the website.

Democratic legislators have repeatedly said the sheriff program is unnecessary due to countywide safety under the Nassau County Police Department.

Nassau County is rated the safest county in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.

And the Police Department is well-funded. In Nassau, 971 county workers earned more than $200,000 in 2022, with 942 of these 971 highest paid employees working for police or corrections, according to Newsday.

But Blakeman seeks to expand county law enforcement by bringing in emergency special deputy sheriffs to be on call for county-wide emergencies.

A Nassau County ad with a March 31 application deadline called for county property or business owners, specifically former law enforcement and military veterans, to apply to the emergency sheriff position.

Blakeman has not yet disclosed how many individuals applied to the program.

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