Editorial: Blakeman’s own militia. What could possibly go wrong?

Editorial: Blakeman’s own militia. What could possibly go wrong?

The ad placed by Nassau County appeared in Newsday’s classified section on March 17.

It called on residents and business owners 21 to 72 with gun licenses – particularly retired law enforcement or military veterans – to become “provisional” special deputies at $150 a day “for the protection of human life and property during an emergency.”

Who would determine whether there was an emergency? Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, the author of the program.

Nassau County legislators and police union leaders said they knew little or nothing of the program before the ad appeared in Newsday. Blakeman did not seek legislative approval or consult with union officials.

Newsday reported that most legislators and union officials were unaware of the measure until one of their reporters brought the program to their attention.

The program appears to be yet another instance of Blakeman offering a solution in search of a problem in an apparent effort to curry favor among MAGA supporters for a possible bid for statewide office or a position in a future Trump White House.

Or a bid by Blakeman to get his very own militia.

Nothing else makes sense.

Nassau has a police department with 2,500 officers that Blakeman said is the highest paid in the state. He has boasted in recent weeks of adding funding to this year’s county budget to hire more officers.

The county also has 60 deputy sheriffs –  most based at the county jail – and state troopers who assisted the county during Hurricane Sandy are also available. There are also village and town police and public safety agencies.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has its own police. The county police have volunteer auxiliaries under its direction and, for dire emergencies, there are New York’s National Guard members.

Isn’t that enough for a county listed two years in a row as the safest county in the United States before Blakeman took office?

And exactly how would this work?

Would the special deputies get uniforms of their own? In 2011, an MTA officer shot and killed a plainclothes Nassau County officer in an example of what can go wrong with even seasoned officers who work together.

How well-trained would these “provisional” deputies be? And how would they interact with other law enforcement agencies? We don’t know.

For good reason, criminal justice experts questioned Blakeman’s program for Nassau County.

“It almost seems redundant to do this when you have neighboring agencies, the state police and the National Guard,” said Jillian Snider, a retired NYPD officer and lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, in an interview with Newsday.

“At a time when people are concerned about the actions of police and police actions are more scrutinized than ever, do we really think it’s safe to consider deputizing any gun owner in the face of an emergency?” said Snider, a criminal justice policy director at R Street Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C.

This is a real concern. Blakeman’s initiative comes at a time when the Nassau County police, considered among the least transparent in the nation, are denying Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly’s request for disciplinary records.

The DA’s office said the denial is impacting numerous court proceedings and has resulted in at least one case being dismissed.

Would we expect better from the “provisional” sheriff’s deputies under the command of the county sheriff and Blakeman?

Residents and Democratic county legislators also objected to Blakeman’s plan.

“Nassau County isn’t the Wild West,” County Legislature Minority Leader Delia 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.”

Others questioned its purpose.

“What’s an emergency? Is it going to be when a Black Lives Matter march happens? Is it going to be when a Palestinian march happens? Is it going to be when the St. Patty’s Day parade happens in Long Beach? I don’t know. What’s an emergency?” Michael Moore, a member of the Nassau County FEMA Community Emergency Response Team,” told Patch.

Blakeman initially implied that the “provisional” special deputies would protect buildings during an emergency such as Hurricane Sandy.

But state troopers from around the state were able to assist the county after Hurricane Sandy caused massive destruction and long-term power outages in 2012. And there were no riots then.

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

Does Blakeman believe that the 2024 presidential election might result in political violence in Nassau County?

Former President Donald Trump’s frequent references to “bloodbaths” and “rigged” elections do increase the likelihood of violence in the race for the White House when he is expected to be the official Republican candidate.

But Blakeman, who was the Nassau County Republican Party’s liaison to the 2020 Trump presidential campaign, said little after the then-president orchestrated a riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, intended to overthrow the election.

Do we really want Blakeman to control what is effectively his own militia if Trump orchestrates another attack in 2024 that extends beyond Washington?

Before allowing this to happen, we should at least know if Blakeman agrees with Trump that the people who have been convicted of attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, including seditious conspiracy, are hostages. Or the criminals they are.

Blakeman, who is Jewish, called the press conference on Thursday after DeRiggi-Whitton said his program had brought back memories of Nazi 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.”

Surrounded by Republican supporters and Jewish religious officials, Blakeman called for DeRiggi-Whitton to resign, saying her statement trivialized the Holocaust and was “deplorable and disgusting.”

But Deriggi-Whitton listening to her constituents does not trivialize the Holocaust. And what she said about the Brownshirts was true.

It’s Blakeman’s use of Jewish religious figures as props in his  bid to deflect criticism that’s “deplorable” and disgusting.”

Since 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, they have repeatedly vowed “never again.” This means being sensitive to what led to the Holocaust including the Brownshirts, the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party that helped Adolf Hitler early in his rise to power.

Comprised of former members of the German army and barroom brawlers that came together in the early 1920s, the Brownshirts protected Hitler at Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupted the meetings of opposing parties and intimidated others, especially Jews.

The Sturmabteilung, or stormtroopers as Brownshirts were officially known, didn’t actually participate in the Holocaust.

The SS replaced them after Hitler’s release from jail in 1925.

Is the hiring of special deputy sheriffs cause for concern for another Holocaust? No.

But then again millions of Jews and non-Jews lost their lives by underestimating the threat posed by Hitler, the Brownshirts, and all those who supported the Nazis.

In that context, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for residents and elected officials to express concerns when they see an unnecessary unit of armed people created for questionable purposes in a time of rising antisemitism.

This is especially true when we now know the armed Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 included white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Some wore shirts with “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MNE” – Six Million Is Not Enough” – written on them. Some were former members of the police or military and even current members of law enforcement.

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

On Monday, Nassau County legislators held a rally in opposition to the program joined by residents, former law enforcement officials, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization of Women and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Hiring armed civilians under the county executive’s control is a bad idea for almost too many reasons to count.

Blakeman should drop the program now.

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  1. It is sad to see this happening in Nassau County. Blakeman is undermining the NCPD and other law enforcement agencies. He is propagating false narratives of lawlessness, incapable NCPD, and the belief that the Nassau County residents are not law-abiding people.


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