Viewpoint: Blakeman’s plan for private militia underscores his unfitness as county exec

Viewpoint: Blakeman’s plan for private militia underscores his unfitness as county exec
Karen Rubin, Columnist


There was a reason after the George Floyd protests over the epidemic of police killings of unarmed Black men and women that then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo compelled local police reform to be more accountable. Now Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman wants to do an end-run around “responsible policing” and create his own private armed militia who he can summon upon declaring an emergency.  They would essentially be beyond responsibility, accountability and transparency.

When Nassau County Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) raised an alarm that such a private militia smacked of the Brownshirts in the early days of Nazi Germany, Blakeman reacted with indignation, called her an anti-Semite and in typical inappropriate fashion, called for her to “Resign!” “Get Out of Town!” How dare she question his executive order to deputize gun-wielding sheriffs whenever he chooses to declare an emergency.

What emergency? It could be a Superstorm Sandy. Or it could be a protest over a killing of an unarmed black teen by police. Or maybe it will be the upcoming November 2024 election, and this armed goon squad will be stationed at particular polling places, just in case.

How could anyone think that these good citizens, who just want to “give back to their community,” could ever abuse their authority (what authority is that, exactly?), Blakeman wondered. They will be given weapons training, training in the use of deadly force (!) and the penal code, even though many of the 100 or so who have already volunteered have backgrounds where they use weapons – FBI, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, detectives and NYPD retirees. The good guys with a gun. What could possibly go wrong?

After all, it never happens that a police officer guns down an unarmed civilian or beats a protester or suspect senseless, or that confusion over who is the “good guy with a gun” vs. the bad guy ever results in law enforcement or innocent people getting gunned down. And these are professionals, who train regularly and are practiced in what they do, “not wanna-be cops who own guns,” as Good Government activist Jody Kass put it.

A reminder: an untold number of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists who assaulted Capitol Police and would have killed Nancy Pelosi were ex-military, police, government officials, elected and candidates who have declared their loyalty not to the Constitution but to Trump and the MAGA “cause.”

Nor does Blakeman provide any of those pesky details about how his militia would be organized, commanded, controlled, and held responsible. Will these individuals wear a uniform or just wave a pretend badge along with their gun? How would the public know they have authority or whether this is a pretender masquerading as a “deputized sheriff?”

There is no description of how these individuals will be selected, vetted (will “Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen” be one of the questions?), trained, who they would be accountable to or how they would be held to account, or even what function they would perform that warrants a gun.

Dozens of Nassau County residents appeal to Nassau Legislature to compel County Executive Bruce Blakeman to end his plan for an private armed militia © Karen Rubin/

Like his transgender ban, Blakeman provides no evidence to justify the need for a new militia – it is a solution (or rather an objective) in search of a problem – though the sound of it, “militia,” is appealing, like the militias on the southern border that freely terrorize people or the goon squads (“election police”) employed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to intimidate people from voting.

These “deputies” will be armed as they are “guarding.” What happens if a trigger-happy deputy panics, makes a mistake or misfires and kills an innocent, or even an actual police officer, or the police officer mistakes the “deputy” for the criminal? What is the liability to the county? Ooopsy. My bad.  (Suffolk just had to pay out $20 million in damages for a police shooting.)

What happens when this deputy turns into a vigilante, inserting himself into a situation and escalating violence, believing he has authority?

Indeed, Blakeman who is now consistently auditioning for a more prominent position among the Trump MAGAs, loves vigilantes. Blakeman went into Manhattan to rally in support of Daniel Penny, the 24-year old Marine charged with choking to death 30-year old (black) Jordan Neely on a New York City subway train.

But if this were about “public safety,” he would not have held up funding to hire police officers or for fentanyl treatment and PSAs. He would focus his attention on making the Nassau University Medical Center solvent. He would address the epidemic of traffic deaths largely because of a rise in people driving impaired by alcohol and drugs.

If Blakeman were concerned about public health, he would be encouraging residents to get vaccinated, give proper notice when there is an uptick in infectious disease and encourage people to mask.

Blakeman cites Superstorm Sandy as an example of an emergency that might warrant him summoning his militia. But during the two weeks of power outages, there were no riots and sufficient assistance was provided by the National Guard. Indeed, Nassau County already has Community Emergency Response Team volunteers trained by FEMA.

“The timing is interesting,” Helen Riordan told Nassau County Legislators, “Is this creation to support the next round of election deniers? Would they have access to ballot boxes if called up? If the National Guard is under the authority of the governor, and the militia under the county executive, would their interests clash, diverge? How would they avoid conflict? A program like this requires significant oversight to insure it is not weaponized for a single person’s political purpose. Hiring armed civilians is a bad idea and this body should insure this program is dropped now.”

Riordan was one of dozens of residents who protested to the Nassau Legislature demanding they disband Blakeman’s “unnecessary and dangerous” militia. Sabine Margolis of Great Neck, presented them with a petition signed by 2,100 (to date) that calls on Blakeman to “stop the nonsense and start doing his job– such as protecting Long Island’s precious natural resources, revitalizing our downtowns, fixing the county’s broken assessment system, finding a solution to the NUMC’s financial problems, lowering our taxes.”

Margolis said she created the petition because “everyone is concerned about the danger, divisiveness, and cost of Blakeman’s militia. He needs to know how unhappy his constituents are.”

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  1. I invite you to join the many residents who signed the petition to stop Bruce Blakeman‘s personal militia.

  2. Brava, Ms. Rubin! I cannot imagine a better explanation of why Blakeman’s initiative is so misguided and dangerous. Thank you.

  3. Karen:

    County Executive Blakeman is selling
    Deputy Sheriff Badges to his armed supporters.
    This case will be heard in court.
    R Brinn

  4. This is a hazardous plan that Blakeman wants to enforce. Sadly, there are many racists and bigots on Long Island in Nassau County. I remember Trayvon Martin a 17 years old boy who was shot in 2012 because the person who shot Zimmerman was afraid of the hoodie Trayvon wore and Zimmerman though Trayvon was holding a gun. It was a bag of candy sizzle. Nassau County will have a lot of unnecessary killings.

  5. I don’t know who Blakeman is trying to impress, if not Trump, and I am incensed that he chose to promote his plan in front of the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Glen Cove, as a means to protect us against the uptick in antisemitic hate incidents on LI. Who is he kidding? The Jewish communities that I belong to do not believe that armed citizens will protect them against the bigotry, ignorance that fuels hate, and divisions that permeate our land. Those forces unleashed in super force since 2016, require truth telling, and assertive confrontation of elected officials who aim to use their power to garner more, to stir fear among residents, and create a false narrative of danger lurking where there is little to none. Crime rates in Nassau are in decline and among the lowest in our nation. Here is our chance and I thank Ms. Rubin, to reclaim a true vision for our county and hold Blakeman accountable to his constiituents.

  6. Pointing Mr. Blakeman to NUMC, the assessment fix that is needed, a rise in drunk driving, is all on target. But let’s look at the ‘need’ for this group of civilian deputies……. What emergency has LI suffered that could not be handled by local police/county police, state police, and if needed, the National Guard? I’ve lived in Nassau since 1998. What previous County Executive felt the need for his/her own police force? Mr. Blakeman, there are so many questions about this; and that you are perturbed that there are these questions suggests a substantive reason for so many residents to distrust you. Again, why are these questions bothersome to you? You’re angry, rather than understanding……..The question about liability was answered by telling us that these ‘deputies’ would waive the right to make claims. Besides the fact that that would be some ‘intelligent’ group of people to join this venture without insurance from the County, that answer ignores the County’s liability if a ‘deputy’ shot a civilian, killed a civilian. Who’s paying for the insurance in an instance like this ? ……….Mr. Blakeman, how about working for Nassau constructively on problems that exist. They’re here now, let’s work on them.


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