New York Politician Looking for Gun Owners to Become ‘Special Deputy Sheriffs’

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is looking for a few good men and women willing to step up and serve as “provisional special deputy sheriffs” if needed, though when and if they might be called to duty is still an open question. 

In his announcement, Blakeman pointed to New York State County Law 655, which states “For the protection of human life and property during an emergency, the sheriff may deputize orally or in writing such number of additional special deputies as he deems necessary.” The executive says he’s encouraging military veterans and those with prior law enforcement experience to apply, but that’s not a requirement for the gig.

Applicants would need to meet the minimum qualifications of: 21-72 years of age; a U.S. citizen; possess a pistol license; be a Nassau resident, property owner or business owner; consent to full background check and random drug testing, and provide a fit-for-duty letter from a doctor, according to a county flyer and an advertisement published March 17 in Newsday’s classified section.
The nonunion position comes with a stipend of $150/day and “will have no police powers unless an emergency is declared by the County Executive and they are activated.” 
Blakeman spokesman Chris Boyle declined to comment. Nassau County Sheriff Anthony LaRocco did not reply to requests for details such as how many positions were available, how applicants would be vetted and trained and during which emergencies they would be deployed.

Those are fairly important questions, and I hope that Blakeman and the sheriff will provide more details. According to Newsday, Blakeman’s announcement came as a surprise to many county legislators, so gun owners and potential hires aren’t the only ones who are looking to learn more about Blakeman’s plans. 

In theory, this is a pretty good idea. Most police departments around the country are suffering from a staffing shortage, so being able to call up a pool of reserve deputies in case of an emergency makes sense. But we still need to know what these folks will actually be doing, Directing traffic? Taking part in search and rescue operations in the aftermath of a hurricane or flood? What would their role be if the sheriff has to respond to civil unrest or violent protests? 

I’m also a little concerned that this could turn into a program that benefits the county’s top brass and their friends/donors. A Virginia sheriff is currently awaiting trial on bribery charges after prosecutors accused him of running a similar program in Culpeper County, where donors cut checks so they could become “auxiliary deputies.” Former sheriff Scott Jenkins is scheduled to stand trial later this year, but two of those auxiliary deputies have already pled guilty to similar charges, including James Metcalfe; a northern Virginia business owner who says he cut the sheriff a $5,000 check in exchange for a badge.

Jenkins, who came in third in the November election, has maintained his innocence. The former sheriff has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, four counts of honest-services mail and wire fraud and eight counts of federal programs bribery. Jenkins is awaiting trial this spring.
Metcalf showed initial interest in the alleged badges-for-bribes scheme in 2019 with an email to another businessperson, from Prince William County: “I am ready to pop a little cash on somebody and get a badge brother will talk about that at lunch,” the email from Metcalf said, according to the indictment.
In or around late 2021 to early 2022, Jenkins, who served three terms in office, reached out to the Prince William businessman about building his “war chest” for his 2023 reelection campaign, according to the indictment.
They agreed the Prince William businessman would recruit individuals to make payments to the sheriff and the sheriff would appoint them auxiliaries, according to the indictment. The businessman allegedly contacted Metcalf in August 2022 and told him he could get a badge for $5,000. 
Jenkins appointed Metcalf on Sept. 6, 2022, and the next day Metcalf came to Culpeper to have lunch with the sheriff and the businessman who recruited him, according to the indictment.
“After lunch, Metcalf handed Jenkins a white envelope containing a $5,000 check from his company, Yona Systems Group, made payable to Scott Jenkins for Sheriff,” the indictment says. He went with the businessman to be sworn in that day in the Culpeper County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.

What kind of safeguards will be in place in Nassau County to ensure that the “provisional special sheriff’s deputies” that are hired actually deserve the job? 

I don’t want to be overly critical of Blakeman’s initiative, but those are my initial concerns. Hopefully, as we learn more about what Blakeman envisions for these provisional deputies those concerns will be put to rest, but for the moment I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to the Nassau County executive’s plan.  

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