Public Safety Officers And Bay Constables Allowed To Carry Firearms

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Town Attorney Joseph Nocello at the podium addressing the town board regarding the “use of force” resolution. (Photo source: Town of Oyster Bay/Vimeo)

At their monthly meeting in December, the Town of Oyster Bay board unanimously approved a resolution that would allow bay constables and some public safety officers to carry firearms.

“While overall our community is safe, much has changed in society that requires us to address the arming of bay constables and retired police officers serving and protecting our town,” spokesperson Brian Nevin said. “The law does not arm public safety officers unless they are retired law enforcement and therefore already eligible to carry their sidearm full-time under law. This local law establishes a town policy, which includes requirements for proper training and de-escalation techniques.”

The resolution states that public safety officers must receive a full carry pistol permit given by the Nassau County Police Department, get an armed security guard license that is issued by New York State and must get the approval of Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety Commissioner Justin McCaffery. The resolution doesn’t necessarily state that only retired officers can carry a firearm, but the town said they will look to clarify that.

“The State of New York determines who a peace officer is, which entitles them to bear arms in their course of duty,” town attorney Joseph Nocella said at the board meeting discussing the resolution. “It doesn’t mandate it. That’s up to [the town]. According to the state, public safety officers are not peace officers. [That’s why] retired police officers would be the only ones allowed to carry firearms.”

Some of the provisions in the resolution include outlining details of using deadly force. According to the law, deadly force may be used if the officer “reasonably believes” themselves or another person is an imminent threat of “serious physical injury or death.”

Officers are also allowed to use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect if the individual inflicted or threatened to seriously injure or kill someone, the suspect poses a threat to seriously hurt the officer or others and, when feasible, a warning is issued prior to using deadly force.

When force is used, a supervisor would respond to the scene to investigate and the commissioner should be notified. After the supervisor and all officers involved in the incident fill out a “force report,” the county police department should be contacted and they, along with the commissioner of public safety and any other law enforcement agency involved, would conduct an investigation.
The resolution also lists prohibited uses of force, such as extracting an item “from the anus or vagina” of a subject without a warrant “except where exigent circumstances are present,” coercing a confession from an individual in custody, obtaining bodily fluids from a subject for scientific testing “in lieu of court order where requested” and using force against someone who is handcuffed or restrained unless it is used to prevent “injury, escape or otherwise overcome active or passive resistance” by the subject.

Arming bay constables, Nevin says, is something they are actually behind on. They cite townships such as Hempstead and cities like Glen Cove and Long Beach as examples of municipalities that allow constables to carry guns.
“Bay constables face many of the same risks as their counterparts in the police department and the Coast Guard,” said Nevin. “They respond to potentially dangerous, violent and suspicious situations. We expect these officers to intervene in cases of assaults, domestic violence, gang and drug activity, BWI enforcement and homeland security patrols. They are also tasked with the enforcement of hunting and fishing regulations, which puts them in almost daily contact with boaters and hunters and poachers armed with rifles, knives and flare guns.”

To be qualified, constables must complete firearms qualifications at Nassau and Suffolk counties law enforcement academies. The officers will be required to attend annual training on the use of force and in de-escalation techniques in order for “every interaction [to] result in a safe and calm result,” according to Nevin.

“All have already passed [state] and FBI criminal background and fingerprint checks,” said Nevin. “They are also required to pass the same psychological testing and one-on-one interview with a psychologist that are actually used by Nassau and Suffolk, as well as and New York City law enforcement officers.”

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