A bill that would prohibit peace officers in New York from carrying firearms has drawn opposition from Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.
The bill, introduced in the State Assembly this month by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), would prohibit peace officers from carrying firearms for any purpose during the scope of their employment — other than to dispose of the firearm.
Rosenthal cites the “abbreviated nature” of peace officer training — a minimum of 180 hours, compared to the 900-hour minimum for police officers — as justification for the proposed legislation, which would amend Section 2.20 of the State Criminal Procedure Law and Section 400 of the State Penal Law.
Toulon (D-Lake Grove) wrote to Long Island state lawmakers Friday to express his “strongest opposition” to the bill (A10755) which he said would “severely interfere with local law enforcement’s ability to protect public safety” and could have “serious personal safety consequences” for peace officers, including correction officers.
“Correction officers,” Toulon wrote, “work on a daily basis with some of New York’s most dangerous individuals — gang members, terrorists and those accused and convicted of a host of violent crimes.” Their duties carry an “intrinsic risk for personal harm,” Toulon said.
Designated peace officers include a wide range of state, county and local personnel. The Riverhead Town fire marshal and bay constable are designated peace officers under Criminal Procedure Law Section 2.10. So too are town employees serving as court officers in the Riverhead Justice Court. Other designated peace officers include: Suffolk County park rangers; probation officers, parole officers and warrant officers; and officers or agents of society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, such as the Suffolk County SPCA.
Under Criminal Procedure Law Section 2.20, designated peace officers have broad powers similar to other law enforcement officers, including: the power to make warrantless arrests; the power to use physical force and deadly physical force in making an arrest or preventing an escape; the power to carry out constitutionally permissible warrantless searches; the power to issue appearance tickets, traffic summons, parking tickets and other powers authorized by state or local law or charter.
Designation as a peace officer does not authorize the peace officer to carry a weapon. The individual must still obtain a permit to have and carry a concealed weapon pursuant to state law. Status as a designated peace officer is an enumerated reason for a concealed carry permit in New York State.
The sheriff said the bill understates the level of training some peace officers receive. Suffolk County correction officers receive 450 hours of training, he said, well above the 180-hour minimum cited by the bill. Correction officers also receive 40 hours of initial firearms training, he said.
Toulon noted that the Criminal Procedure Law requires any peace officer authorized by their employer to carry a firearm to annually complete a course of training in the justification of the use of force/deadly physical force and in the use of firearms and/or other weapons. Suffolk County correction officers receive this continuous training every year, Toulon said.
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