Only our police officers should be doing police work


On June 25, my classmates and I became the latest class of graduates from the Nassau County Police Department Foundation’s Civilian Police Academy — a program I encourage all Nassau residents to enroll in.

Although I have been involved with many aspects of the criminal justice system during my legal career as a Queens County assistant district attorney and as a private practitioner, the academy was an eye-opening and enlightening experience that I believe would give any Nassau resident vital insights into the daily activities of our law enforcement professionals.

Starting on March 7 and continuing every Thursday evening from 7 to 10 p.m., we delved into key aspects of criminal procedure and penal law as well as the department’s policies governing the use of force. Guest speakers from various units presented to our class of civilian students, giving us first-hand insights into the operations of the Detectives Squad, the Bomb Squad, the K-9, horseback mounted and aviation units and more; demonstrations included the landing and takeoff of a police helicopter and a simulated high-speed chase in a Nassau police car.

The Civilian Police Academy was a pared-down version of the extensive training that our Nassau County Police Department professionals receive. It gives participants insights into the decisions officers make and what they go through on a daily basis. This experience further elevated my tremendous respect for our law enforcement professionals and appreciation for the department’s commitment to training and professionalism.

Moreover, my experience in the Civilian Police Academy, as a county legislator, provided me with a unique perspective that I can apply to critical law enforcement and public safety policy decisions. It was a tremendous experience, personally and professionally.

Earlier this spring, the administration of County Executive Bruce Blakeman solicited applications for “provisional sheriffs.” As a predicate to applying, each of these citizens required a valid pistol permit. Provisional sheriffs could be mobilized to guard public spaces, utilities and infrastructure during vaguely defined “states of emergency.”

From its inception, I believed that the Blakeman administration’s proposal was reckless, misguided and unlawful. As I completed the Civilian Academy, I grew even more steadfast that the provisional special deputy sheriff program — also known as the “militia” — is a recipe for disaster.

I respect the fact that several of the participants in Blakeman’s program may be retired law enforcement professionals and members of our armed forces, and I thank them for their prior service. Nevertheless, the 30-day training crash course that these civilians received is woefully insufficient to get anyone prepared to act in any law enforcement capacity. It becomes more troublesome when you consider that NCPD officers receive seven months of intense basic training before being permitted to function as police officers.

By comparison, my classmates in the Civilian Police Academy and I completed 14 weeks of instruction by the NCPD. Logically, wouldn’t we be better trained than other civilians who received only 30 days of training? For some reason the Blakeman administration believes that provisional sheriffs need a mere 30 days of vaguely defined training before being activated in potentially chaotic, emergency situations.

I have always believed that only police officers should be doing police work. If what I learned in a 14-week police course does not qualify me to act in a law enforcement professional’s capacity, why should these provisional sheriffs be given authority to insert themselves, and their firearms, into emergency situations? These are situations in which residents are already stressed, confused and seeking clarity.

Nassau County doesn’t need this. Nassau County doesn’t want this. We have more than 2,600 well-trained officers already at the ready, not to mention state, village and city police departments that can provide mutual aid. We also have the National Guard, FEMA and other agencies that are far better equipped to assist than a handful of provisional special deputy sheriffs.

There is plenty to do in Nassau — we should be devoting our attention to addressing real issues like fixing our broken assessment system, investing in our aging infrastructure, getting lifesaving opioid settlement funds onto the front lines of the addiction crisis, and saving Nassau University Medical Center and Nassau Community College. This “militia” is yet another example of wasted time, resources and energy by the Blakeman administration, which focuses on finding solutions to problems that don’t exist.

Seth I. Koslow represents Nassau County’s 5th Legislative District.