Featured Letter: Do the right thing on court safety

09/11/2014 5:00 AM |

To the editor:

Last week’s front-page article on court safety was excellent. Paul Squire covered the players and the serious issues quite well. The comments of the police chief and supervisor would be comical if not such a serious subject. 

1. The public at large cares not if a court officer or police officer is protecting the court. They make the assumption they are safe, but we know in Riverhead they are not!

2. Justices Smith and Ehlers, given their vast experience, have it correct: Arm the court officers. The defendants who appear have oftentimes chosen a career of crime with attendant violence and gang affiliation. To assume the issue of unarmed officers is not discussed when they go over to the county jail is naïve in the extreme.

3. The cost of refurbishing the armory is typical “pie in the sky.” We know this town is incapable of planning and moving forward on a major public works project; EPCAL demonstrates that every day.

4. Within one mile of the town court are three chief clerks with decades of experience on just this issue. As a former director of peace officer training for all Suffolk County courts (’82-’86), I designed and implemented the first NYS certification program for court officers and clerks, as well as formal firearms training. My successor and now retired chief court officer is probably the most knowledgeable court security expert in Suffolk. I wonder if the chief or supervisor bothered to call him. Over my 30-year career in the courts of the 10th Judicial District, I was in close contact with municipal officials, both elected and appointed, who were extremely confident in their position, regardless of the facts before them or an abject lack of experience. Court security is a most serious issue. In the 37 years since NYS assumed control of the county and city courts, there has not been one incident of the improper use of a firearm by a court officer or clerk.

Robert Bennett, Aquebogue