Hempstead Lake State Park Attack Sparks Renewed Call for More Police
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The Police Benevolent Association of New York State Law Enforcement (PBA of NYS) is again urging state officials to address understaffing at state parks in the wake of a knife and machete attack at Hempstead Lake State Park in Nassau County.
The fight, which resulted in three teens being sent to the hospital with injuries, occurred in the afternoon. There were no Park Police at the park at the time as they were called away to Jones Beach to patrol the beach as officers dealt with a three-person arrest.
“These types of fights occur like clockwork this time of year, as the weather gets better,” said Manny Vilar, referring to the Hempstead Lake attack. Vilar, a park Police sergeant with more than 30 years of experience, is a PBA of NYS vice president and park police sergeant director.
“We have warned the state about this for many years,” Vilar said. “If the two officers were at Hempstead State Park instead of Jones Beach this attack would have likely been avoided. We have a persistent shortage of Park Police and it must be addressed before something very bad happens – something even worse than this knife attack.”
The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation employs 237 police officers. According to the state Department of Civil Service, the state should have at least 387 Park Police officers. While 17 officers recently graduated from the Park Police Academy, the force has had a net loss of 12 officers since last July.
Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ramos (A8020) and Senator Pat Gallivan (S05882) would set a minimum Park Police staff level at 385 permanent, full-time officers.
“The crime rates at state parks very often mirror the rates in the community, but many of our parks are understaffed or unstaffed for many hours of each day,” said Troy Caupain, Park Police officers director. “It’s a problem statewide, not just on Long Island, While the state is boasting that state parks drew more than 65 million people last year, our members want the public to know that there might not be a police officer there if they need one. This is a matter of public safety and appropriate policing.”
The PBA of New York State is the exclusive bargaining agent for the New York State University (SUNY) Police, the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Park Police, and the New York State Forest Rangers. Our members police and protect New York State’s public universities and colleges; state parks and historic sites; and they enforce state laws and protect our lands and forests and ensure environmental safety and quality throughout the state.