Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Lake George Marine Patrol Now Authorized to Carry Firearms

Lake George Park Commission’s Marine Patrol with Sheriff’s officers at Log BayThe Lake George Park Commission’s Marine Patrol officers are now allowed to carry firearms while on duty, according to a resolution adopted by the Commission at its November meeting.

Until now, a patrol officer was equipped only with handcuffs, a pocket knife, rubber gloves and a small flashlight.

“Without having the proper equipment to protect the officer and the public, the officer and the public are in harm’s way should the patrol encounter someone aggressive (and bearing) a firearm or knife,” Lt. Joe Johns, the Commission’s director of Law Enforcement, stated in a memo to the Commissioners.

A firearm and a non-lethal baton will serve as visible deterrents to violent behavior, said Johns.

“The first thing (suspects) notice is whether you’re armed or not,” said Johns.

According to Dave Wick, the Commission’s executive director, the Lake George Park Commission’s Marine Patrol was the last law enforcement agency operating on water in New York State without the protection of fire arms, and in all likelihood the only agency of its kind that deploys only one officer per boat.

Johns said eight of the thirteen members of the Marine Patrol are former or current police officers and are already trained and certified in the use of firearms. The remaining five will receive the same instruction afforded police officers and be certified before the 2018 boating season begins.

According to Dave Wick, the new policy has the support of the Marine Patrol officers themselves, the Sheriff’s Department, the Lake George Park Commissioners and New York State.

“New York State government officials assumed Marine Patrol officers have always carried firearms,” said Wick.

And, in fact, as Lt. Johns pointed out, New York State law permits all certified Peace Officers to possess fire arms “for any lawful purpose, consistent (with) his special duties.”

Nevertheless, 2018 will be the first summer with armed Marine Patrol officers since the Lake George Park Commission was created by the legislature in 1961.

“There’s a lot going on around the lake that we didn’t see five or ten years ago” said Johns.

For instance, Johns said, law enforcement agencies made 19 Boating While Intoxicated arrests in 2017, compared with no more than a few per summer in previous years.

Dave Wick commented, “Whether it’s the drugs that have infiltrated the area, or a loss of respect for the badge, officers have noted a shift in attitude from some members of the public in the last twenty years.”

In his memo to the Commissioners recommending the change in policy, Johns cited several “risk to officer safety” calls to which Marine Patrol officers have responded in recent years, all of which could easily have escalated to levels dangerous to officers.

Among them: an incident on Vicars Island last summer, when “two out-of-control teens, intoxicated and on drugs, injured three of the four officers on the scene.” Johns noted, “Had this been a group of men in their mid-twenties, things could have ended with much more severe injuries to the officers.”

Marine Patrol officers also respond to an increasingly large number of incidents of domestic violence, considered the most dangerous type of encounter for any law enforcement officer, Johns stated.

Marine Patrol officers are also more vulnerable than other police officers because they operate solo, with back-up often thirty or forty minutes away, Johns and Wick stated.

Before recommending the new policy to the Commissioners, Wick said his staff investigated several alternatives, including increasing the number of officers per boat and furnishing officers with stun guns.

Stun guns are not recommended for use near water, and increasing the number of officers per boat would be too costly, Johns and Wick said.

“God forbid anything should happen, but the Lake George Park Commission would be considered remiss if it didn’t take steps to protect its officers,” said Wick.

Photo: Lake George Park Commission’s Marine Patrol with Sheriff’s officers at Log Bay in 2017 (Buzz Lamb).

This article was first published on the Lake George Mirror. Subscribe to the Lake George Mirror here.

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Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.

8 Responses

  1. adkDreamer says:

    This article cites no evidence that firearms could have or will prevent violence. Now that the public knows that the Lake George Marine Patrol is to be armed, so also will the public respond in kind. It is simply a matter of time before someone is shot.

    And so escalates the war, brought to a campsite near you.

  2. laurie says:

    “Among them: an incident on Vicars Island last summer, when ‘two out-of-control teens, intoxicated and on drugs, injured three of the four officers on the scene.’ Johns noted, ‘Had this been a group of men in their mid-twenties, things could have ended with much more severe injuries to the officers.’

    If they were so intoxicated and high as to not think twice about getting in a physical altercation with four officers, do people really think the mere presence of a sidearm is going to subdue them? The implication seems to be that officers would be justified in shooting the two teens in question above. I get that a taser may not be recommended near water, but what about pepper spray? How did we end up at the point where being drunk and disorderly is a justifiable reason for being shot?

    • adkDreamer says:

      @ laurie. I agree. Along the same lines we have state police units acquiring so-called surplus military assault vehicles – for what known or perceived purpose has never been established.

  3. M.P. Heller says:

    With the DEC, NYSP, and Warren County Sheriff’s Department all already with armed law enforcement officers patrolling Lake George, arming the Park Commission seems rather foolish. In fact, the existence of the Park Commission in its entirety is rather ridiculous. They do absolutely nothing that other agencies and local governments don’t already do. Policing of the waters is already being done by the real police, no less than 3 agencies here in Warren County in addition to the Park Commission. Applications for building projects are managed by both the APA and the municipality the project lies in, absolutely no need for a third level of review. The LGPC is just a tax scam. Abusing property owners with fees on their docks and abusing boaters with fees on their boats in order to fund this totally unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. It’s inefficient and ineffective.

    Case in point: The Park Commission has repeatedly bragged in The Post-Star, The Mirror, and in other publications that they made 19 BWI arrests in 2017. They have also claimed this is a massive increase from the 2 or 3 they have made in prior years. This “focus” on intoxicated boaters only came about after a little girl was tragically killed by an intoxicated boater in 2016. However, as a law enforcement action it’s laughable. 11,000 registered boats and only 19 arrests for intoxicated operation? I guarantee that the qualified law enforcement agencies who already patrol the lake could produce 19 a day if they chose to, and that’s without the need of any kind of assistance from the Park Commission.

    The time has come to dismantle the Park Commission and let the APA and towns regulate construction like every other place in the Park. The time has come to stop using boaters and property owners as the piggy bank of this redundant behemoth of politics and pay-to-play.

  4. Charlie S says:

    ““There’s a lot going on around the lake that we didn’t see five or ten years ago”

    This is a universal thing…a lot going around that we didn’t see five or ten years ago. Whether it be social, economical, environmental, political…things they are a-changing. One wonders when or if we might just wake up one morning and try to do something different so that maybe things will be different in a better way. You know – like maybe start trying to get along with each other and other countries, thinking about food drops instead of dropping bombs. Maybe if there was less of the ‘What’s in it for me’ attitude and more charity and getting along with each other and all things good instead of all things against all that is good…maybe there’d be change for the better. Maybe there’d be boating on our once pristine, quiet lakes without worrying about armed officers floating over them.

    We keep doing and or rooting for the same thing expecting different results. Not all us us ‘we’ of course. And now we’re moaning and groaning because Lake George Park Commission’s Marine Patrol officers are now allowed to carry firearms while on duty. There’s a connection to this and say… rooting for a 20 foot wall going up along the US/Mexican border.

  5. Charlie S says:

    Not all of us ‘we’ of course.

    I sit corrected.

  6. Bill Dutcher says:

    Pepper spray, the existing radio connections to other agencies and good judgment was needed here. Not more lethal force!
    It is evident from the November 2017 minutes of the LGPC meeting that the matter was rushed through rather than put up for any kind of public input.
    The old adage of: “for a carpenter, every problem can be solved with a nail” seems to apply here and the corollary unfortunately appears to be: “for a cop every problem can be solved with a gun.”
    Would it have saved the life of that little girl who got run over last year? Would it have saved the lives of the drunk boaters who run into islands and kill themselves? Or the kayakers being run over? The answer in every case seems to be: no.
    As a longtime Lake George resident it’s sad to see the unnecessary militarization of the LGPC. This will increase their insurance and training costs and help deteriorate the recreational experience of tourists to our lake.

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