Monday, November 11, 2013

Parks Dept. Flouts State Law On Officer Training

Jeopardizing Public Safety. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services notified the Parks Department last year that they were not in compliance with state law concerning the training of its Park Enforcement officers and Rangers, regarding batons and peper spray but the agency has refused to fully comply. The Urban Park Service division, run by Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett, has continued to ignore State law mandating annual recertification of its enforcement officers.  On Thursday the agency began scrambling to try to get into compliance after being notified of an impending story. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click on image to enlarge.

Despite being in violation of the law,  DPR press representative Arthur Pincus, (former NHL spokesperson)  said last week, “Parks is in full compliance with applicable regulations." 

Park reps are even attempting to claim they have until the end of the year to comply despite being in violation for years. 


By Geoffrey Croft

The City's Parks police and rangers have been illegally carrying batons and mace for years NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Many Parks Department PEP officers and Rangers are not qualified to carry the defensive items because they are not receiving training by certified instructors recognized by NY State,  according to documents obtained through a Freedom Of Information Law Request.

The Parks Department is ignoring State law mandating annual recertification.  The parks division responsible for its officers, the Urban Park Service run by Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett, has continued to ignore the law despite being notified by the State last year. 

The non-compliance not only puts the public and officers in danger but also exposes the city to potential legal liability if a member of the public is injured.

As required by State law all peace officer training have to comply with the Training Guide for Peace Officer Employers written by NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

According to the guide PEP and Rangers require special training by a state certified instructor in both baton and oc spray  (pepper spray) as well as yearly training in such. The rosters for these classes are sent to the state for compliance. 

Despite being notified by the state the Parks Department has continued to violate the law and allowed its peace officers to go uncertified. 

On March 20, 2012,  the NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) notified the Parks Department that they agency was "not in compliance with the minimum training requirement for peace officers," i.e. their officers were not certified to carry a baton or pepper spray, the two main defensive weapons carried by PEP.

According to New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS) documents the Parks Department had initially attempted to claim PEP's only State certified instructor - Daniel Gitel -  had taught classes in 2011 when he did not. As part of its investigation the DCJS then asked the Parks Department to submit the curriculum which they did. That submission however contained inaccurate information. 

The state rejected DPR's claim as "deficient" and DCJS requested that the curriculum be revised to accurately reflect the dates Mr. Gitel conducted training. The DPR then "rescinded" the document they initially submitted. 

"This is in response to your Freedom of Information Law request for a 2011curriculum listing Dan Gitel as conducting Aerosol Device and Defensive Tactics training on 10/26/2011 and 10/28/11 respectively,"  DCJS said in a
Sept. 26, 2012 FOIL request response. 

"Please be advised that the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has no curriculum showing Dan Gitel conducting training on 10/26/2011 and 10/28/11.   Attached is the curriculum reflecting that Dan Gitel conducted training on June 11, 2012 through June 15, 2012.  It is noted that while DCJS did receive a draft submission of a 2011 curriculum listing Mr. Dan Gitel as an instructor on 10/26/11 and 10/28/11, it was deemed deficient and DCJS requested that the curriculum be revised to accurately reflect Mr. Gitel conducting training from June 11-15, 2012. 

The Division no longer has a copy of the initial draft submission, as it was rescinded by NYC Parks and Recreation.  Subsequently, it was resubmitted showing Mr. Gitel conducting training from June 11-15, 2012 which is the curriculum we are providing to you. "

Several sources told A Walk In The Park that last year the Parks Department even prohibited  Mr. Gitel - then the park academy's only instructor qualified to teach defensive tactics and oc spray - from teaching until after they received the state's letter informing the agency they were not in compliance.  In absence of using certified instructors the DPR allowed people who were supposedly qualified by the manufactures to teach the class - which the State does not recognize. 

NYC Park Advocates has also learned that three PEP officers were hurt in 2011 while in the academy being taught defensive tactics class by an uncertified instructor.  The injuries consisted of broken ribs, fingers and back problems. One Capt. was out for two months recovering. The injuries also cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars while they were out of work.  

Numerous officers ripped the agency and the "leadership" of Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett.  

"These guys are now trying to claim they have till the end of the year to comply. It's ridiculous,"  said an officer, several of which who did not wish to be identified for fear of retribution.

"They have been violating the law for years.  Dockett has the State letter, he knows. Where is DOI (Department of Investigation) in all this? 

They refuse to comply with State law regarding us receiving proper training but they mandate a two-day customer service training, they never forget that. That's all Dockett.  He doesn't care and he's in charge. He isn't made to care.

The penal law changes yearly, but we don't get those updates," the officer continued.  "We get zero legal training after we graduation.  Sometimes some of us will get certain updates on park rules,  if we are being assigned to special details, but that's about it. We don't even have a patrol guide. Its a joke.

We get these memos that are written by five-year-olds where English is a fourth language. A lot of them don't even have the name of who wrote them or the agency name or even a city.  They don't want their names on it but they expect us to follow the orders. It's laughable."

"There is no incentive to stay," said another officer. 

"Moral is at an all time low. There is no professionalism and accountability. And on top of that we risk our lives and they pretend that all we are 'eyes and ears.' They should be ashamed of themselves."

Read More:

New York Daily News  -  November 11, 2013  - By Ginger Adams Otis  

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