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A New York county with one of the nation's largest police forces is deputizing armed residents

A suburban New York county with one of the largest police forces in the nation is training dozens of armed residents who could be called up during natural disasters and other major emergencies, sparking worry that the new volunteer unit amounts to an unsanctioned local militia.

Nassau County officials posted a notice in March seeking private citizens with gun licenses to serve as provisional special deputy sheriffs who could assist in the “protection of human life and property during an emergency.”

Twenty-five have completed training in recent weeks, but locals who have been rallying against the scheme question the need for the unit and have raised concerns about the potential for overpolicing after departments across the country cracked down on protests against the Israel-Hamas war.

Democrats, who are the minority in the county legislature, and some community advocates say they worry Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman — a Republican and staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump — could call up the deputies to quell political dissent, a charge he strongly denies. Critics also contend that emergencies require a different type of volunteer.

“There is no need to give residents broad and dangerously vague authority to respond, armed with deadly weapons, in the event of an emergency,” said Laura Burns, a Rockville Centre resident and member of gun control group Moms Demand Action, after a recent rally.

In a phone interview, Blakeman said the armed deputies would be called on only when the county, just east of the New York City borough of Queens, faces a major emergency akin to Superstorm Sandy, which caused catastrophic damage along the Long Island coast in 2012.

They would not be used for crowd control or

Read more on independent.co.uk