Union Urges City to Equip Homeless Shelter Officers with Weapons
More than two dozen homeless shelters in the city are patrolled by unarmed peace officers, but the union that represents them wants to change that policy, calling for some officers to carry firearms and equip all of them with Tasers. NY1's Courtney Gross has the story.
Peace officers are charged with keeping the peace at 30 of the city's homeless shelters, some of which are riddled with violence.
"Some officers need Tasers," shelter resident Kelly Green said. "You got nuts coming through here."
But the vast majority of the city's approximately 600 Department of Homeless Services peace officers have only a baton and handcuffs. Only supervisors and some special forces get Tasers, just about 14 percent of the force.
None of them have guns.
"Every officer needs to be armed with a Taser," said Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd. "We also need firearms, so when we transport the prisoners we are not transporting them without firearms."
Floyd pointed to a photo, shown in the video above, which shows weapons confiscated from the 30th Street Shelter.
"Last year there were 30 assaults," Floyd said. "This year there were 19 assaults, and we are only in the month of March."
Last year, peace officers were involved in about 1,500 arrests; about one-third were done with the NYPD.
After NY1 investigated the persistent violence at shelters, City Hall officials announced that they would retrain the officers and review security at shelters.
Weapons for officers were not part of that announcement.
These homeless services peace officers will be trained by the NYPD at its police academy. That training will focus on de-escalation tactics, crisis-intervention, and security. It could take six months to one year to be completed.
Some officers told us that they are pushing the union to go further; they want a firearm in the hand of every officer, much to the dismay of some of the shelter's residents to whom NY1 spoke.
"They feel like they are so tough and crazy because they have a badge," shelter resident Christopher Parker said. "I don't think putting a gun in their hand is going to help us."
For now, the de Blasio Administration is not taking sides:
"We plan to work with the peace officers' union to ensure the safety of peace officers, shelter staff and shelter residents," said Steven Banks, commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration, said in a statement to NY1.
"The purpose of NYPD's current in-depth review is to study how we can continue to improve safety and security," the statement continued.