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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 1:18 am

Sheriff tells SCOPE members that SAFE Act enforcement is a matter of officer discretion

post by Howard B. Owens in 2nd Amendment, Gary Maha, SAFE Act, SCOPE

ADA Will Zickl

A police officer doesn't always need to write a ticket after making a traffic stop, nor does an officer need to arrest somebody suspected of violating the SAFE Act, Sheriff Gary Maha told members of Genesee County SCOPE at a packed meeting Tuesday night.

Maha said he's obligated under the oath of his office to uphold the law and if the Sheriff's Office receives a complaint about a possible violation of the SAFE Act, a deputy is required to investigate the complaint. It will be up to the deputy to decide whether an arrest is in order.

"An officer has the ability to exercise discretion and that's what we're going to do in Genesee County," Maha said.

His comments prompted applause from SCOPE members.

Maha, along with County Clerk Don Read, Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl and Undersheriff William Sheron were guests of SCOPE at its regular monthly meeting.

Zickl opened the discussion by recapping a recent court decision by U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny upholding much of the SAFE Act, or as Zickl called it repeatedly, "the so-called SAFE Act," and overturning others.

Skretny ruled the ban on assault rifles constitutional but threw out the limit on seven rounds in a magazine.

Zickl said the ruling was full of flawed logic.

"I hope there is some other court somewhere who tells him so," Zickl said.

The ruling only applies to the jurisdiction of Skretny's court, which is Western New York.

Read spent some time discusing a provision of the SAFE Act that requires all pistol permits to be recertified every five years.

The process, especially the first time around, is going to be burdensome and bureaucratic and to help get a jump on the process, the state is going to start sending out letters to pistol permit holders soon telling them to apply immediately for recertification. The first pilot project will begin soon in Albany County.

However, what the letters won't tell the holders, nor will any other state literature on the topic, Read said, is that recertification isn't required until 2018.

Read said he doesn't know what the state will do if permit holders simply don't respond to the early recertification request.

The state recently contacted all county clerks and asked if the clerks would like the county seal placed on letterhead sent to pistol permit holders informing them of the recertification process. Read said he told state officials no, but he and other county clerks are concerned the state will use county seals anyway.

Courtland County's Legislature has approved a resolution telling the state not to use its seal. Ray Cianfrini, the new chairman of the Genesee County Legislature, told SCOPE members that the local body will take up a similar resolution and he expects it to pass easily.

That brought another round of applause from SCOPE members.

SCOPE President Bill Fox raised a concern about a provision in the law that would require any pistol permit holder who loses his or her permit for any reason to turn in to State Police all of his or her guns, even rifles and shotguns.

"It's like a backdoor to take away the rest of your guns," Fox said.

Zickl said, "It's a very substantial and very troubling amendment to the law," adding, "you don't have to be too paranoid to be worried about that section of the law."

During his remarks, Maha noted that the governor proudly trumpeted a few weeks ago that so far there have been 1,291 arrests under the SAFE Act in New York.

"What he doesn't tell you is 1,029 were made in New York City," Maha said.

There have been no SAFE Act arrests in Genesee County, Maha said, and only a couple in the neighboring rural counties.

"The law doesn't make sense for Upstate," Maha said. "It was written by the people in New York City who don't know anything about guns because all they know is Downstate and down there guns kill people, so guns are evil. That's not true for us. We were brought up with guns. We hunt with them. We shoot targets with them, but that's not true if you're in New York City."

Sheriff Gary Maha, County Clerk Don Read and Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl.

A hand raised above the crowd during a Q&A portion of the meeting.

Bob Wilson asked a couple of questions, including asking why Genesee County doesn't secede from the rest of New York. Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Legislature, encouraged SCOPE members to support Assemblyman Steve Hawley's bill, which Hawley introduces every year, calling for a referendum on splitting New York in two. When the question was repeated, Cianfrini said, with a touch of a smile, "I don't think Genesee County will be seceding by itself."

Also, tomorrow, on the one year anniversary of the SAFE Act becoming law, one member of SCOPE said everybody who supports repeal of the SAFE Act should call the governor's office tomorrow and respectfully request the SAFE Act be repealed. The governor's office phone number is (518) 474-8390.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Sheriff Maha issues statement on passage of SAFE Act

post by Howard B. Owens in 2nd Amendment, Gary Maha, guns, SAFE Act

From Sheriff Gary Maha:

I have been receiving numerous inquiries in reference to what is the New York State Sheriffs' position with regard to the NY SAFE Act.

Fifty-two of the 58 Sheriffs met during our annual winter conference last week in Albany, NY, and discussed this legislation at length. There are a number of provisions in the law that the Sheriffs find to be helpful to law enforcement and to our citizens. However, there are also a number of provisions which cause us concern, and which we think should be revisited by the Governor and State Legislature. The Sheriffs of New York State are willing to work with the Governor and State Legislature as revisions and additions to the NY SAFE Act are considered.

Attached is the position statement of the New York State Sheriffs with regard to the NY SAFE Act. This position statement was sent to the Governor and State Legislative leaders.

Click here to read the position statement (PDF).

Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Collins joins Genesee County officials for swearing in ceremony at Old Courthouse

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, Gary Maha, genesee county, NY-27, politics

Elected officials from national, state and county government were at the Old Courthouse today for both a ceremonial and official swearing in for office.

For Rep. Chris Collins, State Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, taking the oath in Batavia today was ceremonial. But for Sheriff Gary Maha, Treasurer Scott German, coroners Donald Coleman and Karen Lang, along with Undersheriff William Sheron and Deputy Treasurer Matt Landers, the oath was official.

Collins spoke briefly about his commitment to representing the people of the 27th Congressional District, hearing the concerns of voters, especially in Genesee County, and working in Congress to help control spending and bring down the deficit.

"My job in representing this district is that we stand up for our children and grandchildren to get spending under control, to get our deficits down to zero in some reasonable time, like 10 years, and grow the economy," Collins said.

He promised that the people of Genesee County will see him frequently in the county.

Prior to the ceremony, Collins took his wife, Mary, daughter, Caitlin, son, Cameron, and staff members to a no-media lunch at the Pok-A-Dot. Collins has referred to the Pok-A-Dot as a good-luck charm, dining there on election day for the primary and general elections, but when he showed up today, he reportedly told people there that he wanted a chance to enjoy lunch with his family without cameras around.

Sheriff Gary Maha takes the oath, administered by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, as wife Susan Maha holds the Bible.

Above, Coroner Donald Coleman, who has served in the position for 21 years, takes the oath of office.

To purchase prints of the photos in the slide show, click the link in the upper left of the slide show.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7:57 pm

GC sheriff elected to NY State Sheriffs' Association Executive Committee

post by Billie Owens in Gary Maha, Milestones

Press release:

ALBANY -- The New York State Sheriffs’ Association held its election and installation of executive committee members and trustees at its 78th Annual Mid-Winter Training Conference. Members elected Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha to the executive committee.

Sheriff Maha was appointed Interim Genesee County Sheriff in 1988 by then-Governor Mario Cuomo, after a 21-year career with the Sheriff’s Office. He has been elected for six successive terms since then.

Sheriff Maha is a past president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and is currently vice chair of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Criminal Justice Information Systems/Technology Committee.

He is also a member of: the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Homeland Security Committee; the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Council; the New York Interoperable Communications Board; and the New York State Executive Committee on Counter Terrorism.

Sheriff Maha will work hand-in-hand with the newly elected president of the Sheriffs’ Association, Sheriff Donald Smith, of Putnam County, and sheriffs across the state to strengthen law enforcement, specifically by advocating the following goals that association members adopted at their meeting:

  • Support the All Crimes DNA bill, which requires all individuals arrested for a crime to have their DNA placed in the state DNA bank.
  • Oppose a House transportation bill in Congress that would, among other things, allow triple tractor-trailers on interstate roads,making our highways less safe.
  • Join with the NYS Association of Counties to urge state officials to alleviate the burden on local jails of housing parole violators in county jails because this is an unfunded mandate and parole violators are a state responsibility.
  • Join with the NYS Association of Counties to gain for the counties a greater portion of the revenues from the NYS public safety surcharge to support county-level 9-1-1 communications projects; i.e. the purpose for which the surcharge was created.

The full slate of trustees and committee members selected at this year's conference are as follows:

Executive Committee:
Chairman, Livingston County Sheriff John M. York
Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin E. Walsh
Orange County Sheriff Carl E. DuBois
Oswego County Sheriff Reuel A. Todd
Rensselaer County Sheriff Jack Mahar
Warren County Sheriff Nathan “Bud” York

Trustees:
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace
Montgomery County Sheriff Michael J. Amato
Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association, Inc., is a not-for-profit corporation, formed in 1934, for the purpose of assisting sheriffs in the efficient and effective delivery of sheriffs’ services to the public. It comprises all of the elected and appointed sheriffs of New York State.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Sheriff concerned about 'minimum force' bill in Assembly

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Gary Maha, new york

Sheriff Gary Maha calls a pending Assembly bill which would require cops to shoot a suspect only to wound him -- presumably aiming for an arm or a leg -- "ridiculous."

mug_gary_maha.jpgThe so-called "minimum force" bill says, "(a peace officer or police officer) uses such force with the intent to stop, rather than kill, the person who he or she reasonably believes is using unlawful force, and uses only the minimal amount of force necessary to effect such stop."

No shooting course teaches law enforcement officers to aim at limbs, Maha noted.

The first job of a cop in a dangerous situation is to protect himself and the people he's sworn to serve, Maha said.

"Deadly physical force, under the (current) law, can only be used as a last resort, under extreme circumstances," Maha told WBTA. "You're going to put more pressure on the officer if he has to shoot to wound. You're putting that officer in jeopardy."

Under provisions of the bill, any officer accused of shooting to kill another person in the line of duty would be charged with manslaughter.

The bill is sponsored by Annette Robinson (D-Bedford Stuyvesant) and Darryl Towns (D-East New York).

While the "minimum force" bill hasn't died, it is languishing in committee and is still drawing reaction from New York's law enforcement community.

A New York detective told the New York Post that the bill would create a situation where cops are expected to shoot the gun out of the hands of suspect, while the criminal would still be firing with the intent to kill. It's been called the "John Wayne" bill because it requires a level of accuracy only seen in Hollywood Westerns.

"These are split-second, spontaneous events -- and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second," said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

The bill was drafted in response to the shooting death of Sean Bell, a man who was killed by police following a fight at a strip club where he was celebrating his bachelor party. An undercover officer reportedly heard Bell say at some point that he had a gun. In the melee that followed, Bell reportedly slammed his Nissan into a police vehicle.

Photo: File photo of Sheriff Gary Maha.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Mobile phone surcharge not funding emergency dispatch as intended, Sheriff says

post by Howard B. Owens in Emergency Dispatch, Gary Maha, Sheriff's Office

If you have a mobile phone in New York, each month you pay a $1.20 surcharge for "New York State Public Safety" that you might think goes to pay for emergency dispatch.

If you think that, you're mistaken, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Last year, the surcharge generated $210 million in revenue, of which about $9 million was allocated to dispatch centers.

The balance of the fund, Maha said, goes straight into the state's General Fund for any number of non-law-enforcement related purposes.

Last year, Genesee County -- which spends $2 million each year to operate its dispatch center -- received just $38,000 from this fund.

“We need to keep the pressure on the state that this money should be used for what it’s intended for and not used to pay for general fund expenses," Maha told the County's Public Safety Committee today.

The committee passed a draft resolution to send to the State Legislature asking them to use the money according to its intended purposes.

The fund used to be called the 9-1-1 Surcharge, but even with the "public safety" label, the revenue is rarely being used to pay for public safety expenses, Maha said.

There is also a county-collected 35-cent surcharge on landlines for the dispatch center. But increasingly, people are abandoning landlines in favor of mobile phones, cutting down significantly on the amount of revenue this fund generates, Maha said.

Governor Paterson has proposed that $50 million from the surcharge monies, or about 21 percent, be made available to county 9-1-1 centers, Maha said.

The proposal has met with stiff opposition in the State Legislature.

The State Assembly proposes that only $8 million above last year's $9.3 million funding be provided to county 9-1-1 centers. Many think that the Legislature will take all of these monies to help fill the approximately $9 billion budget deficit facing the state, Maha said.

Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Cell-phone tax not supporting 9-1-1 service as intended

post by Howard B. Owens in Gary Maha, new york, taxes

Would it surprise anybody that New York has a tax that raises tens of millions of dollars that doesn't go to its intended use?

The buck-twenty you pay every month on your cell phone bill to pay for 9-1-1 service isn't supporting the intention,  according to the Buffalo News.

Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha is quoted:

“Basically, they’re using that money as general revenue,” said Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha, whose office oversees 911 operations. “We have not seen any of that money.”

With these startling numbers:

The surcharge — raised in 2002 to $1.20 per month — has generated about $600 million over 15 years, but just $84 million has gone to the municipalities that operate 911 centers, the State 911 Coordinators Association found.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Area political leaders call attention to new gun legislation making its way through Albany

post by Howard B. Owens in Don Read, Gary Maha, Mike Ranzenhofer, steve hawley

Four prominent area elected officials -- all Republicans -- gathered on the steps of the old Genesee County courthouse today to call attention to legislation that shows every sign of being enacted that will curb the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer led the press conference, which included Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Sheriff Gary Maha and County Clerk Don Read.

The four men underscored three key points: The legislation will do nothing to curb crime, it is out of step with the interests of upstate New York, and it will burden county governments with yet one more unfunded mandate.

While there are more than a dozen new gun restrictions being pushed by legislative Democrats, the key piece of legislation under fire by Ranzenhofer today would require the renewal of gun carry permits every five years.

Both Ranzenhofer and Hawley noted that such legislation will do nothing to deter criminals, who don't bother with gun permits anyway.

"Basically what you have legislators from New York City who feel it might be appropriate in their community trying  to impose their New York City will on Genesee County," Ranzenhofer said.

Here are five related documents (PDF):

I had a couple of video problems -- sound, misbehaving tripod, chiefly -- with covering the press conference today, but the worse problem is that I had to change tapes (it seem that long ago that I started a new tape) during the PC, and that tape somehow did not make it home with me tonight for editing.  Below is what little video I have available now, where in Ranzenhofer, at the very end, sums up some of the key points of opposition to the legislation.

UPDATE 5/4/09:  I got ahold of the other tape and pulled off what was recoverable, which was statements by Hawley, Maha and Read

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