LI congressmen review security needsBy REID J. EPSTEIN
January 11, 2011
The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) has some Long Island members of Congress and local police reassessing security for their local political events.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) said Monday that he'll move future constituent outreach meetings - typically held at supermarkets and libraries - to local volunteer firehouses because the facilities "project a sense of security and comfort."
However, Israel said, "This is one isolated event and I'm not going to let the one crazy person with a 9-mm Glock completely change my access to the people I represent." His next event is set for later this month in Deer Park.
Israel and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) met separately Monday with Suffolk Police officials at the department's request to discuss security needs in the wake of
Saturday's shooting in Arizona. Bishop and Israel each said the department has asked them to inform them of public events so officers can determine whether a threat level warrants a police presence.
Bishop's next public event is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Patchogue Village Hall.
"There will be a period of heightened awareness and a heightened concern," Bishop said.
Members of Congress typically do not travel with personal security details - though Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he has had "various levels of security for the last several years" due to "various threat levels" that he declined to specify.
New York's U.S. senators have plainclothes detectives driving them and providing security at events in the metropolitan area.
Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer's appearance at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon drew four uniformed State Parks officers; his subsequent conference at Stony Brook University was attended by campus police and two Suffolk detectives.
Schumer said he has not requested additional security. His spokesman, Mike Morey, said local officials determine security levels at his events.
Nassau Police Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said elected officials typically alert the department before appearances in the county. "I think what we've done in the past is sufficient for their needs, but we understand the heightened sense of security that they may want," Smith said.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), who said he has been the target of death threats in the past, said there is little that can be done to ensure the safety of members of Congress.
"If people can walk into the White House, with all of the security checks that they do, what can an average citizen do?" he asked. "What can a congressman do? What can a judge do?"