New York State Police investigators are struggling to keep up with the increasing number of cases involving extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), which compel authorities to confiscate firearms, according to the New York State Police Investigators Association. The union has cited retirements, promotions, and transfers of investigators as a contributing factor to the decline in State Police investigator ranks, which dropped from over 1,300 in 2011 to about 1,100.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed several measures last year that expanded the types of people who could petition for ERPOs, also called “Red Flag Laws.” Hochul’s changes compel police and district attorneys to file ERPOs whenever they have credible information that an individual is likely to do something that could result in serious harm.
The number of firearms seized by police from individuals deemed likely to harm themselves or others has increased so much in the past year that some State Police barracks have had to reconfigure or expand their evidence rooms in order to store these weapons, according to the Times Union.
New York State Police Investigators Association president Tim Dymond said his members are “overwhelmed” by the workload. The impact of Hochul’s budget increase on the agency won’t be felt for at least six months, Dymond noted.
Dymond also stated that the increase in ERPOs has created an unmanageable workload that will undoubtedly cause other criminal investigations to suffer.
“ERPOs are important, but so are murder, rape, and robbery investigations. We still need to be able to investigate local burglary rings. We still need to track down child predators and drug dealers,” he said.
In 2020, 255 people throughout New York had protection orders issued against them. However, this year so far, over 2,000 people have been subjected to emergency or temporary risk protection orders. In the period between 2020 and last November, State Police seized 2,521 firearms under emergency protection orders, excluding seizures by 150 other New York police departments.
Other measures enacted under the law have been challenged under civil rights claims, with some judges in New York issuing rulings finding the process unconstitutional. There has been no overturning of the law in these rulings, since neither State Police nor the state attorney general’s office have been named parties in the lawsuits.