SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR) — Off-duty police officers will no longer be allowed to carry their weapons while attending the New York State Fair. Police departments were notified Tuesday in an email obtained by NEWS10’s sister station in Syracuse, NewsChannel 9.
Guns aren’t allowed on the fairgrounds for most people, but an exception has been historically made for police officers who show badges upon entry. The key portion of the email, signed by New York State Police Major Michael TenEyck reads: “Police officers that are “On-duty” will be permitted to carry, however, the State Dept of Ag and Markets has elected to NOT allow “Off-duty” police and peace officers to carry department or personally owned firearms on the property.” Major TenEyck, the commander for Troop D, added that the decision was not made by New York State Police.
Responding to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the State Fair wrote: “The Fair has a longstanding policy of banning guns on the Fairgrounds, and this policy has not changed.” The spokesperson included a link to the Fair’s website for more information. The website lists an exemption for “weapons authorized to be carried by law enforcement personnel and Peace Officers” but does not clarify on-duty versus off-duty.
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Cicero Police Chief Steve Rotunno, the president of the Central New York Chiefs of Police Association, said the response from officers has been “not good.” He said, “God forbid there’s an active shooter or any other type of incident where an officer may have to act.”
Rotunno added, “You have police officers that are highly trained with years of experience, proficient in carrying a weapon, and now they can’t even carry it into the New York State Fair while they’re off duty. Just makes no sense to me.”
Manlius Police Chief Michael Crowell agreed, adding that police officers are often trained to carry their duty weapons even while off duty, especially in defense of themselves or others. “Really, a police officer is never off duty,” he said. “Essentially, we always are subject to being called in or may have to react in an emergency situation.”
If the policy stands, Crowell thinks there will be less law enforcement in attendance at this year’s fair, especially on law enforcement day and during ceremonial events.
The Cicero Police Chief added that he was told the fair will be installing new weapons detection systems at all gates of the fairgrounds. While he thinks this added safety measure is positive, he doesn’t think it should apply to off-duty officers. It’s unclear whether this new policy was created because of the new detection system.
Officers said they believe the decision was made in Albany. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office did not respond to a request for comment.