A bill sponsored by state Sen. Pam Helming would implement a uniform process for designating peace officers in New York.

Helming, R-Canandaigua, introduced the legislation in late January. The measure is in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's veto of a bill that would assign peace officer status to Seneca County marine patrol officers. 

Cuomo has vetoed similar bills in the past. In 2013, he disapproved legislation that would have granted peace officer status to Cayuga County marine patrol officers. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Finch and then-state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, Helming's predecessor. 

At the time of the veto, Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould expressed his disappointment because it would have allowed his agency to place more peace officers on local waterways, including Owasco Lake and the county's section of the state canal system. 

"I strive to make this the most professional sheriff's department in the state," he told The Citizen in 2013. "This would have helped us a little bit more." 

In his veto message, Cuomo recommended establishing a "comprehensive process" for determining which officials should get peace officer status. He urged the state Legislature to develop a proposal that would create such a process. 

But state lawmakers continued to introduce bills that would designate a certain group of law enforcement personnel — constables, harbor masters and parole officers, for example — as peace officers. Helming's bill to give the classification to Seneca County marine patrol officers received bipartisan support in the state Legislature, but Cuomo vetoed it and called for a statewide policy. 

Unlike her current and former colleagues, Helming opted to push for a comprehensive solution. 

"Similar to police officers, peace officers often go above and beyond their normal duties to protect and serve our local communities," Helming said in a statement. "A statewide approach will help level the playing field for those seeking to become peace officers by creating an objective process, rather than allowing the governor — through his veto power — to pick and choose which officials are deserving of this status.

She added, "If adopted, this legislation would help bring peace officer status to groups seeking designation in our region and provide local sheriffs and police departments with the officers they need to protect our communities." 

Helming's bill has two cosponsors, state Sens. Patty Ritchie and Diane Savino. The legislation would allow numerous classes of first responders to be designated as peace officers. The list includes corrections officers, court officers, fire inspectors and marshals, college police or security officers, forest rangers and probation officers. 

The legislation was drafted by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, according to the bill's text. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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