I-Team 10 Follow-Up: Peace officer loophole

Posted at: 08/29/2013 4:36 PM
Updated at: 08/29/2013 5:59 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

I-Team 10 is digging deeper into the case of an animal cruelty officer accused of illegally carrying a gun. I-Team 10 discovered what appears to be a loophole in the state law that allows people to become gun-carrying peace officers without having to get a pistol permit or even a background check.

I-Team 10 was first to tell you about the arrest of 43-year-old Dylan Chase, of Victor, earlier this week. Chase, a convicted felon, runs the SPCA of Livingston County.

At least one state senator is calling for changes in the law after I-Team's story raised questions about how the state of New York allowed a felon to register as a peace officer with no scrutiny about his past.

Dylan Chase isn't shy about his love of animals. His Facebook page shows that. He also speaks to students and other groups about getting involved in programs to help pets. He was even a guest on News10NBC last year. But his sudden emergence as the self-appointed animal cruelty officer in Livingston County took some by surprise and raised suspicions in people like Darlene Perry, who heads up the Livingston County Humane Society.   

Darlene Perry said, "The concern is how is he doing it? That's my concern. How is he doing this? What's happening to these animals he is taking care of?

In January of this year, Chase filed papers with the state, incorporating as a not-for profit SPCA to operate in Livingston County.  He declared himself chief detective and registered with the Division of Criminal Justice Services as a peace officer. Chief Gary Benedict of the Avon Police Department says peace officers can carry a gun in a lot of cases without permit and Chase was.

What Chase failed to tell the state was that he is a felon, convicted of forgery in Genesee County in 2002. Because of that conviction, he isn't allowed to carry a gun. On Tuesday, Chase was charged with criminal possession of a weapon after several people saw him on the job in Avon with a .45 caliber service pistol on his belt.

Chief Gary Benedict, Avon Police Department, said, "Some concerns came up about the way he was conducting himself and that he wasn't known in the county and that he had a uniform, a gun, a badge and a nightstick on."

But I-Team 10 wanted to know how he was able to register as a peace officer given his criminal past. What we discovered is that it was very easy because there's no state law that requires fingerprint background checks for private entities doing peace officer work. A fingerprint check would have turned up Chase's criminal past.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan said, "It appears as though there's a loophole or quirk in the law that allowed for this to happen."

State Senator Patrick Gallivan, whose district covers Livingston County, says this case points to a need to re-write the law.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan said, "I think there's an obligation that before we give these people those powers, that we should know who they are and that they otherwise lawfully can carry a weapon or they're physically and mentally equipped to properly do the job."

There's a whole section of state law that deals with peace officers. Gallivan says it's become convoluted and that there has already been some discussion in Albany about looking for ways to re-write the section to create more accountability. I-Team 10 will continue to follow this story and bring you any new developments.