New York State police chiefs push for bail reform changes

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police has introduced proposed legislation to amend state laws regarding bail reform, discovery reform, and raise the age.

Chiefs of Police, including Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, and District Attorneys, including David Soares of Albany County, attended a press conference outside the Capitol Thursday alongside victims’ rights groups to explain the proposal.

New York State’s bail reform laws were passed in 2019, and have remained controversial ever since.

Patrick Phelan, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, believes all cash bail should be eliminated. He said, however, the current reform law should be changed to afford judges more discretion when deciding who gets jail time before trial.

“We are asking that the judges that are elected by the people of New York be allowed to consider the defendant’s danger to the community,” Phelan said.

Bail reform went into effect in the first half of 2020 and has since been criticized by leaders in law enforcement, including NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who blamed a spike in gun violence in NYC on bail reform.

The groups calling for the changes say the original bail reform laws were well-intentioned, but are posing public safety risks.

“The changes that did happen have not benefited the community at large,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

“We are simply saying here today that there are opportunities for improvement, specifically to protect the very people that the original legislation was intended to protect,” said Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner.

In addition to judicial discretion, the amendments being proposed by the Chiefs Association include limiting the ability for chronic offenders to continually receive appearance tickets, amending the Raise the Age Law, and putting limits on the discovery process.

“Victims and witnesses who cooperate with police should not have their names and addresses automatically given to criminal defendants,” said Even Hendricks, a Bronx mother who lost her son to gun violence.

Here is a summary of the proposed amendments from the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police:

Bail

  • Eliminate cash bail altogether by eliminating the inequities that allow wealth to determine freedom.
  • Allow judges to consider a defendant’s public safety risk, so that the people who pose the biggest threat to our communities can be taken off the street.

Discovery

  • Stagger the discovery schedule to ease administrative burdens while at the same time providing enough information to defendants to make informed decisions.
  • Limit discovery to relevant and material information and not to all information that is tangentially related to the case and provides no probative value.
  • Allow the prosecution to answer ready for trial if they have substantially complied with discovery, preventing cases from being dismissed because duplicative and non-material information is provided later in the discovery process.

Raise the Age

  • Allowing judges in Youth Part to see family court records so individuals do not appear in front of the Youth Part judge as a perpetual first time offender.
  • Amend the statute of limitations so that individuals who commit crimes days before their 18th birthday can be prosecuted after their 18th birthday.

Appearance Tickets

  • Expand the list of crimes for which police are not required to issue appearance tickets to include some serious offenses.
  • Limit the ability for chronic offenders to continually receive appearance tickets.

Governor Kathy Hochul has said she will work with the legislature to see if parts of the bail reform law should be amended.

You can watch the full press conference on the player below.

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