Law enforcement: Cash bail reform can be compromised

Police have concerns about changes to take effect on January 1

Mike Baggerman
November 22, 2019 - 3:00 am
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CLARENCE, N.Y. (WBEN) - Though law enforcement officials sounded the alarm on the criminal justice reform package that was passed in Albany this year that includes offenses that don't qualify for cash bail in New York State and changes to the discovery process, Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour said there are some changes that he would like to see to the criminal justice system.

"There's 400 crimes that are listed where bail can be set today but can't be set on January 1," Voutour said. "I'm looking at non-violent misdemeanors. Maybe shoplifting as long as we have good identification. No one here wants to see someone sit in jail because they're poor. We believe in that equity that everyone should have a fair right to make bail."

However, the criminal justice reform package that passed as part of the state's annual budget eliminates offenses like second degree manslaughter, making a terroristic threat, aggravated vehicular homicide, and criminally negligent homicide. Those are all considered non-violent crimes.

"Our concern is the domestic violence case where the husband beats the wife," Voutour said. "The vehicular homicide, the robbery in the second degree where we have to chase down and catch a robber."

The new year will also force prosecutors to share all their evidence to defense attorneys within 15 days, something that law enforcement worries could impact cases because information about witnesses are made more available.

"I don't think we can meet the deadlines for discovery," Voutour said. "I really think that it's just such a task."

He said that there are some of the 400 crimes that they could look through and simply issue an appearance ticket rather than require bail. There is a bill in Albany that will issue a moratorium on the reforms.

Activists like Desmond Abrams called the press conference a "propaganda barrage". He said the officers are lying. Abrams said that concerns about domestic violence abusers being able to not post cash bail is "ironic" because of his claim that the police themselves are "perpetrators and brutalizers in their own homes".

"I don't even want to speak to (domestic violence abusers) because 70 percent of the people are there for non-violent offenses," Abrams said. "Why are we going to speak about the minority of people they want to outline?"

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