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CNY Law Enforcement, DA's Say Justice Reform Laws Will Cause Chaos, Increase Danger

Chris Bolt
WAER-FM 88.3

Law enforcement officials in Central New York and across the state are sounding the alarm about pending justice reforms set to take effect January first.  Surrounded by dozens of deputies, officers and supporters, Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway says they had no opportunity to offer their insights to lawmakers or the governor when they crafted the new laws. 

He says they have serious flaws.

"Flaws which will create chaos in the criminal justice system, great expense to the taxpayers, and most importantly, danger to our citizens."

Danger, because District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says more than 400 crimes will require mandatory release, and judges will no longer have discretion to assess the danger to the public.

"Residental burglary.  Robbery.  Assault 3rd as a hate crime.  Aggravated assault upon a child under 11.  Aggravated vehicular assault.  Manslaughter in the second degree.  Many domestic violence crimes.  Arson.  Grand larceny in the first degree.  If someone steals $1 million dollars or more, they have to be released."

Fitzpatrick said he could go on and on.  He says the notion that law enforcement and district attorneys are resistant to reform is a flat out lie, and went on to list several ways they've pushed through their own reforms.

With fewer people in jail on bail, it might stand to reason that it will save money on personnel.  Sheriff Conway says he’d still need the same number of deputies, whether they’re at the maximum 60 inmates per unit…or less.       

"We could have 30 people in that particular unit.  I will still need a deputy to watch over the 30 inmates just because the way its designed.  I will still need deputies to move inmates, whether there's 400 or 200, to the various courts."

Credit Chris Bolt / WAER-FM 88.3
WAER-FM 88.3
A few turned out to show support for the justice reforms.

And, Conway says, he’ll still need deputies to staff the infirmary and hospital detail.  Similar gatherings of law enforcement were held at several locations across the state yesterday, which also attracted small counter-protests.  

Policy Counsel Nicole Triplett with The New York Civil Liberties Union says in a release that law enforcement efforts to delay much needed changes to the criminal legal system are a sad attempt to disrupt a pathway to justice. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at