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Rep. Katko, Law Enforcement Blame NYS Bail Reform For Spike In Crime, Aim to Change Narrative That Police Are "Bad"

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Scott Willis
Rep. John Katko is joined by numerous members of the CNY law enforcement community, including Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner, far left, Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, and Cayuga County DA Jon Budelmann, front right.

Congressmember John Katko says he’s trying to bolster support for law enforcement and change the narrative that police are bad and should be defunded. He held his latest listening session with numerous law enforcement officials Thursday at LeMoyne College as part of his role as Chair of the American Security Task Force. Katko acknowledges police agencies aren’t being defunded in his district, but they are impacted by what he calls disastrous bail reform from Albany.

"When you don't get criminals off the street that need to get off the street, and they're back on right away, they're smart. I did gang cases, so I know. They will go back on the street right away, and they will commit more crimes. Bail reform has had an unbelievably negative impact on crime in this area."

Katko and law enforcement blame bail reform for the surge in shootings, homicides, and overall violent crime in Onondaga County and across the state. Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner says they want to strike a balance.

"No one here is saying there aren't opportunities for improvement with our criminal justice system. We just think there's been an overcorrection. No one here has said that we don't have opportunities for improvement in the profession. But we certainly need to have laws that allow them to do their job."

Syracuse police union officials say there are up to 200 so-called “anti-police” bills on the floor of the New York state senate and assembly that they claim will cause crime to spike even more if passed. Buckner says his department and even suburban agencies are losing officers. Cayuga County DA Jon Budelmann says this creates a staffing vacuum that is counterproductive.

"The constant bashing of the police based on the actions of very few people has resulted in a very difficult time in finding good candidates to be police officers, to retain good police officers that we already have. Getting rid of good cops because of what bad cops have done is not the answer. Dissuading people from becoming police officers, especially highly qualified people that we want, is working exactly against public safety."

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked sharp scrutiny of police conduct and protests calling for police reform. Katko says the officer should never see the light of day again, and says his actions were symptomatic of a bigger problem.

"That police department should have never let a guy with 19 prior disciplinary actions still be on the force. There are things we can do federally to mandate that that stuff doesn't happen or they don't get federal dollars. But we have to stop this narrative that police are bad."

Katko says he’ll use the information from the listening session and others in New York City, Austin and Portland to come up with a legislative agenda that supports law enforcement and makes communities safer.