SYRACUSE — Count Congressman John Katko among the growing list of critics — many of them Republicans — of the state’s controversial bail reform laws.
The law, which went into effect the first of the year, eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for a wide majority of low-level cases and nonviolent felonies.
Katko, R-24 of Camillus whose district includes Wayne County, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo “to address the dangerous bail reform policies recently put in place in New York State and make changes to ensure communities are safer.”
He wrote a letter urging Cuomo to take another look at the law, passed in 2019 by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Cuomo.
Katko stated in a press release that he “spent a career in law enforcement as a federal prosecutor before coming to Congress, and firmly believe that the governor’s bail reform laws risk the safety of our communities and put the victims of crime and their families in danger. These policies place an unfunded mandate on local municipalities, passing on yet another cost to already-overburdened New York State taxpayers.”
Katko pointed to opposition by law enforcement and public safety officials throughout New York State, many of whom have warned of the “dangerous impact of these new policies.”
In his letter to the governor, Katko said the “laws restrict the capacity of judges to intervene and keep dangerous individuals off the street, instead creating a dangerous environment that allows outcomes for our justice system to be determined by an offender’s willingness to appear in court. … I ask that every effort be made to restore the ability of our judges and law enforcement officers to intervene in the interest of public safety.
“Additionally,” Katko continued, “central New York communities must now contend with the significant unfunded mandates presented by New York State discovery laws. Under these laws, law enforcement must rapidly process evidence in order to meet mandatory timelines for evidence sharing. Despite the goal of expediting criminal proceedings, these requirements threaten to overwhelm our local police departments and pass significant costs on to taxpayers.”
Speaking at the Finger Lakes Welcome Center last week to highlight 2020 goals of Cuomo, Mike Green, acting head of the state Division of Criminal Justice and a former Monroe County district attorney, said he was “getting frustrated with the rhetoric.”
Green said critics are forgetting the inequities of a criminal justice system that favors the rich over the poor and, by extension, people of color.
He acknowledged there are some issues with the new law, which has resulted in some people charged with crimes being released after arraignment, then going out and committing new crimes. He said Cuomo is aware some tinkering is needed.