Gates Police Chief: Criminal justice system ‘out of balance’ across New York

Local News

GATES, N.Y.. (WROC) — “The bottom line is people are not in jail. Whether they’re out on parole, or we’re just not putting them in jail,” says Gates Police Chief James Vanbrederode.

Chief Vanbrederode said the criminal justice system in New York — between bail reform, an overwhelmed parole system, and jails at lower capacity due to COVID-19 — is out of balance right now. 

“The whole ideology of keeping people out of jail comes with a cost, right? A human cost.”

News 8 talked with Chief Vanbrederode about one recent case of a parolee in Rochester, Anthony Love, who pleaded not guilty in the death of a three-year-old boy. The boy was found unresponsive by law enforcement and later was found to have multiple injuries.

While Vanbrederode says the full details are not out, these are the types of cases he can’t help but wonder about. “So all these individuals that normally would be incarcerated where we know where they are, and they can’t reoffend, are back on the streets,” he says.

He adds thanks to reforms and changing attitudes, parole officers are not typically enforcing offenses that might land a parolee back behind bars. “All the stuff that would violate them and put them back into prison has been taken off the table,” he says. That could include minor offenses like drinking, drug use, or violating a curfew.

“What we do know for a fact is that the criminal justice system that was in-place before all these reforms happened, didn’t work,” says Ashley Gannt with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

She says isolated criminal incidents should not be used to attack recent reforms, many she feels have been positive. Any reforms made have been done to eliminate an ever-growing problem. 

“A lot of the crimes people are talking about are poverty-based crimes. And instead of criminalizing people for being in poverty, let’s get to the root cause of the issue,” says Gantt.

Gantt says that could mean reallocating some resources and put them back into the community to turn back the tide of poverty and systemic racism. But Vanbrederode says if that means “defunding the police” further, we’re already hurting. 

“Ultimately that just boils down to less police cars in neighborhoods.” That he says, and changing attitudes, “I don’t think a lot of people fear the police right now, they don’t fear the criminal justice system and so, this is what you’re getting, you’re getting the results of that.”

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