ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New state criminal justice laws will soon go into effect, and that is a cause of concern to many in law enforcement, locally and throughout New York.

Police groups across the state gathered in Rochester Wednesday to request a delay on the new criminal justice laws, which are set to take effect January 1, 2020. Officials also asked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to address their “serious” concerns of the laws.

According to the law enforcement officers in attendance, the new criminal justice reform laws will lead to 200-250 people being released from custody in December — a number that could lead to increased homelessness.

Officials also say that could lead to increased drug use, adding that often times, “jail is the best place for an addict.”

Many of the speakers at Thursday’s press conference echoed a similar sentiment: That bail reform is well-intentioned, but not the right solution as its currently constituted at this time.

“The bail reform is devastating, many of these non-violent crimes are still problematic and those accused should not be out on the streets,” said Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts. “Let’s not throw legislation out the window, let’s sit down and talk about it.”

Full press conference

A representative from Monroe County District Attorney’s office said that every district attorney in the state wants criminal justice reform, but says their input fell on deaf ears. He said “this is an overhaul of the system” and the officials are asking for lawmakers to take a step back and reassess the situation.

“This was slipped into the budget bill — no resources were given to law enforcement,” said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode. “2020 is going to be a year of experimentation in law enforcement, and our duty is to speak up and say something. We are here sounding the alarm.”

“I’m still trying to determine what’s going to happen in the Rochester Police Department, and how this will impact the Rochester Police Department,” said RPD Chief La’Ron Singletary.

“I’m conservative, I do not think poor people should sit in jail, but we need common sense reform,” said Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty.

“Public safety is the biggest impact. Our roadway safety, our community safety, our school safety,” says Dougherty. “Law enforcement was not brought to the table. Our expertise was not taken into consideration,” he adds.

Ashley Gantt with the ACLU of New York says these reforms are long overdue and have actually involved law enforcement for years. She says much of the language boiled down to a lot of fearmongering. 

“Right now 69% of the people who are sitting in jail are there for low-level misdemeanors.” Gantt says those are things like jaywalking and petty larceny. 

“It’s an assault on the poor to have them sitting in jail because they can’t afford to pay,” says Gantt.

Citizen Action of New York released a statement addressing the matter on Thursday.

For decades, mass criminalization and mass incarceration have been justified in the name of ‘public safety,’ despite the fact that extensive research and real-life examples show us that less incarceration is what actually creates greater public safety. Despite publicly claiming to support ‘reform,’ law enforcement has been doing everything in their power to subvert the will of lawmakers and a majority of New Yorkers statewide since the day these laws passed. Prosecutors and police are tasked with upholding the law – not undermining it by spreading misinformation to the public, and through fear-mongering in the press.

Citizen Action of New York

Related stories:

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, along with other local law enforcement agencies and officers, joined sheriffs’ offices across New York State, the NYS Sheriffs’ Association, NYS Associated of Chiefs of Police, NYS Association of PBAs, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, New York State Office of Probation, and victims assistance advocate for a press conference to publicly discuss the matter.

Here is a list of offenses that will not qualify for bail from The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York:

  • Assault in the third degree
  • Aggravated vehicular assault
  • Aggravated assault upon a person less than eleven years old
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Manslaughter in the second degree
  • Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
  • Coercion in the first degree
  • Arson in the third and fourth degree
  • Grand larceny in the first degree
  • Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm
  • Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
  • Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
  • Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds
  • Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
  • Criminal solicitation in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the first degree
  • Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third and fourth degree
  • Making a terroristic threat
  • Patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone
  • Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • Failure to register as a sex offender
  • Obstructing governmental administration in the first and second degree
  • Obstructing governmental administration by means of a self-defense spray device
  • Bribery in the first degree
  • Bribe giving for public office
  • Bribe receiving in the first degree
  • Promoting prison contraband in the first and second degree
  • Resisting arrest
  • Hindering prosecution
  • Tampering with a juror and tampering with physical evidence
  • Aggravated harassment in the first degree
  • Directing a laser at an aircraft in the first degree
  • Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
  • Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor
  • Enterprise corruption and money laundering in the first degree
  • Aggravated cruelty to animals, overdriving, torturing and injuring animals
  • Failure to provide proper sustenance
  • Animal fighting

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.