Mayor Bill de Blasio called for changes to a state law so judges could consider a criminal defendant’s risk to public safety when setting bail. The fatal shooting of Police Officer Randolph Holder by a defendant released into an incarceration-alternative program prompted the call, which is appropriate under the circumstances. The problem is that this incident should not have happened in order to prompt a change of heart. The mayor said, “We have a system so out of balance we have both sides of the equation wrong.”
However, the mayor eagerly joined Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to announce Justice Reboot to “modernize” the criminal justice system and improve the quality of justice in New York City. “Justice Reboot is about rethinking the way we approach criminal justice in New York City,” the mayor said at the time. He pledged to “safely drive down the number of people behind bars, and make the system fairer.” Well, that system wasn’t very fair for the family of Officer Holder.
The emphasis in criminal justice reform should be helping victims of crime and protecting citizens before worrying about the criminal and getting him or her out of jail quickly. The quality of justice requires an emphasis of policy to remain on protecting and serving the productive and law-abiding citizen.
Now, the mayor says the bail system is “broken,” not because defendants remain in jail, but because dangerous defendants get freed awaiting trial to commit more crimes. The defendant accused of gunning down Officer Holder had a criminal record including 28 arrests. The diversion program that the defendant was granted along with other ones are cost-effective and successful; however, they are not for every defendant.
They have been described as “extraordinarily effective” but the analysis needed to make the determination requires good information about the defendant and cooperation between district attorneys and law-enforcement officers to get the information to the judges. If Mayor de Blasio can reboot on this decision, he should be able to “reboot” his relationship with the NYPD and get resources on the streets to remove guns and provide zero tolerance for the quality-of-life crimes that set the tone for increased lawlessness in our city.
Politicians change their minds, and when they realize they have made a mistake, they should own up to the mistake. A few months ago, Mayor de Blasio criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo for failing to change the “pay to play” culture in Albany where special interests influence the administration of government by spreading around lobbyist money.
“Follow the money,” he told the governor when he complained that fat cat real estate moguls and other wealthy individuals and organizations had too much of a say in how laws are passed in Albany. Well, the way business is done in City Hall has returned to the more conventional type of politics where special interests have a good amount of access to the administration via donations of almost $4 million to the Campaign for One New York.
The donors include dozens of real estate developers, unions and others who do business with City Hall. This arrangement allows the mayor to raise money outside the regulations of the city Campaign Finance Board. The contributors include individuals and firms seeking approvals for their projects with donations made through limited liability companies to obscure their identities. The names are changed, NOT changed to protect the innocent!Some donors paid up right before or after getting a city-granted contract or benefit. If Mayor de Blasio takes the time and thinks out the consequences of some decisions and owns up to some mistakes, then maybe we can have more dangerous defendants behind bars, more guns off the streets and more dollars out of the hallways of City Hall.