Democrats Continue Meetings With Law Enforcement Over Potential Bail Reform Amendments
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State Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, spea
Photo: Dan Clark

Democrats in the State Senate are expected to continue a series of meetings with members of law enforcement next week over potential changes that could be made to the state’s new laws on cash bail.

The laws, which took effect four weeks ago, have been the subject of criticism this month from Republicans and moderate Democrats in districts outside New York City.

There’s at least one meeting on the books next week for Senate Democrats, who are expected to hear more from prosecutors about their suggested amendments to the new bail law. They’ve already met with a few law enforcement groups in recent weeks on potential changes.

One of those groups was the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. Patrick Phelan, the president of NYSACOP and chief of police for Greece in Monroe County, said Democrats in the Senate reached out to arrange the meeting.

“They set up the meeting,” Phelan said. “They invited representatives from the Chiefs Association and the State Sheriffs Association, and they wanted to hear our concerns about bail reform.”

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini also huddled last week with members of the Senate, who have appeared more open to changing the new law than their counterparts in the Assembly.

Some members of law enforcement have brushed aside attempts by Democrats in the Senate to hear their concerns over the new bail law. But Phelan said his impression from the meeting was that Democrats were taking the issue seriously.

“They spent a lot of time with us and listened to all our concerns,” Phelan said. “I don’t know what that will translate into, but I certainly didn’t get the impression that it was a meeting just to say they met with us.”

Phelan said he walked away from the meeting feeling like lawmakers were planning changes to the law, but couldn’t garner what they would be.

His group, like others, want Democrats to reevaluate the list of offenses that are no longer eligible for cash bail and allow more discretion for judges to detain someone ahead of their trial based on certain factors, like past offenses.

“Things in Albany can change pretty quickly, but it does seem to be the case that they feel like there’s a need for something to be done,” Phelan said.

Criminal justice advocates, meanwhile, have returned to the state capitol this year to defend the new laws. Many, who’ve met with lawmakers, say they feel they’re back to square one, and fear a major rollback to the law if Democrats decide to introduce amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters this week that the meetings were more like a refresher of what they were told last year by the same groups, rather than new information they didn’t already know. They’ll consider it moving forward, she said.

But it’s still early, she said, for them to consider a wholescale reevaluation of the law, given that it only took effect this month.

“We met with all these groups before and, again, it’s less than a month in effect,” Stewart-Cousins said. “So, we are continuing to meet with everyone as we see the effects of our change in the law.”

Democrats in the Assembly, meanwhile, don’t appear to have any appetite to make changes to the new law. Some moderate Democrats have been vocal about the statute, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, has said they’re not considering any changes.