Curran announces coalition to further reform bail reform

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced the 'Common-Sense Coalition' that consists of law enforcement officials from Nassau and Suffolk County to join forces and present modifications to the state-wide bail reform laws. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau and Suffolk County law enforcement officials will join forces to present “common sense” improvements to the state’s new bail reform laws, according to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

“The job of myself and everyone standing here today is to prioritize public safety in our respective areas,” Curran said during a Tuesday news conference in front of the Nassau County Supreme Court building.  “We are here today as a coalition dedicated to letting our representatives in Albany know what we are seeing here on the ground, and how we believe this can be improved.”

The new laws, passed in April, eliminated pretrial detention and optional cash bail in an estimated 90 percent of cases. According to county officials, more than 175 people accused of misdemeanors and “nonviolent felonies” were released without bail as they await trial. 

The “Common-Sense Coalition” consists of Curran, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Sheriff Vera Fludd, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott, Nassau Corrections Officers Benevolent Association President Brian Sullivan, Nassau Detectives Association President John Wighaus and Nassau Superior Officers Association President Kevin Black.

All of the officials will be tasked with delivering suggested changes to Albany lawmakers on the new statewide bail reform laws.  The law enforcement members of the newly established coalition each spoke on the effects that the statewide initiative has placed on their work.

“For even the most routine arrest, each officer must turn in every single piece of evidence that relates to the case,” Ryder said. “That’s how it has been.  But now with the new discovery laws, we have to turn that evidence over to the judicial system in just 15 days. If we do not hand over the evidence and paperwork in that 15-day window, the case is tossed away and someone who may be a threat to society is back out on the street.”

Ryder went on to mention that overtime hours have been gradually increasing and implored the legislators in Albany to modify the discovery time period.

Additionally, Ryder said he expected more than 40 percent of the defendants released under the new law to return to jail.  

Toulon said the coalition seeks to modify the discretionary laws for judges to re-evaluate a particular case if a person has a history of not showing up for a mandated court date. As of now, state law does not require that discretion be given to judges.

Last week, 40-year-old Suffolk resident Jordan Randolph was arrested for rear-ending and killing another driver.  Officials said Randolph has a dozen prior convictions, three of which are DWI and two felonies. Randolph was released under the new bail reform laws.

Curran, a Democrat, said that the proposed changes the coalition will send to Albany will be a bipartisan effort.

“This is not a political issue, this is a public safety issue,” Curran said.

No Republican representatives from either county were in attendance. Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) was not available for immediate comment but told Newsday, “Our state should have had these conversations and recommendations before this ill-conceived legislation passed. Our Democratic state representatives who all voted for this dangerous measure should repeal it immediately and find a bipartisan solution to keep our communities safe.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the bail reform law modifications are an “ongoing process” during his budget address for the fiscal year of 2021. “It’s not that you reform a system once and then you walk away,” he said on Tuesday, according to The New York Post. “You make change in a system, it has consequences. And you have to understand those consequences.”

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