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Fulton, Montgomery County officials discuss concerns about justice reforms

Emily Burkhard
Created: November 19, 2019 11:39 PM

FONDA - Law enforcement officials from Fulton and Montgomery counties met to discuss justice reforms taking effect next year.

The purpose of the meeting was to allow officials to explain the changes and how they'll likely affect the public.

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"It's going to be a huge learning curve for us even not to mention the public,” Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffrey Smith said.

"I don't think the state is ready for what's about to come January 1,” Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo said.

Most law enforcement officials in attendance said imposing both the bail and discovery reforms at the same time will leave New Yorkers vulnerable.

They said that because soon people accused of committing non-violent felonies will not be subject to bail. New discovery reforms also require that information about witnesses to crimes must be turned over to the defense within two weeks, so officers are worried about coercion.

The risk of someone re-offending after being released is a major concern.

"Now even if we take care of it and do our job correctly that person can still be out to victimize even more,” Gilbo said.

But according to defense attorney Mike Smartic, bail can still be set if someone is charged two non-violent felonies.

“The scenario that was painted in some cases where a person keeps going in and breaking into houses that's not - that's definitely taken care of in there,” Smartic said.

There's also concern discovery reform will discourage people from speaking up.  The law requires that a witness’ identity, address and account of the crime be sent to the defense within two weeks of arraignment. 

"So who is going to talk to police? If the defendant has all of these rights and the victim and just these innocent bystanders who want to help out the police saying, ‘Look I saw this, I thought it was a little unusual,’ Even if they aren't an actual witness in the case we still have to provide that information,” Gilbo said.

Senator Jim Tedisco, (R, Glenmont) has introduced legislation calling for a one year moratorium.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D, Rotterdam) said these reforms shouldn't have been lumped into the budget. He also believes law enforcement should have been included in the conversation.

"They do this work day in and day out and keeping crime down is a continuous challenge. This bill takes away from that and makes it more difficult,” Santabarbara said. “We can't lose sight of what it takes to keep crime down."

Tedisco’s legislation specifically calls for a special session to vote on the measure prior to Jan. 1. Lawmakers said they are going to continue to push for a moratorium, but they said there are other ways the reforms could be delayed.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for the latest on this story.


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