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Watervliet Police discuss impacts of criminal justice reform laws on the department

Emily De Vito
Updated: January 16, 2020 06:40 AM
Created: January 15, 2020 10:47 PM

WATERVLIET -- The Watervliet Police Department held a forum Wednesday night to answer questions and discuss with the community the impacts of the new criminal justice reform laws.

Chief Anthony Geraci said the forum was not about opinion but facts. He said the changes have had administrative, operational and financial impacts.

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“Criminal justice reforms needed to take place in the state of New York,” said Chief Geraci. “I just wish they would institute reasonable reform and they would have the stakeholders at the table together and have a conversation. I think a lot of people were left out of the process, especially victims. Victims services they seem to be kind of the forgotten group of people in this legislation.”

A presentation was given laying out the laws. The department said there are four major components of these new laws. They’re discovery rules, bail reform, forfeitures, and speedy trial rules. Geraci said the department is really seeing the impacts from two components. One being bail reform.

"The judges used to have discretion,” explained Geraci. “Used to consider likelihood to re-offend, dangers to the community, likely to appear at a future court date so the discretion was really an important component in this matter."

The second challenge is new discovery rules. Prosecutors have 15 days to turn over all evidence to the defense and that puts a strain on police. They have to hand over material such as body and dash camera footage, tangible evidence, 9-1-1 recordings, and notes of any officer that responded.

"The discovery really affects us operationally, so we had to spend about $12,000 just on equipment to be compliant,” said Geraci.

Geraci also said they had to pull a cop off the street for administrative purposes due to the amount of time it takes to compile all the discovery material.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares was at the forum to add his input and answer questions. He said it’s not just police who are being taken away from important aspects of the job due to changes.

"I'm experiencing the same thing where my prosecutors should be engaged with their witnesses, should be engaged with their victims and they're spending more time in front of their computers making materials available for the defense,” said Soares.

Someone did ask about adding extra police officers now that many are tied up. Geraci said that is difficult to do because they have been given no extra money from the state to help with the changes.


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