Police, families of murder victims, rally in Albany for changes to criminal justice reform

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WHEC) — Families devastated by violence are joining police in calling for changes to the state’s bail reform laws, and other criminal justice reforms, which they say are responsible for a surge in crime and violence.

They came together in Albany Thursday to appeal to lawmakers.

The group that came together at the Capitol included mothers of murder victims and police who’ve had to deal with what they say are the effects of the state’s bail laws.

Former Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan now leads the State Association of Chiefs of Police.

He unveiled a series of suggestions to change the state’s bail laws.

In criminal cases now, judges are prohibited from setting bail for misdemeanors and for any but the most serious violent felonies.

"Criminals that go in and prey on store owners are caught, let go, quiet, let go,” said New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “And we feel like we’re the ones being victimized."

The association is calling for judges to be able to consider how dangerous suspects are, and have the discretion to lock them up.

"Judges should have the power to keep dangerous people off the streets,” said Eve Hendrix with Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. “It is time, politicians, to take the cuffs off judges hands. They need to do their jobs."

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she’s ready to look at solutions with lawmakers.

"That is something we have been keeping a close eye on, and making sure people feel safe and secure in the state of New York," Hochul said.

The families of victims, like Jakie Rowe-Adams, say people are dying now.

"For those who pick up a gun, and terrorize our streets like they’re doing," Rowe-Adams said. “And it’s not just New York, it’s all over. Enough is enough.… Enough is enough."

The advocates are also calling for changes in the state’s new discovery laws which now require suspects’ lawyers to get information about victims and witnesses almost immediately.

They want that information to wait so witnesses can’t be targeted and intimidated.

They also want judges to be able to find out the criminal histories of juvenile suspects so that long-time offenders aren’t considered "first offenders" every time.