Every report that comes out of John Jay College is anti-police. This report might read like a nice report on police reform but as you read it no where does it saying that the police are needed? It says more about why police are not needed.
Addressing the the 5 core areas in the report: Citations, Diversion programs, Legalization, Police-involved crisis response, Non-police response models models I will give a short explanation of why police are involved in these areas and why excluding the police is not a good idea.
The authors of this report argue that “Alternatives to arrest are a means of lessening the deleterious effects of exposure to the criminal legal system. Current alternative to arrest policies focus primarily on lower-level offenses such as
misdemeanors, which constitute the bulk of police enforcement practices and criminal caseloads in the United States.” If you know anything about the American Criminal Justice System, luckily, serious crime is rare. Violations of law (penal and traffic violations) are the most prevalent, then misdemeanors, followed by (decreasing in amount but increasing in severity) non-violent felonies, and then lastly and the fewest violent felonies. Keep in mind that a persons actions and behaviors get them a ticket for a ride on the criminal justice system. I’m confused which is worse the crime a person committed or that they get arrested, go to court, and receive a penalty? Whose fault is that?
These are the 5 core areas in the report:
- “Citations involving releasing people to appear in court on their own at a later date in lieu of a traditional
arrest in which police officers take the individual into custody”. NOTE: Citations work ONLY for minor offenses and when the offender can be identified. A citation is no good if the offender has no ID because people lie and they can never be identified in court in the future. In New York State certain crimes the offender has to be fingerprinted so it is better to fingerprint at the time of arrest than to have them return to get fingerprinted at a later date. (offenders often refuse to return – ha-ha really?). In New York offenders get several chances to appear in court so the issuance of citation will further delay justice. In fact an offender can get 48 hrs notice when they fail to appear for their initial court appearance before a bench warrant is issued. How this works is when an offender is issued a citation to appear in court. If the offender does not appear, the court then must try to contact the offender within 48 hours to notify them for a second chance to appear in court before a bench warrant can be issued. OK who is running the show here? Why does the system stop for the offender? Are they not the person who committed the crime?
- “Diversion programs involving pre-arrest social service participation where a case is never booked if individuals complete their diversion obligation”. NOTE: For chronic offenders this is just another “bite at the apple” that goes uncounted. There is even less accountability to get offenders to participate in the diversion programs. What the threat that if the offender doesn’t participate in the diversion program (not ALL people don’t participate in diversion programs), then they will be ultimately be arrested for the crime that they committed 6 to 9 months earlier? That doesn’t work. It becomes more difficult to contact the victims and witlessness that are needed for the case. The victims and witnesses want to move on with their lives and now the process has to start 6-9 months after the crime was committed. Many Victims/witnesses thought the case was resolved. Diversion works best for first time offenders who have a positive stake in the community and probably would have receive a court diversion anyways which would also work.
- “Legalization (in which particular conduct becomes permissible under the law) and decriminalization (in which conduct remains illegal but is moved to the civil legal system)”. NOTE: This is easy and this should be done at the state legislature level. The politicians should be transparent and should have any decision to change laws as part of their political platforms so the citizens can make their decisions at the ballot box. There are consequences for legalization/decriminalization. For example when the weather is warmer in New York there is a strong odor of cannabis as you drive along more congested city streets. Drivers can be seen openly smoking cannabis in vehicles around you. Vehicle and Traffic Law prohibits open alcoholic beverages in vehicles to prevent intoxicated driving. One report lists some of issues law enforcement faces because of the legalization of cannabis. Keep in mind there are always 2 sides to the argument.
- Police-involved crisis response models that can either involve trained officers acting alone or in tandem with mental health professionals to respond to people in mental health crisis without resorting to an arrest (e.g., by sending a person to treatment or services). NOTE: There are some calls that involve people in mental health crisis that ONLY the police can handle. There are other calls that involve people in mental health crisis that the police must first make safe (and then may have to stand-by) and other mental health professionals take over, and then there are some calls that can be handled solely by a mental health professional, and lastly there are some mental health crisis that are strictly handled over the telephone by mental health professionals. The problem is that at the call-taker (triage) stage there is no way of knowing which response is necessary. Sometimes the police get on location and the call is handled by a mental health provider over the phone. Sometimes mental health providers arrive on scene an call for the police because of the history of violence that the client has exhibited. There are times that police are called to assist in hospitals and doctor offices with persons in mental health crisis. Think of that. A hospital where there are doctors trained in the evaluation and care of mental health illness and the police are called because the patient is having a VIOLENT episode. Currently there is no viable model that can care for acute mental health crisis 24/7/365 including holidays and bad weather like the POLICE. May community have partnerships where the police and mental heath professionals work together in official or unofficial partnerships each knowing there role and this works very well. It has in Erie County, NY for many years. Keep in mind that these partnerships are necessary because of the 4 types of scenarios that are illustrated above and the fact that calls involving persons with acute mental health emergencies are at times fluid and dangerous and ever changing and the responders never knowing which situation they may be called to.
- Non-police response models in which social workers, paramedics, or other non-police agencies respond to certain calls for service or criminalized conduct without the presence of law enforcement. NOTE: To stop police from responding to all non-law enforcement calls will hurt police-community relations. Citizens need to interact with the police during non-criminal matters, this is when the police are able to build relationships with the citizens. There are complaints now, that at times, police feel like an “occupying force”. What will the citizens think if the only contacts they have with the police are when they get arrested. Currently there are models where the police work well with many different members of these groups. Members from different groups serve the community as Task Force Teams. These Task Force Teams work in the community and address problems as a team. The team member best suited to resolve a particular problem can step forward and take the lead. It may be police, social services, mental health, or homeless advocate which ever team member is best to address the problem at the time takes the lead and the rest of the team works together to support resolution of that issue. Why do the police have to be removed from the team? Again because of the type of clientèle that these non-police workers deal with it, is necessary for police services to be part of the team. When dealing with overdoses sometimes the subject becomes violent towards paramedics. It is helpful when police are standing-by when the overdosed subject returns back to life in case the subject becomes combative. When there is follow-up with child abuse cases sometimes CPS workers are denied entry into homes. The police are called and the CPS workers are escorted into the house and the police can stand-by until the visit is complete. During probation home visits if evidence of a crime is discovered, the police are called to arrest and book the probationer for the probation officer. Again the police work with MANY other agencies. In fact the police work with a lot of different agencies under many different circumstances. This is what makes the police unique and necessary.
A .pdf copy of the report can be accessed HERE: