It was dismaying to read of Monday’s meeting between newly appointed NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and Rev. Al Sharpton. We are now in the midst of a veritable plague of vicious anti-Semitic attacks in Boro Park, yet the incoming commissioner found no compelling reason for an early meeting with Jewish leaders. The Sharpton meeting wasn’t even Shea’s first with minority leadership; last week Mr. Shea met with members of the Latino community.
Ironically, the meetings occurred in the midst of the ongoing debate over some of the recent revisions to New York’s State’s criminal justice laws. One of the major concerns being raised concerns bail reform provisions that eliminate cash bail and pretrial detention for most non-violent felonies except for charges of witness tampering, murder conspiracy, domestic violence cases, crimes against young children, sex crimes. and terror cases.
Bail and detention is allowed pre-trial in violent felony cases, except those involving certain burglary and robbery charges. Shea hit the ground running by calling for changes to expand the discretion a judge has in making pretrial and cash bail determinations: “Anytime you swing too far too quick, I think you run the risk of possibly some unintended consequences… I would like to see judges have a little bit of discretion to think about danger. It’s more about to me, at times, the person than the offense” Shea said in a recent interview.
Predictably, Sharpton reportedly made no bones about what he wanted from Shea. According to several accounts, he insisted that no one should be held on bail because of an inability to come up with the required cash. And throwing down a gauntlet of sorts, he indicated that Shea owed the African-American community and would have to atone, in real time and in substantive ways, for having been picked for the post over two African-American officials also in the running:
He comes with certain, a kind of awkwardness that he inherits. There must be some real candor and transparency with bad actors on both sides, both in the community and the policing. He must be committed to that and must earn the respect and that openness in terms of communication. We have very serious problems in police-community relations.
Clearly, the good Reverend knows how to take care of business in the public arena – despite the incendiary racial baggage he brings with him. We respectfully urge that those who would represent our interests play a quick game of catch up and perhaps, also, argue the need for a prompt revision of the new bail laws to take special notice of hate crimes – like those aimed at chassidic Jews.