Fuck The Police: Bail Reform Isn’t Leading To Increase In Crime, Despite Cops Saying Otherwise
from the the-data-on-bail-reform dept
Any shift in the balance of power away from law enforcement almost always results in law enforcement claiming we’re headed towards a criminal apocalypse. The NYPD — via union reps and police commissioners — have made these claims for years, targeting everything from “stop and frisk” reform to more recent efforts made to treat accused criminals as “innocent until proven guilty,” rather than assuming guilt to keep them locked up until their cases can be heard.
The government (at all levels) would really rather not have to prove its case in court. That involves time, (other people’s) money, and having enough damning information on hand to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s way easier to simply lock people up, threatening their lives, freedom, and livelihoods until they cave, giving prosecutors easy wins on plea deals. Plea deals are S.O.P. for our supposed justice system — something capable of converting even innocent people into convicts simply by threatening them with indefinite incarceration.
Bail reform in New York City aimed to reset this balance of power, denying prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies they serve the leverage to pressure people into accepting plea deals in exchange for their freedom. Law enforcement officials refused to recognize the reality of the situation: that bail demands create a multi-tiered justice system that allows the well-off to walk free while disproportionately punishing the poor. Local bail laws enabled the New York City law enforcement to ensure the poor and oppressed remained poorer and more oppressed.
Now that the status quo has been slightly upended, cops and their champions are advocating for a return to the oppression they’ve historically enjoyed. The war for hearts and minds has started, but the NYPD and its advocates aren’t interested in dealing with facts.
The NYPD and their unions began complaining about bail reform immediately. Robbing arrested people of their constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence, union officials claimed letting accused people go free was to blame for a spike in crime rates.
But this was just a bunch of bullshit. Even the exceptionally NYPD-friendly NY Post noted the stats did not jibe with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea’s claim that the bail reforms of 2020 were responsible for crime rate increases observed in 2021.
Kudos, then, to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, for running the numbers and shining light, not heat, on what’s actually going on. MOCJ this week published a new report showing the overwhelming majority, 97%, of the roughly 50,000 people awaiting trial monthly in 2020 haven’t been re-arrested — a trendline that existed before the bail law changed, and continued afterward. There’s one myth exploded.
Those extremely inconvenient facts have stopped New York law enforcement officials from claiming bail reform does little more than allow violent criminals to commit more violent crimes while awaiting their trials.
Fortunately, anyone anywhere in the world can fact check these bogus claims. The New York Criminal Justice Agency has been compiling stats on pretrial release. And the stats show an overwhelming majority of people on pre-trail release have not been arrested for other criminal activity.
Long-time public defender Scott Hechinger pointed out the massive disparity between law enforcement’s claims and reality on Twitter, noting that released arrestees almost never committ violent crimes while awaiting their trials.
Here’s what Hechinger’s tweet says:
For all worried—understandably based on whats in the news—about bail reform causing crime. Please see this chart. Regularly updated. NYC Criminal Justice Agency. Shows those released. The sea of light blue is all those not rearrested. The purple you can’t see: violent felonies.
Here’s the chart, compiled using New York’s own criminal justice statistics:
Clearly, the criminal apocalypse — supposedly guaranteed by allowing people accused of crimes to fully enjoy their constitutional rights — isn’t happening. The NYPD and its union reps are trying to convert a crime spike into a trend… and then somehow link that non-trend to recent bail reforms. But their own stats have sold them out. And it’s not as though they don’t have access to them. Instead, they’re hoping that if they sell enough fear, they can go back to the way things used to be: where indefinite incarceration routinely delivered easy wins for prosecutors and padded the NYPD’s conviction stats.
But information not only wants to be free, it wants to be informative. The NYPD’s decision to ignore the facts in favor of its preferred narrative says a whole lot about the agency and its union representation — none of it good.