New York AG Letitia James says that NYPD should stop making traffic stops for ‘minor infractions’

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NEW YORK- In a recent report prepared by New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, she recommended that the New York Police Department (NYPD) should stop arresting people for minor offenses during traffic stops.

James, who acts as a special prosecutor appointed to investigate certain police officer involved shootings, argued that the NYPD should move away from non-criminal traffic stops citing that they “often” end in violence.

According to Fox News, her recommendation was made after officials analyzed the death of Allan Feliz, 31, who was subsequently shot by an NYPD officer during an October 2019 traffic stop. After analyzing the case, James’ office concluded that the NYPD’s use of deadly force was justified.

Allegedly, even though James’ office found the officer involved shooting to be justified, her office claimed that the sequence of events leading to Feliz’s death would have never happened if police hadn’t stopped him in the first place.

Feliz was pulled over after an NYPD officer suspected he was not wearing a seatbelt while driving in the Bronx. Feliz complied when the officer asked him to step out of the car, but allegedly tensions rose once the officer attempted to arrest Feliz on outstanding warrants for offenses such as spitting, littering, and disorderly conduct.

James’ office is now recommending that if police officers are to remain involved in traffic enforcement, then the police department should drop the policy that encourages officers to arrest any motorist who is found to have an open warrant. 

The report states that alternatively, drivers with open warrants should only be arrested with a supervisor’s approval and only if the officer had reasonable cause to believe that the individual was a danger to the community. The report stated:

“The OAG believes that such a policy properly balances the risks to the community and the public interest in avoiding unnecessary arrests during car stops. In addition, the OAG encourages state lawmakers to consider whether this issue might also be more fully addressed through legislation.”

James’ office added:

“It is highly unlikely that the incident involving Mr Feliz, whose warrants were for the violations/offenses of spitting, littering, and disorderly conduct, would have escalated in the manner it did in the absence of this automatic arrest policy.”

However, it needs to be noted that following a search of Feliz’s vehicle, police found over nine grams of cocaine and 1.3 grams of methamphetamines in tablet form and determined that he was on parole for a previous federal offense.

James’ report concluded by saying:

“The death of Allan Feliz was a tragedy and I offer my deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones during this time. My office conducted an exhaustive investigation into the events surrounding Mr. Feliz’s death and determined that we could not prove that the use of deadly force was unjustified beyond a reasonable doubt, as the law requires in order to bring charges. “

“The decisive question under the law is whether an officer reasonably believes that an individual is in imminent danger and it would be impossible to prove otherwise in this situation.”

The report then discusses that they have issued a number of recommendations that the NYPD should take into account, including removing officers from engaging in any type of routine traffic enforcement activity.

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ALBANY, NY– On Wednesday, after pouring over hours of testimony from demonstrators and a heated exchange with NYPD supervisors, New York State Attorney General Letitia James recommended sweeping police reforms as part of her ongoing probe into clashes between officers and protesters. 

The investigation was initially prompted by criticism of NYPD tactics and violent encounters caught on video during the protests that took place after the death of George Floyd.  In her preliminary report, James is calling for structural changes at the department as well as new oversight and accountability.  James said in a statement:

“While our investigation remains ongoing, after 30 days of intense scrutiny, it is impossible to deny that many New Yorkers have lost faith in law enforcement. We must bridge the undeniable divide between the police and the public. This preliminary report and the recommendations included is an important step forward.”

James, who enlisted the help of Barry Friedman, founding director of the Policing Project at NYU Law School, and former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to assist in the probe, also recommended boosting accountability and transparency by establishing a commission to oversee the NYPD and strengthening the Civilian Complaint Review Board. She said during a conference call with reporters:

“We must change the existing structure of the NYPD, which gives the police commissioner unilateral authority. The NYPD should report to the people it serves.”

James also said:

“The police should not police themselves, period. It’s really important that we think of major reforms and not tinker around the edges.”

The 57-page report concludes that the public must have more oversight of department policies, structure, and leadership. It recommends a “redesign” of the disciplinary system for officers. According to the report:

“Police should be prohibited from employing such a disproportionate response and be prohibited from using deadly physical force where there is no use or imminent use of sever physical or deadly force.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo originally tasked James with probing the NYPD’s response after videos of officers pepper-spraying protesters indiscriminately and shoving peaceful demonstrators to the ground went viral. So many people submitted testimony to James’ office that the AG had to add a second day of virtual hearings to accommodate the flood of requests. 

Initially, NYPD supervisors did not respond to a request to appear, but police commissioner Dermot Shea later testified, defending the actions of her officers caught on tape. Shea told James that he did not agree with allegations of widespread inappropriate use of pepper spray on protesters and other incidents saying that officers exercised “incredible restraint.”

The report goes on to recommend that all police officers should be certified through a process that would allow for “decertifying” officers engaged in misconduct, preventing them from remaining a police officer or being rehired by another department in the state.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank and file officers, said the AG’s report only tells one side of the story and delivers reheated proposals that have been a part of the anti-police agenda for decades. He said in a statement:

“If the goal is to heal the rift between police officers and the public that won’t be achieved without giving meaningful consideration to the perspective of police officers on the street.”

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Public Information Richard Esposito called the report a “political and not an investigative document.”  He said in a statement:

“Rather than research rhetoric we should come together, state and local enforcement and elected’s and confront and solve the crisis at hand. Meanwhile we at the NYPD will continue to protect and serve the public as we have for 175 years.”

Within the report, James calls for a series of systematic changes that the city, state, and NYPD should consider to remedy the concerns of the public including redesigning the role of police in New York City, stating law enforcement being the “de facto response” to mental illness, homelessness, and school safety must change. 

Following protester’s demands to cut police spending, the city recently approved a budget that will shift $1 billion from policing to education and social services in the coming year. 

In the meantime, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who served as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first police commissioner, slammed city and state leaders Monday for abandoning cops and helping create a “crime virus” to go along with the coronavirus in claiming innocent victims.

In a radio interview with WABC-77, Bratton said:

“The city is a mess and it’s going to get a lot worse unfortunately. It’s a second storm. There’s the coronavirus that’s taking a lot of lives on the one hand and now the crime virus that will take a lot of lives on the other.”

Bratton surmised that the morale of New York’s Finest is at an all-time low after getting “attacked from all sides” and being “defunded and demeaned.” 

Bratton said:

“Even more troubling are the citizens who would normally cooperate with police to ferret out crime are not doing so because they feel intimidated by their neighbors who are protesting police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of cops in Minneapolis.”

Asked if he was disappointed with his former boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreeing to policies that will make it harder for the NYPD to tackle crime, including steep budget cuts, Bratton did not hold back:

“I’m disappointed with the whole political establishment here in the state, in Albany, and in the city. They have effectively, collectively, and individually turned their back in many respects on the entity that’s most responsible for the crime reduction in this city, state, and indeed the county–the police.”

Bratton was particularly baffled by City Hall’s sudden decision to reduce police manpower, noting the additional 1,300 police officers added under his watch bolstered neighborhood policing, which was broadly supported as a move to improve relationships between the police and the community. 

He said many Council members were too young to understand the fear of crime the gripped the city in the 1980s and early 1990s, when there were more than 2,000 murders a year.

While Bratton did not criticize de Blasio by name, he did not spare the City Council for pushing an agenda that he said catered to the “far left” and likened the legislative body to a “mob”:

“Most of them don’t know what they voted for. They’ve become a mob themselves in the sense of some of the legislation they’re passing. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Bratton gave a critique of what’s contributed to the increase in shootings and crime, which he likened to a “perfect storm.”  Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s decision to pass an “ill-conceived” law to eliminate cash bail for many crimes before the pandemic hit is a very significant and driving force of the crime spike.

Bratton also said that “emptying” the state prisons and jails has put recidivist criminals out on the streets at a time when the court system is in “disarray” because of the coronavirus crisis, with delays in defendants being arraigned or indicted. Bratton said he’s very disappointed the city’s political leadership is “playing” to the demonstrators and not just the left, but the far left:

“It’s going to come back and eventually bite them all in the rear end. The City Council has spoken and now their constituents are going to be punished by rising crime and the ineffectiveness of government to control it.”

Bratton acknowledges the near impossible situation the country is going through as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to effect lives and livelihoods across the nation, but he remains hopeful:

“Literally you’d have to go back to the start of World War II or in the case of more contemporary history, September 11 to have had a time where we’ve been more at risk, in the sense of fear about the future. I’m an optimist and I’m very confident that we’ll get through this, but not without great cost.”

You want a great example?  Let’s flash back to this report from last month:

NEW YORK CITY, NY – It seems as though some recent, and expedited, releases from Rikers Island under the guise of COVID has shown a healthy return to custody. Apparently, 250 released convicts and accused criminals have already been rearrested 450 times.

Statistics from the NYPD revealed the alarming rate of alleged reoffending since Governor Cuomo decided to take drastic measures in the effort to enforce social distancing in the likes of jails and prisons. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea commented on the move that lacks “common sense”:

“We’re continuing to see people get arrested over and over and let right back out. And it really defies common sense.”

Arrest data showed that about 2,500 people have been released from Rikers since the orders were delivered in March to start thinning out the jail population. Crime Control Strategies Chief Michael LiPetri noted that nearly 10% of that released population have been arrested 450 times.

Meaning those of that portion of the compassionate releases to help combat the spread of COVID wound up getting arrested again, nearly twice after that first release.

Of course, the fallout of these mass jail exoduses is likely going to be compounded further, with characters like Mayor Bill de Blasio edging to cut police funding.

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On June 7th, Mayor de Blasio said that he will partially defund the NYPD and will divert that money to provide support to youth and social services.

As New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio – who has long been no friend to police – promises to begin defunding the NYPD, there are rumblings that some of the “top cops” are considering throwing in the towel.

Mayor de Blasio also stated that he was putting an immediate end to the city’s 8 pm curfew, which was the first curfew the city had seen since 1943. The ending of that curfew was no cataclysmic action as the it only ended one day ahead of schedule. 

“We are committed to shifting resources,” de Blasio said,” according to a report by WPIX-11. “The investments in our youth are foundational.”

The defunding, the mayor claims, will not create an issue with increased safety risks to New Yorkers. Apparently less money being spent on salaries, training and equipment equates, which leads to fewer cops on the street, using outdated equipment and not being adequately trained, equates to safer citizens. 

Inside sources at NYPD tell Law Enforcement Today that Mayor de Blasio has been pushing NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea to come out publicly against officers being “too aggressive” against violent rioters – or “peaceful protesters”, as de Blasio would reportedly prefer they be referred to.

We’re told that Shea has been pushing back, and that as a result, his time may be short at NYPD.  The same goes for Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan.

Absolutely nothing has been confirmed – but suffice it to say that morale is arguably hitting new lows.

So aside from defunding police and also the ill-effects of the massive COVID releases, we’re als o seeing a new-era of alleged criminal releases in New York. 

A cop’s head was bashed wide open with a stolen glass bong.

It happened during violent protests in Manhattan.

And now a judge has released the alleged looter who did it, according to The New York Post.  

Judge Laurie Peterson overruled prosecutors and released a defendant without bail.

In that case, it allegedly led to a pair of unprovoked slashings by the guy who was released.

“What could she possibly be thinking? Is she living under a rock? Did she see the looting going on in the city?” a cop who worked in Manhattan every night of the recent riots told The Post.

“I guess they really want to do away with cops and let the criminals run wild.”

According to police, Kevin Bullock, 22, was one of the thieves who police say vandalized a smoke shop at the corner of Walker and Baxter streets shortly after 2 a.m. on June 1.

Police said that when an officer grabbed Bullock, one of the thieves, he hit the officer in the back of the head with a bong stolen from the store.

Bullock allegedly has a rap sheet listing 23 prior arrests, according to police.

They said he then shoved the cop and took off.

The officer was left with a bloody gash and a concussion.  After several days of recovering, he was placed on limited duty, the Post reported.

They were able to capture Bullock after pulling surveillance footage.  On Wednesday, NYPD’s Warrant Section tracked him down Wednesday at his apartment in Brooklyn.

The Post reported that they were able to arrest him, despite Bullock crawling out a window and jumping from a fire escape to try and get away.

According to court records, Bullock was charged with assault on a police officer, attempted assault with a weapon and burglary.

“This is a strong case, with clear video evidence, and he faces state prison time if convicted of these violent felonies,” a law enforcement source told The Post.

“Bail is the least restrictive means to ensure his return to court.”

On Thursday, Manhattan prosecutor Caitlin Naun laid out the evidence and asked for bail to be set at $25,000 cash or $75,000 bond.

He was instead released without bail pending another court appearance on Sept. 11, according to court records.

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