Legal Analysis on Initial Steps of Buffalo Police Reform Policy

WIVB News 4 recently aired a report on steps that have been taken by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown regarding police reform in their respective jurisdictions. Attorney Barry Covert was interviewed for the story to provide legal analysis on some logistical aspects of the new reforms as well as the potential widespread impact the reforms may have.

Police Reform Legislation

WIVB reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of police reform measures into law in New York State. In an announcement on the police reform legislation, Gov. Cuomo also indicated that the state would withhold money from police departments that fail to reform their practices. The news story continued with a report that Mayor Byron Brown has set a reform agenda in motion to end racial injustice and police brutality. The goal of the reforms is to ease tensions between the Buffalo Police Department and Buffalo’s communities of color.

Decriminalizing Low-Level Crimes

The first chapter in Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s police reform policing policy involves decriminalizing low level crimes, such as misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Under the reform policy, instead of arresting someone accused of a low-level offense such as shoplifting or petty larceny, the suspect will be issued an appearance ticket and will not be detained when the ticket is issued.

Continue to read the following for a summary of the Barry Covert’s legal analysis for WIVB’s report story on police reform. Click the video below to watch WIVB’s full report.

Central Booking Concern

WIVB’s report states that, by law, a suspect has to be photographed and finger printed. These things can only be done at Police Central Booking. An important reason for booking a nonviolent suspect after their arrest is ensuring they are not wanted for more serious offenses.

This aspect of police reform has raised concerns of when and how a suspect will be photographed and finger-printed if they are only issued an appearance ticket. However, attorney Barry Covert discussed why this should not be a major concern. Barry Covert stated there are many times when there isn’t anyone at central booking to process a suspect so, it has to be done later anyway. As an alternative to going directly to Police Central Booking, Mr. Covert said “the officer could, for example, take a photograph of identification with their cell phone. Now they have an assurance that they have the right individual and issue the appearance ticket at the scene.”

Impact of Decriminalizing Low-Level Crimes

WIVB’s report continued with a discussion on the potential impact of this first steps in Buffalo police reform. Barry Covert told WIVB that, by decriminalizing low-level offenses, you could also be decriminalizing the offender. Mr. Covert went on to say “I think that for nonviolent offenders, these are all very good ideas and could really change the playing field for nonviolent offenders to allow them to rehabilitate and to move on to be productive members of society.”