In wake of shooting death of officer, de Blasio demands bail changes

Invoking the death of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder at the hands of a man believed to have violated court-ordered drug treatment, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Albany to require that bail and sentencing decisions factor in the danger defendants pose to the public.

State law currently limits judges to weighing how likely defendants are to skip court dates and alternative sentencing programs, the mayor said, and does not take into consideration public danger. De Blasio argued the narrowness of this criteria has resulted in hardened criminals like Tyrone Howard, the man accused of fatally shooting the police officer, making bail, dropping out of diversion programs and continuing a life of crime.

“No more New Yorkers should have to pay the price for the errors in our laws. Our laws need to be fixed. And they need to be fixed soon,” de Blasio said at a City Hall press conference on Friday. “When the risk to the public cannot be legally considered in the bail process, when it is not required to be considered in the diversion process, something is fundamentally wrong and inhibits judges from using their best judgment.”

De Blasio said he would reach out to key players in Albany soon. He also noted that several others are pushing to change this policy, including New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, NYPD Captain Endowment Association President Roy Richter, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Adams. Mark-Viverito, Adams and other elected officials joined de Blasio at the press conference. 

The mayor and other proponents of an updated bail policy contend state laws also fail to prevent those accused of low-level, nonviolent offenses from unnecessarily winding up in jail when they cannot afford bail.

Adams, who spent 22 years in the NYPD, disputed the idea that proposed changes might prevent some from being held in jail and result in a system that is “soft on crime.” Too often, he said, those who commit the most violent acts “aggressively and boldly walk through cracks” in the court system and resume rough behavior. 

“Here’s an opportunity to create a law that will be named after this officer,” Adams said at the press conference alongside de Blasio. “Albany must fast track this in the 2016 legislative session.” 

Holder was fatally shot in the forehead in East Harlem Tuesday night. He had been pursuing Howard, a suspect in a shootout, when Howard allegedly dropped a stolen bicycle and fired.

Howard had been arrested 23 times as an adult, including once in connection to a 2009 shootout that injured two bystanders, according to The New York Times. He was not convicted in that case. However, he was among several alleged crack-cocaine dealers arrested in October and then ordered to a drug treatment program.

A spokesman for the court system has argued that Howard appeared to be a good candidate for diversion because there was no admissible evidence showing he had a record of violence.

De Blasio disagreed, and at one point invoked the sealed case from back in 2009. His administration said the court is currently allowed to consider allegations of illegal activity - not just charges and indictments - in determining flight risk.

“Drug dealing endangers peoples’ lives,” de Blasio said. “He had sold drugs repeatedly. He was associated with gangs that were known to be violent. The shooting in 2009 was clear to the judge. On top of that, a history of violating parole and probation orders.”