The Oneida County Sheriff's Office posted the following to their Facebook page on Monday:
With our State and Nation in the throes of a devastating epidemic, New York’s Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police urge that this is not the appropriate time for the State Legislature to be enacting major policy changes that are unrelated to dealing with COVID-19. “We understand the need to get a budget in place soon, but it should not be a budget like last year’s last-minute passage crammed with big changes in public policy that are not truly budget-related”, said Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. He continued, “Adopting radical changes in public policy by pretending it is “budget-related” is a sham, and never the right thing to do, but especially this year. Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police are incredibly busy and highly focused on the current crisis, as are most of our citizens. We cannot take the time to contact State lawmakers to argue our point of view on these issues. And most of our citizens have their families and jobs on their mind right now. They are not thinking about lobbying their Legislators on the public policy issues that are, nonetheless, very important to them. Furthermore, even if we or our citizens had the time to give input on pending important policy issues, there is no one “home” to hear us. The Legislators and their staff are not in Albany, nor, in most cases even in their district offices. Even if it were safe to do so, there is no place for citizens to visit or rally and convey their concerns to Legislators. New York’s Legislators should not be like some in Washington who see this crisis as an opportunity to slip through legislation that they would not be able to move in normal times. The major policy issues that were being hotly debated before this pandemic struck should not now be decided by “Three Men in a Room”, without a fair opportunity for input from law enforcement experts and the citizenry”.
Sheriffs and Chiefs take this position knowing full well that there are indeed items that require attention from the Legislature. Chief Patrick Phelan, Greece PD and President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police states, “We have been calling strongly for necessary amendments to last year's criminal justice reforms, but we would prefer that they be done in a calm, deliberative process after this crisis has waned. Pushing something through in the budget, without an opportunity for input or guidance from the law enforcement professionals which we represent will, we fear, just result in additional unworkable, dangerous public policies.”
Similarly, we have been on the forefront with law enforcement leaders and parent-teacher and medical organizations in opposing legalization of marijuana in New York. We know that legalization would be bad public policy for New York, bringing with it many social and health problems, as evidenced by this ill-advised decision in other states. Law enforcement, local governments and the health community already have our hands full dealing with this deadly disease. We do not need, at this time, the inevitable problems that will come with legalization. Certainly, now is the worst time to introduce one more respiratory threat, when we are actively fighting vaping and Covid-19.
We jointly urge the Legislature to set aside these two items, and any other major policy changes it is contemplating, and pass a clean budget, addressing only true budget issues and, if necessary, any COVID-19 related bills. There will be time enough, after the crisis has subsided, to consider other issues in a thoughtful, deliberative way.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, contact Peter R. Kehoe, Esq., Executive Director, New York State Sheriffs’ Association at 518-441-1865. Chief Patrick D. Phelan, President, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police at 518-355-3371.