Thursday, March 21, 2013

Letter to NY DOJ From NY Assemblyman Bill Nojay

March 21, 2013

 Michael C. Green
Executive Deputy Commissioner
Division of Criminal Justice Services

Alfred E. Smith Building
80 South Swan St.
Albany, New York 12210

Dear Mike:

I am writing to request that the Division of Criminal Justice Services immediately terminate the newly revised and expanded informant program known as the “Gun Tip Line”.  The program has chilling implications and should have no place in a free society which has, for over 230 years, protected ordinary citizens from invasions of their privacy and unreasonable search and seizure by agents of government.  

The original 2012 tip program was part of a modest, $2 million initiative to develop community specific, anti-gun violence strategies in only six (6) violence-plagued cities in the State.  The Governor’s press release of the new initiative dated February 18, 2012 made clear the initiative was “part of the Governor’s larger urban agenda to aggressively support the implementation of community-based violence reduction strategies involving both the police and the communities”.  The initiative was limited to Newburgh, Albany, Schenectady, Brownsville, the Bronx, and Manhattan, cities “that are most impacted by gun violence.”

Your office has now used the 2012 program to launch a radically expanded, statewide program to be run by the State Police which does not target gun violence at all – it appears solely directed at enforcing the so-called SAFE Act, which has become a national symbol for what happens when bad policy meets bad drafting passed under a false “emergency” in the dark of night by a Legislature that did not bother to read the bill before they voted on it.

The SAFE Act creates a new criminal class of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens who are not expected to comply with its unreasonable and oppressive terms.  The expanded Gun Tip Line makes a bad law worse by using snitches (motivated by $500 cash per report) as its enforcement tool.   

By employing a check process whereby the State Police effectively oversee local law enforcement’s follow-up on every tip, you are using the State Police in a manner which is offensive to the independence of local law enforcement officers.  Our system of government works due to the checks and balances incumbent with tiers of law enforcement acting independently.  The Administration’s new program serves to intimidate local officers into complying with the Governor’s political agenda. 

There should be no place in the Empire State for a massive informant program targeting ordinary citizens not engaged in violent crime.  I am not aware of any similar program implemented anywhere in the United States, and thankfully so.  Moreover, despite widespread incidents of violent crime in many urban neighborhoods, including rampant violence and the virtual takeover of buildings and city blocks by drug gangs operating in many of our cities, the State has not employed $500 rewards or instituted any similar programs targeting violent offenders.

 History is filled with the tragedies of governments which set neighbor against neighbor.  There is nothing good that can come of this. 

I urge you to step back from this ill-advised path and work to make New York safer using legitimate law enforcement techniques which respect the Constitutional protections that have made America great and the Empire State a leader in protecting its citizens’ civil liberties. 


                                                                     Bill Nojay




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