This past session, the New York State Legislature passed two major criminal justice reforms.
Advocacy groups say they pushed for bills eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent offenses and tightening the timeline for prosecutors to share evidence with defense attorneys.
"Not only did we celebrate the historic reforms that happened in the last session in 2019 but we also helped to pass it," New Yorkers United for Justice Chief Strategist Khalil Cumberbatch said.
With a little more than a month until these laws go into effect, many law enforcement officials say they will have difficulty with implementation and believe the reforms could put dangerous people back on the street. Just Thursday, sheriffs, police and prosecutors held eight press conferences around the state voicing concerns.
"Yes there's a lot of work that could be done with bail reform. I certainly think we can do a lot of work. We just want an opportunity to sit down at the table and say we go into dark alleys and we catch bad guys. Give us a say in what you're going to do," Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour, D, said.
Republican lawmakers propose delaying the laws for a year and holding public hearings. However, with Democrats controlling the state Senate and Assembly, that measure doesn't appear to have enough support right now to pass.
"We don't have real concerns that the reforms will be held up in terms of implementation for any amount of time but again, we want to see all parties involved and engaged in a successful implementation of these reforms. That includes law enforcement," Cumberbatch said.
New Yorkers United for Justice, a coalition of 15 advocacy organizations, said it's concerned the public is not getting all the facts. It said law enforcement - and in some cases the media - are ignoring that other states have implemented similar reforms successfully.
"They have done it in a way where the sky hasn't fallen and I would like to believe that New York State has the ability to do it and to do it better than those states," Cumberbatch said.
The group plans to spend more than a million dollars to get its message directly to citizens. It's launching a public education campaign that will include video, digital advertisements, direct mail and phone efforts.
"We are targeting the average Joe and Jane public on how, on what these reforms actually mean. We don't, again want to be adversarial in our tone," Cumberbatch said.
NYUJ believes the Legislature can address law enforcement concerns without holding up implementation.