Ocean County Freeholders, Police Oppose State’s Bail Reform Law

Mar 01, 2017

Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari and Deputy Director Gerry P. Little have applauded the Ocean County Association of Chiefs of Police for unanimously approving a resolution for the appeal of the state’s bail reform law, which it considers “dangerous, onerous and fiscally disastrous.” The freeholders said the regulation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars while threatening to release potentially dangerous criminals back into the public.

“These law enforcement professionals and leaders from all of our municipalities agree that this version of bail reform is not working,” Vicari said. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our police officers in opposition to these dangerous changes. It’s time to throw it out and come up with a better plan that both protects our residents and controls costs.”

Little, who referred to the state-mandated law as “nothing but a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card,” believes that the original 2014 question placed before voters was “disingenuous.”

“In no way did the question ask whether voters wanted the courts to release sex offenders, drug dealers, burglars and other potentially violent criminals back on the streets without bail,” he stated. “Judges already had the power to release or hold suspects with or without bail.”

According to a statement from the New Jersey State PBA on Feb. 7, bail was set for three out of 3,382 suspects that came before judges in January. Vicari said the number of prisoners released statewide before trial confirms the freeholders’ concerns.

The New Jersey Association of Counties has filed a suit before the state Council on Mandates contending that the legislation falls under the “State Mandate, State Pay” statutes and is consequently unconstitutional unless it’s fully subsidized by Trenton.

“NJAC is absolutely correct – the state mandated these costs and under the state constitution they should pay to implement and maintain this program,” Vicari said, noting the county estimates that complying with the regulations will cost taxpayers around $2.4 million in new staff, equipment and capital expenses.

Although the freeholders are not against reviewing and improving the bail regulations, they do oppose the law. Vicari said a better plan would be to scrap the law and start fresh.  —K.A.E.

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