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During Questioning In Albany, NYPD Commissioner Shea Backtracks On Bail Reform Law As Big Reason For Gun Violence

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea did an about face Thursday on the causes of the city's seemingly uncontrollable gun violence.

While being grilled by lawmakers in Albany, Shea also had a tough time answering pointed questions from Assembly members representing the five boroughs, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

It was probably a day Shea wished he'd stayed in bed, or at least not made the long trek to the state capital. Because in addition to switching his story on the cause of gun violence, he had a bout of, shall we say, selective amnesia about an embarrassing case where the NYPD pinned a crime on the wrong guy.

"I certainly have a lot of confidence in the police in New York City," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who represents the Bronx.

READ MORELaw Enforcement Unions Say Bail Reform To Blame For Spike In Violent Crimes As City Focuses On NYPD Reform

It started out OK, but tongues started wagging after Shea seemed to backtrack on his repeated insistence that state bail reform laws are a major reason why cops can't stop gun violence.

Dinowitz simply wanted to know, "Were there people out with no bail, for example, or bail being set and they made bail, I don't know, and then committed another shooting and were arrested again for basically for same crime?"

"When you look at who we arrest for crimes, it's going to be small numbers," Shea said. "When you look at the entirety of how many shooting arrests we make, and the percentage, it is not dramatic."

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Meanwhile, CBS2 obtained a report from the city's Office of Criminal Justice that throws cold water on Shea's bail reform argument. It shows that 9.7% of defendants were released without bail for gun crimes, before bail reform was passed. It fell to 3.5% after bail reform was enacted.

But there were more tough questions about Shea's penchant for blaming bail reform.

"In June of 2020, Commissioner Shea, you blamed bail reform for a rise in shootings. But a New York Post analysis of the NYPD's own data found that claim to be false. Do you agree with the New York Post that that was a false claim?" Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said.

"Madam, I don't generally hold, you know, debates over what appears in the paper," Shea said.

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The Assemblywoman also grilled Shea about an incident two days ago where the commissioner blamed bail reform as the reason a man police said was responsible for a Brooklyn purse snatching attack on a 65-year-old was still on the street.

"We had a case in Brooklyn today. We're looking for an individual that has 11 open cases right now and then he goes out and he brutally attacks a woman on the street," Shea had said in an interview.

It was a "oops" moment. After Shea talked about it on the radio, red-faced cops had to retract the story because the man they identified as the culprit was actually behind bars when the attack occurred. Asked about it at the hearing, Shea all but took the Fifth.

"I do not know the case you're referring to," Shea said.

Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Society called on lawmakers to ignore Shea's calls for changes to the bail laws. It charged that Shea has relied on "falsehoods, fearmongering, dog whistling and other unscrupulous tactics" to undermine the reforms.

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