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Eirim chun mo gniomh a chriuchnu

The Constantine Institute

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Legislative Testimony









The Constantine Institute has been organized to promote the highest constitutional, legal, ethical and professional standards in law enforcement, to encourage innovation in public safety strategy, tactics, training and education and to foster, in the words of our eponymous patron Tom Constantine, “a seamless continuum of cooperation, support and mutual respect among law enforcement agencies.”

We offer these comments in reaction to the governor’s Public Protection Budget proposal and make some suggestions of our own.


The governor’s proposed budget for the Division of Criminal Justice Services would appropriate $16 million to continue Operation IMPACT, the state’s primary local assistance program for law enforcement. That amounts to less than $1 million for each of the seventeen counties that account for 80% of the state’s crime. Aside from that amount being inconsequential, the real opportunity being squandered by devoting what resources we have to the kind of statistics-driven, technology-based policing made popular under the administration of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani under the name CompStat in the mid-1990s, is in failing to reignite the movement toward community policing.

The popularity of Giuliani-style enforcement nationwide has effectively driven police agencies apart from the communities they serve. Leading figures in contemporary policing are saying so loudly and clearly. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealafeld, III has observed that we have turned police cars into rolling high-tech offices. Now, officers won’t get out of the “office” and interact with the public. Michael J. Carroll, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, says: "We’ve emphasized technology and de-emphasized personal partnerships. Some police departments now have community-policing units. We need the whole department to be community-oriented.” Bernard Melekian, the new Director of the US Justice Department's COPS program just last week at John Jay College pointed out that while the numbers show that cities have grown safer, opinion polls confirm that Americans still fear crime. That is the consequence of the breakdown in partnership that Chief Carroll decries and, in his view, without that partnership, all of our investment in crime-fighting science and technology will never achieve its potential in making the public feel safer. The cops will stay in their “rolling offices” and the people will stay in their homes. Everyone will look at statistics. And no one will feel safer.

In Albany, recent years have seen an extraordinary community discussion on the direction we want our police department to take. This was occasioned by a number of tragic homicides involving victims and perpetrators of a very young age. These kids are not statistics. In a small city like ours, they have names. The kids in our neighborhoods and schools know them. For nearly four years, however, we had a chief of police who was addicted to the flashy technology we got through Operation IMPACT and forever citing the statistics spewed by DCJS. This in no way responded to the needs, concerns and all too often the grief of our community. That chief is gone and we want to see the CompStat/IMPACT style of policing go with him.

In Albany, the people have spoken. They have told the Mayor and the Common Council that our next police chief must be a leader who will give us community policing. If we are to have that, then the state’s premier local assistance program should be tailored to give the people of my city what they want. And what Albany wants has been made quite explicit in the form of a set of recommendations by the city’s Gun Violence Task Force. 16 million Operation IMPACT dollars are not that much, but just give municipalities like Albany the opportunity to spend their share on community policing initiatives -- and in our particular case our Gun Violence Task Force recommendations -- and the state will get maximum bang for every scarce buck.

A means of achieving this community empowerment has been introduced in Assembly by Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito. Assembly Bill No. 1048 would direct the creation of Community Justice Councils to develop action plans to fight crime and preserve neighborhoods that reflect the priorities of the people who live in high crime areas. Read her bill. Better yet, join her in sponsoring it.


The big buzzword we’ve been hearing is “consolidation.” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has taken the lead on this. As pertains to public protection, we see that some small agencies are proposed to be absorbed by DCJS. We are unimpressed by the unambitious scale of this proposal. The fiscal crisis should inspire us to go further.

Let’s look, for example, at how we can use consolidation and enhancement to better combat organized crime, tax evasion, insurance fraud, Ponzi schemes and all manner of white-collar crime that are bleeding us dry. Fully 20% of New York’s tax revenue derives from the financial industry. After 9/11, federal enforcement efforts in all forms of white collar and financial crimes were sharply reduced. The economic crisis may have changed that, but while we’re waiting for the feds to lurch toward the next crisis, the State of New York must act to enhance our ability to protect banking, insurance and state revenue collection.

The three state agencies charged with oversight of banking, insurance and revenue collection respectively all maintain investigative divisions. Their agents are designated peace officers (CPL section 2.10, subdivisions (4), (47) and (61)). Simple legislation can amend the Criminal Procedure Law to give them full police officer status under CPL section 1.20. We can then work toward forming these units into a cooperative force to work with the State Police and other agencies to fight a variety of forms of organized crime, terrorism, banking and insurance fraud and tax evasion that affect the financial industry and the state‘s revenues -- forms limited only by the boundless ingenuity of those inclined to crime, corruption and fraud. The highly specialized expertise of these investigators will considerably amplify the effectiveness of our full panoply of state and local law enforcement agencies and add another dimension to our seamless continuum of cooperation in public protection.


The illicit trafficking of tobacco -- much of it in the form of counterfeited name-brand products -- is a multibillion-dollar global business today, fueling organized crime and corruption, robbing governments of tax revenue, and spurring addiction and disease. So profitable is the trade that tobacco is the world’s most widely smuggled legal substance. It is estimated that fully half the cigarettes sold in New York alone are untaxed. This booming business now stretches from counterfeiters in China and renegade factories in Russia to Indian reservations in New York, warlords in Pakistan and North Africa and our al Qaeda antagonists in Afghanistan. The handful of retailers on New York’s Indian reservations account for the tiniest fraction of this global illicit commerce.  And they adamantly assert that they are committing no crime.

New York has to recognize that every time we jack up the taxes on cigarettes, as the Executive Budget proposes, we increase the value of this form of contraband quite considerably, drive the expansion of the black market, contribute to the profitability of criminal enterprises the world over and, yes, we support terrorist organizations. If, however, the state insists on going forward with this dubious initiative, it should, at the very least, turn the Petroleum, Alcohol and Tobacco Bureau of the Department of Taxation and Finance, which investigates revenue crimes, into a fully empowered and capable police agency because its employees are facing on a day to day basis increasingly powerful and vicious criminal organizations engaged in ever-growing and lucrative contraband trafficking.


There is a moribund statutory framework in New York to promote a type of community-based problem-solving that focuses on neighborhood preservation and renewal. In April 1983, Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed into law the Neighborhood Preservation Crime Prevention Act (NPCPA, Chapter 55, Laws of 1983). It was intended to promote the creation of an infrastructure of community-based nonprofits that would partner with local police and other municipal agencies to preserve and renew neighborhoods and thereby reduce crime. DCJS was charged with administering the NPCPA and tasked with awarding small grants and providing technical assistance to the nonprofits encouraged by the program. http://www.metroland.net/back_issues/vol30_no02/newsfront.html

This forward-looking legislation, which Albany County District Attorney David Soares has called “one of the most brilliant pieces of legislation ever drafted, empowering neighborhoods and empowering people,” was never implemented. In fact, early in the Cuomo administration, DCJS’ entire crime prevention program was abruptly terminated. But neighborhood deterioration, specifically the abandoned building problem, continues to be a major criminogenic problem in all of our cities. We should, if not activate the NPCPA, at least come up with a program that fully integrates neighborhood preservation into our overall crime-fighting strategy. DA Soares has said: “There is a drastic need for that sort of legislation in all upstate communities, not just here in the city of Albany. It fits in perfectly with my community-prosecution philosophy that says people in neighborhoods are the only people that can change their community. And we’ve got to give them the resources to do it.” Your colleague Assemblyman John J. McEneny says of NPCPA: “It’s one of those good laws on the books nobody has taken ownership of, for whatever reason.” It appears to us that Mr. Soares is willing to take ownership of it. Why don’t we encourage him to do so?


It has been my ambition for twenty years now to make Albany a center for research and development on cutting-edge ideas in public safety, tackling problems ranging from youth gangs and street crime to transnational organized crime and terrorism. Albany has the resources, notably the New York State Police Academy, Albany Law School and the University at Albany School of Criminal Justice, to contribute to this institution. It can also serve as a focal point for connecting our youth with the global career opportunities that have emerged virtually overnight in the areas of homeland security, disaster preparedness and private security.

These difficult times challenge us to be resourceful in finding the means to create and sustain new programs and initiatives. We must be creative in looking at resources we possess of which we have not realized their maximum value. We do, in fact possess a unique and untapped resource of great value in the record of the New York State Police and our eponymous patron Tom Constantine himself.

In 1957, the NYSP made history when it exposed the existence of organized crime in an incident known as the Apalachin organized crime meeting. That incident sparked a tremendous engagement on the part of the federal government and law enforcement agencies all over the nation to confront and combat what has today grown into a global network of criminal enterprises. The United Nations estimates that criminal organizations worldwide profit over $2 trillion a year, twice what all the nations on earth spend on their annual military budgets. In 1991, under the leadership of Tom Constantine, the first superintendent of state police to come up through the ranks of the organization in thirty years, the operations of Colombia’s Cali Cartel were exposed in New. Four years later, as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Constantine presided over the dismantling of the cartel and the capture, sentencing and imprisonment of its leaders. The Cali Cartel is acknowledged to have been the largest and most powerful criminal conspiracy in history. An alumnus of our New York State Police took it down.

Between 2000 and 2003, Mr. Constantine, serving as Oversight Commissioner for reform of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, played a major role in ending more than three decades of terrorist violence in the British Isles by giving the people of the province a police service that is committed to the highest legal and ethical principals, excellence in professionalism and the philosophy of community policing. This is a remarkable achievement and it stands as a model of what needs to be achieved in many areas of the globe that do not have so trusted an institution to maintain public order.

This unique and internationally acknowledged legacy of pioneering achievement is an asset of considerable but unrealized value for purposes of developing a privately-funded and ultimately self-sustaining endowment to support research, development, training and education in the struggle against transnational organized crime and terrorism.

The Constantine Institute will marshal the intellectual resources of our great state university system and serve as a focal point for research and deliberation on the control of transnational organized crime and terrorism. It will sponsor a diverse research program that will reflect a balance among the issues relating to legal, operational, social, political, and economic aspects of responding to these threats. It will organize conferences and symposia that will bring together the best minds among academics, law enforcement professionals, the military services, the intelligence community, lawmakers, the diplomatic corps and the business and financial community to develop strategies, tactics, relationships and legal and diplomatic frameworks for more effective international cooperation. Its ultimate goal is to be a valuable and practical resource for the world’s law enforcement agencies, governments and the international business community.


Governor Paterson recently vetoed legislation that would have empanelled and funded a commission to plan for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. His reason for doing so was obvious -- he couldn’t justify the cost. These anniversaries, however, should be opportunities for government to make money, not spend it.

On April 11, 1917, Governor Charles Whitman signed Chapter 161 of the Laws of 1917 which created the Department of State Police. Seven years hence, we will be celebrating that centennial here in Albany and at troop headquarters and sites of significance in the history of the New York State Troopers all over the state. We have already begun laying plans to make the most of this occasion to project the prestige of the State Police, the dedicated service of generations of Troopers and the compelling saga of New York's pioneering history of leadership and achievement in advancing the best in policing. We look forward to years of exciting collaboration with the Legislature toward making this a celebration to remember.



I thank you for this opportunity to appear before you and share some thoughts about the public protection aspects of this most challenging year of budget-making. I first sat through one of these hearings in 1984. It has always been a privilege to do so. And the result of your diligent work has always worked out to the benefit of the state and people of New York. I wish each and every member of these committees every success in completing this most intricate, demanding and critical aspect of the people’s business.