Officials promote 'Protect those who protect us' legislation

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May 15—Officials gathered Friday to promote a package of legislation that, they said, will protect police officers, as well as encourage those who wish to start a career in law enforcement to help protect and serve their community.

State Sen. Rob Ortt, Assemblymen Mike Norris and Angelo Morinello, Niagara County Legislator Dave Godfrey and Niagara County Sheriff Mike Filicetti spoke in front of the Niagara County Sheriff's Office during a mid-afternoon press conference.

"We're here today to talk about a package of legislation, in my conference, in the Republican conference in the state Senate, unveiled this week," Ortt said. "It is a 'Protect those who Protect us' package of legislation."

Ortt noted that this week is National Police Week, where police are honored and remembered, especially those who died in the line of duty. Ortt said that in the past year, the negative rhetoric against law enforcement has only made it more dangerous to be a police officer.

"The City of Ithica defunded its police department and put a cop killer on the police reform board, Richard Rivera," Ortt said. "He is part of a board that will reimagine what it is to have public safety in the city of Ithica. Richard Rivera's only knowledge of police is killing one. He executed an off-duty cop in 1981, went to jail, and now he's out on this board."

Ortt also targeted bail reform, discovery reform and legislation that mandates police officers to justify why they drew their weapon in writing.

According to Ortt, the legislation he is promoting includes: strengthening penalties for assaulting a police officer, strengthening penalties for causing a police officer to come in contact with a foreign substances such as flammable liquids, make it a crime to dox (release personal information online) a police officer because of their profession and make it a hate crime to attack a police officer because of their status as a police officer.

"I'm privileged to stand with the people who protect Niagara County," Morinello said. "What I find incredible is they take an oath to protect, they take the oath to take that phone call where someone has a problem and they run to danger. They don't run from danger."

Morinello also said that actions have consequences and, "what's being taught is there are no consequences."

"If we don't instill in our youth today and our country and our state, that if you act, you have to be responsible for the outcome. Some outcomes are beneficial, some have consequences," he said. "Standing here makes me proud to be with these individuals in law enforcement."

Norris also marveled at the courage of police officers.

"Last March and April and May and all the way up to this point in time, these law enforcement officers were out there," Norris said. "Answering the call of anyone who needed assistance, including COVID-19 patients. They put their lives in danger. They didn't think twice. They were there for us."

Filicetti cited legislation that makes the job of a law enforcement officer more difficult.

"Law enforcement is being held accountable like never before. We're serving our community and doing everything we can to make it safe," he said. "What have we been greeted with from the downstate majority? A dismantling of the criminal justice system in New York state, a barrage of laws to help criminals. Nothing for our citizens, our law enforcement, our victims. The rise in violent crime in New York state shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. Shootings are up. Gun violence is up. Why? Because criminals feel like there's no consequence."

Ortt's own words mirrored Filicetti's, and asked those gathered to help him make the profession of law enforcement honorable again in the eyes of the public by supporting the package of legislation despite a super majority in state government in the Democratic camp, which could easily defeat it.

"You cannot have a democracy, a free country, a country of laws if there are no men and women who are willing to enforce those laws," Ortt said. "You've seen a direct increase in violent crime in the last two years. ... This is not a coincidence, this is a direct result of a shift of policy coming out of Albany, rhetoric from all sorts of places, including D.C., and we believe it's time to put forth an agenda to protect men and women that protect us."

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