By Julie Hollar / FAIR
In its latest move to the right, CNN recently hired former NYPD flack John Miller as its “chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst.” As Josmar Trujillo observed more than five years ago (FAIR.org, 6/21/17), Miller “has spun the revolving door between law enforcement and media like perhaps no one else,” moving back and forth between jobs at the NYPD, FBI, ABC and CBS.
Just last year, while working for the NYPD, Miller falsely testified that there was “no evidence” the department had spied on Muslims in mosques—when, in fact, AP had won a Pulitzer in 2012 for uncovering how after 9/11 the NYPD “systematically spied on Muslim neighborhoods, listened in on sermons, infiltrated colleges and photographed law-abiding residents” (Popular Information, 9/7/22). Shahana Hanif, the Muslim city council member who called out Miller’s lies, told Popular Information:
John Miller had the audacity to lie under oath about the nature of this program to my face…. Someone like John Miller should not be in public service nor should they be given a platform on a mainstream cable news network.
Predictably, within days of joining CNN, Miller offered up a healthy dose of dishonest copaganda to the network’s audience.
Heads I win, tails you lose
On CNN New Day (9/7/22), anchor John Berman brought up the issue of crime in New York City, noting that murder and shooting rates had fallen over the past year, and asking Miller to explain “how…that was achieved.”
Well, I know how it was achieved because I was there. And that was achieved by extraordinarily smart deployments, which is the Bronx was driving the shooting numbers for the city a year ago. They flooded the Bronx with police officers on overtime. They flooded the Bronx with police officers working a sixth or seventh day.
They shifted tours around. They were very strategic, watching every shooting, every dot on the map and pushing resources there. And they were able to suppress that.
Berman then asked Miller how to explain the seeming anomaly that “you can get the murder right and shootings down, but robbery, felony assaults and overall crime, all up?”
When you take the larceny, burglary, auto theft, these are all covered under New York’s new bail reform laws, which is, criminals know — criminals have very good intelligence, as good as the police when it comes to collecting information and distributing that among each other—they know that there are certain charges where the judge in New York state, not just New York City, is legally prohibited, prohibited by law, from setting bail in that case.
So they know I commit the crime, if I get caught, I’ll be out as soon as I get my hearing. Now, that has caused recidivism, which was always a problem, to skyrocket. So basically when you look at the larceny, the robberies—which are just larcenies where somebody tried to stop them—the burglaries, the auto thefts…. We have people, John, coming from New Jersey, where they have plenty of cars, to steal cars in New York City, because they know if they get caught, they will not go to jail.
In sum: some crimes are down because police have flooded crime-ridden neighborhoods, but that same flood of police has nothing to do with an increase in other crimes, because bail reform.
Unsurprisingly, this is exactly the argument Miller’s former employer, and New York mayor and former cop Eric Adams, have been making recently, based on data they will not publicly release, and that contradicts all actually available data (City and State New York, 8/3/22; Crime and Justice, 2021; Quattrone Center, 8/16/22).
Curiously, when shootings were up in 2020 (and other crimes were down), the NYPD’s argument had it that that was the result of bail reform. At the time, the total mendacity was called out by even the right-wing, cop-loving, Murdoch-owned New York Post (7/8/20). Now with the crime rates reversed, the NYPD and its allies are hoping the baseless bail reform blame will stick on a different target.
Contrary to evidence
In fact, murder and shooting rates are down slightly nationwide, after two years of increases. Criminal justice observers note that, while one should always be cautious in attempting to explain short-term changes in crime rates because of the many interacting factors involved, the nationwide shifts strongly point to national, rather than local, causes—foremost among them the major social and economic dislocations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that have diminished as pandemic-related restrictions have lifted (Brennan Center, 7/12/22). Gun sales in particular have been mostly dropping since the spring of 2021, after a massive spike from March 2020 through January 2021—a surge in available weaponry that surely encouraged the rise in gun-related crimes like homicide and shootings (FAIR.org, 7/20/21).
Indeed, it would be very surprising if the NYPD were able to significantly reduce shooting rates by “flooding the Bronx with police officers,” as most research has found no or minimal reductions in violent crime with increased policing—including in New York City. Instead, more cops mostly translates into more arrests for low-level crimes, and the substantial costs those impose on heavily policed communities (FAIR.org, 1/27/22).
Bail reform is not a policy that says that people who get caught “will not go to jail.” The purpose of bail historically was to make sure that someone accused of a crime—presumed innocent until proven guilty—would show up for their trial. But over the past few decades, the number of people in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime has increased dramatically, and bail has become a punishment for the poor and a cash cow for the multi-billion dollar bail bond industry.
In fact, research shows that pretrial detention increases the likelihood of conviction, the harshness of the sentence, and the likelihood of recidivism. Given that detainees often wait months for trial, pleading guilty regardless of the circumstances can often seem like the best option for getting back to their life, job (and income), family and community. That pretrial detention also increases crime shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the disruptions it causes in people’s lives, and given that their increased conviction rate makes it harder for them to get work after release (Vera Institute, 4/19).
New York State’s 2019 bail reform prohibited bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges, and required judges to consider the person’s ability to pay when setting bail. Other states and cities have pursued similar reforms. These reforms have reduced the number of people in jail awaiting trial. But according to all available evidence, they haven’t increased crime.
In the most comprehensive assessment of the impact of bail reform on recidivism in New York City, the city’s Office of Criminal Justice reported that as of June 2021, pretrial rearrest rates—the recidivism Miller claimed was skyrocketing “because they know if they get caught, they will not go to jail”—”have remained consistent over time and have not changed with bail reform,” at around 4%. And fewer than 1% are arrested for felonies, like auto theft and burglary.
Moreover, rollbacks in spring 2020 to those reforms allowed judges to set bail for even nonviolent felony cases that involved “persistent felony offenders”—which means the recidivism Miller and the NYPD are highlighting is not impacted by bail reform.
In other words, basically everything Miller said about NYC crime was false pro-punishment propaganda. And that’s what passes for “objectivity” at today’s CNN.
Please ask CNN to explain why a person who lied repeatedly and under oath about law enforcement actions, and is now misrepresenting the evidence on the causes of crime trends on CNN‘s own programming, should be offered to its viewers as an expert on police policies and practices.
Messages to CNN can be sent here (or via Twitter @CNN). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Feel free to leave a copy of your message in the comments thread of this post.