There’s a strange phenomenon in which about 100 arson arrests a year are of firefighters, creating the circumstance where they can receive adulation for extinguishing the chaos they manufactured.
While that’s a more intentional act, there’s a similar case of a person avoiding full responsibility for the carnage he helped create and wanting to be the hero leading the charge to fight the blaze: Al Sharpton.
The activist gathered New York’s top black elected officials — including Mayor Eric Adams, Attorney General Letitia James, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — at his National Action Network Harlem HQ this month for a closed-door discussion of public-safety and criminal-justice issues.
And he publicly called on those leaders and others to do something after a Siena College poll released Monday found that 93% of New Yorkers — the number was virtually the same among all races — consider crime a serious problem in the state.
“The results of the latest Siena poll won’t come as a surprise to anyone who lives and works in a Black or Brown community. Many of us have spent the better part of a year calling for our criminal justice system to be fine-tuned,” Sharpton stated Monday. “Addressing public safety is a question of how, not if, which is why I convened New York’s unprecedented number of Black citywide and statewide leaders this month to start that conversation.”
Sharpton strongly pushed bail “reform,” but he tends to specify he supported the 2019 law’s “foundation,” a verbal tactic to moderately distance himself from the results — but the foundation is what’s created the crisis we’re witnessing today.
“We must end the haves & have nots system of criminal detention in this country that relegates Black and Brown people as detainees because they can’t afford bail while others grossly take advantage of money bail systems,” Sharpton declared in 2018.
Keep up with today’s most important news
Stay up on the very latest with Evening Update.
The cashless-bail law is doing what it was intended to do. The problem is the ramifications of rampant criminality aren’t being contained in the poor areas like everyone is used to but now spilling into even upscale areas like the Upper East Side, where Al Sharpton lives. When the poor get the flu, the rich are supposed to be immune.
When thieves steal from a retail store or a bodega in Pelham Park, it’s expected and excused; but when the wealthy like Al Sharpton are inconvenienced by needing to ask a store attendant for assistance to get some toothpaste — “Eric, they are locking up my toothpaste,” he cried last February — then it becomes time to convene some of the state’s most powerful government officials to bring change.
Sharpton may say he cares about the have-nots who end up detained in jail — but what about the have-nots who have to deal with them once they’re immediately released?
Cashless-bond advocates have always made nonviolent crimes like shoplifting appear as victimless crimes. But there are victims when stores decide to leave already-underserved neighborhoods because of rampant thievery or raise prices in poorer communities to offset the cost of theft.
It’s admirable to want a fair judicial system, yet what I’ve seen far too often is no one thinks or cares about the law-abiding poor and working-class citizen who has to survive in the dysfunction elitists perpetuate. No one considers the demoralization of the average citizen who is doing everything possible to live up to social norms while the rule breakers receive unearned empathy and indefinite second chances.
Sharpton is right that there is a haves-and-have-nots system because the haves, the wealthiest and most influential people in and connected to the government, get to determine how much misery the have-nots get to endure based on the whims of their fantasy policy endeavors. Sharpton is as connected to this system as conjoined twins.
The haves said that someone arrested for third-degree assault, an offense not bail eligible, is worth the risk to be immediately placed back in your neighborhood for you to deal with. When you receive terrorist threats from an individual who promises to harm you, the system created by the haves will call their bluff and gamble on your safety.
Sharpton shouldn’t be applauded for trying to put out flames to a fire he helped ignite. And just because today he wants to play the fire chief doesn’t mean we should forget that his fingerprints are on the gas can.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim to Black Victor” and founder of Wrong Speak Publishing. Follow him on Substack: adambcoleman.substack.com.