Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, left, with Nassau County Police Benevolent Association...

Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, left, with Nassau County Police Benevolent Association president James McDermott, right. Credit: Howard Schnapp

There is no true choice to be made between fighting crime and reforming criminal-justice operations to expunge racism. Both goals must be pursued at once.

Obvious as that sounds, you might not know it from the ebb and flow of legislative politics.

Last year in New York City government, any strategy to suppress violent crime was deemed off-message amid massive protest over a now-convicted officer’s criminal slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Budgetary efforts were made to decimate the NYPD, but failed.

Now, amid spiking criminal violence affecting minority communities, a Black former police captain, Democrat Eric Adams, has the inside track to become the next mayor. And this weekend, he fitted his election message to the news.

On Saturday night, in the densely populated community of North Corona, Queens, two men in hoodies and masks turned a corner and came down the street guns blazing. Three targeted alleged members of the Trinitarios gang were hit. So were seven bystanders ages 19 to 72.

"We need a guns and gangs task force that creates unprecedented coordination between all levels of government," Adams said. Such a push, though inherently aggressive and risky, may mark a necessary swing from departing Mayor Bill de Blasio's "light touch" mantra of 2020.

On Monday, the regional spotlight on policing and the rights of civilians swung to the Nassau County Legislature.

Last year, in the heat of the national moment, Legis. Joshua Lafazan, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, talked the talk of Black Lives Matter. Now, Lafazan has suddenly become the toast of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, which supported his peculiar but attention-getting legislation that would add police officers and other first responders to the county's Human Rights Law, which is meant to protect individuals from discrimination based on their race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Lafazan's measure could allow first responders to sue protesters they deem a menace, for money damages. Opponents see the bill as a bid to chill the protests themselves.

The NAACP was on hand in Mineola Monday to denounce the sponsor from Syosset — essentially for changing the audience for his virtue signaling. "Which legislator are you?" asked the organization's regional director, Tracey Edwards, as she faced Lafazan during a hearing at which about 200 people spoke.

The legislature approved the measure Monday night, 12-6. Lafazan is unlikely to pay a price for his shift at the ballot box in November as Republicans who support the measure fight to retain their majority and haven’t focused on flipping Lafazan’s district.

For Nassau and New York City, the bottom line is the same: Local-law proposals are not supposed to be divisive instruments of pandering no matter whether to gratify "de-funders" or the PBA.

There's too much real and urgent work on this topic to be done, both in the direction of better enforcement and fairer enforcement.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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