Judge talks about decision to put accused cop killer in drug diversion program

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Jim Hoffer reports.

Why was the accused killer of Officer Randolph Holder out on the streets in the first place?

He is just 30 years old, but has been arrested 18 times.

The last time, Tyrone Howard was sent to a drug diversion program.

It's usually a great program, but NYPD Commissioner William Bratton says, in this case it was not the best decision.

Through court documents and a conversation with the Judge, there's a clearer picture of how Tyrone Howard ended up rehab.

Judge Edward McLaughlin has a record of being tough-on criminals.

Four years ago, now accused cop killer Tyrone Howard stood before Judge McLaughlin pleading to be put in a drug rehab program rather than prison.

But as court documents show, Judge McLaughlin said "no way" telling Howard's attorney, "Why can't he voluntarily go to a program when he is not in jail?"

Then last year, Howard stood before Judge McLaughlin again on drug charges. This time, the Judge said yes to rehab stating, "Having amassed four felony convictions and prison not having worked, I've decided maybe out of frustration and exasperation, why not."

This summer, Howard skipped out on the program and now is charged with killing Officer Holder.

In an unrecorded interview in the Judge's Chambers, Judge McLaughlin told Eyewitness News he ''remains confident I made the right decision but what happened is absolutely tragic."

"His whole life has been about an escalation of crime," Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

Commissioner Bratton has angrily blamed Judge McLaughlin's decision for putting Howard back out on the streets.

"He would have been the last person in New York City I'd see in a diversion program," Bratton said.

Even as Bratton railed on, the Judge and his diversion decision, law enforcement leaders are in Washington calling for a shift from tough-on crime incarceration to more reliance on rehab programs.

It's a group Commissioner Bratton is part of and Thursday the president backed their goals.

"We are missing opportunities to create safer communities through drug diversion and treatment," President Barack Obama said.

One expert on inmate rehabilitation says the evidence is fairly clear that prisons are far more expensive and less effective than diversion programs.

"Across the board they have significantly lower recidivism rate than incarceration (less likely to end up in prison). That's what research shows," said Assoc. Prof. Carla Barrett, of John Jay College.

The Judge says on paper Tyrone Howard seemed a good candidate for rehab with a long list of low-level drug convictions and no convictions on violent charges.

Also, a spokesman for the Court System says Howard would have been out on bail awaiting trial had he not been in rehab.

Either way, the spokesman says he would have been on the streets.

There was a warrant for his arrest in a drug-related shooting. He managed to elude 10 attempts by police to find him.

Related Topics:
the investigatorsofficer randolph holderpolice officer killedpolice officer shotdrug treatmentNew York City
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