Controversy over the new bail reforms spilled out into a Queens community meeting on Tuesday night. The NYPD's commanding officer of the 108 Precinct in Queens, Deputy Inspector Michael Gibbs, told residents that large increases in crime could be attributed to criminal justice reforms in Albany, and that they should contact their state lawmakers to do something about it, according to three people who attended the meeting.

After Deputy Inspector Gibbs made his appeal to the group in Elmhurst, which was organized by the civic association Communities and Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET), the legislative director for Queens Councilmember Danny Dromm told Gibbs that it was inappropriate for him to "lobby" the public this way. Gibbs replied that he would continue to do so.

After the two men spoke, a staffer for Queens Councilmember Robert Holden told the crowd that they supported what Gibbs was doing.

"I don’t even know what his definition of lobbying is, I certainly didn’t see it that way, and I think most of the people there didn’t see it that way," said Ben Geremia, a COMET member, who was also in attendance.

"[Gibbs] just said to everybody, 'Call your elected state officials and complain about bail reform,'" Geremia said. "He gave us the statistics for the 108 and the neighborhood, and everything is up. All the crime rates are up."

(For the first month of 2020, the 108th Precinct, which mainly covers Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside, saw very high percentage increases of major crimes like rape, robbery, and felony assault compared to the same month last year. Crime is still down is more than 20 percent over a 10 year period and more than 87 percent over a 27 year period.)

Geremia, who also happens to be a staffer of Councilmember Holden, added, "Are we not supposed to feel for their position? He can say whatever the heck he wants, it doesn’t mean that anyone is going to do it."

The statements made by Deputy Inspector Gibbs are similar to those made by NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan at a meeting in Sunnyside last week. The NYPD's rulebook explicitly prohibits uniformed members of the police department from expressing personal views or opinions on "any public policy matter" without the permission of the commissioner.

The NYPD has not said whether this permission had been granted, and declined to comment for this story.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who is a civilian appointee, has insisted that bail reform is the cause for an increase in crime over the first four weeks of the new year. “You are seeing the effects in a very quick time and that is why we are so concerned," Shea told Newsday, pointing to a 16.9 percent increase in major crimes compared to the same short time period in 2019, though murders are down more than 20 percent.

But at a press conference on the new crime stats on Tuesday afternoon, the commissioner declined to go into detail on why he thought bail reform was to blame for the increases, and when asked, could not produce any evidence that the crimes were being committed by people who were released without bail under the new reforms.

The new bail laws were passed last year, and prevent judges from setting bail on almost all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, but violent crimes and some misdemeanor charges involving domestic violence are still bail eligible. Judges must only consider a defendant's risk of not returning to court. Judges may also set supervised release requirements, including electronic monitoring.

Councilmember Dromm praised his staffer, Sebastian Maguire, for speaking up.

"I agree with my employee that he should have called the Inspector out on it. It’s been a longtime policy of mine to support bail reform, and to support discovery reform, many of the changes that have gone on in Albany," Dromm said.

"It seems like this is coming down from the top, giving these officers permission to be able to do these things, when it’s against the law, really," Dromm added. "They should be enforcing the law, and abiding by the law, and not talking about policy. That’s left for the elected officials to do."

In a statement, Councilmember Holden, who won his seat on the Republican ballot line, said he would "always support the police department and Commissioner Shea, who has been honest about bail reform’s effect on the crime rate. In this case, Deputy Inspector Gibbs was echoing the sentiment of his boss.”

Both Commissioner Shea and Mayor Bill de Blasio support changes to the bail law that would give judges discretion to jail people they deem "dangerous," a standard that criminal justice advocates say would lead to the same racial and economic imbalances the bail reforms were created to remedy.

"The commissioner and I have made our position clear and there's work going on to address the issue, including in Albany, so that's how we're approaching this as a city, as a police department," de Blasio said on Tuesday. "We're all on the same approach here, period."