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Credible action in Albany Criminal justice changes make sense and compromises reached show it can be done

Neither side got everything it wanted, but when Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature compromised -- it's an old word; anyone remember it? -- they did a service to all New Yorkers, especially its police officers.

Special-session legislation dramatically increased penalties for shooting police officers and for owning or selling illegal guns. Gov. George E. Pataki and Senate Republicans lost a key battle when the Assembly refused to reauthorize the death penalty for killing police officers, while Assembly Democrats had to forgo their effort to crack down on shady gun dealers and to ban possession of armor-piercing bullets.

What was left, though, was worth the special session. Cop-killers now will be subject to a sentence of life without parole. Those who threaten police officers with a weapon will face longer prison terms. The legislation raises penalties for possessing or selling illegal guns and makes it a felony when as few as three guns are involved, instead of more than 20.

Nevertheless, more work is needed. Republicans note that someone already sentenced to life without parole faces no additional penalty for attacking or even killing a prison guard, so some further consideration is appropriate. But the death penalty remains an unworkable option, as incontrovertibly demonstrated by the repeated revelations about innocent people sentenced to die, and Democrats still should push for a ban on armor-piercing bullets whose only purpose is to kill police officers wearing bullet-proof vests.

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