As a 32-year retired NYPD veteran, two recent stories concerning the department’s Police Benevolent Association have me scratching my head. The PBA’s decision to give Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul $25,000 to use in her campaign (almost said “reelection” — but she was never elected) against Republican Lee Zeldin is beyond belief. The Post broke this story one day before it broke another, which noted the PBA is sounding the alarm on the eight New York City cop-killers up for parole in the next seven months.
Am I alone in seeing the great dichotomy here?
Hochul was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant governor from January 2015 until replacing him when he resigned in August 2021. During their time in office, the Legislature, with the governor’s support, changed state law and parole-board rules, making it easier for violent criminals to appeal parole denials. It’s resulted, as the PBA said last year, in “21 cop killers being turned loose by that panel in just over three years.”
The Less Is More law Hochul signed shortly after assuming office loosened parole rules and immediately released almost 200 criminals from Rikers Island.
Zeldin’s response to this was spot on. Hochul, he said, is “siding with criminals over our men and women in blue and endangering the safety of every New Yorker.” Zeldin promises, if elected, to “overhaul” the parole-board process, including requiring unanimous decisions when granting parole and establishing “a process for victims and victims’ families to appeal parole decisions.”
Imagine that: Having victims’ advocates and law enforcement on the Board of Parole and replacing members “who have expressed poor judgment”! Ideas like these are the reason Zeldin has overwhelming support from the law-enforcement and victims’ rights communities.
Has Hochul mentioned anything about fixing these problems should she be elected next week? Or is she “waiting for more data,” like she’s doing regarding the no-cash-bail fiasco that has the fear of becoming victim of a violent crime uppermost on New Yorkers’ minds. That fear is real — and not, as Hochul just stated regarding her Republican opposition, “this conspiracy going all across America to convince people in Democratic states that they’re not as safe.”
Kathy, the data on no-cash bail are very easy to read. They’re written in red, in the blood innocent New Yorkers are leaving on the sidewalks, streets and subways of this city. Also note that one of Hochul’s first acts as governor was appointing “Defund the Police” backer, subsequently indicted for bribery, Brian Benjamin lieutenant governor. Compare this with Zeldin’s pick of highly respected former NYPD Deputy Inspector Alison Esposito as his running mate.
Freeing cop-killers strikes a deep nerve with me. On Feb. 12, 1980, I was a cop assigned to the Street Crime Unit. We worked mostly 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. in plainclothes in the city’s high-crime areas. That night, my partner and I made an arrest in Washington Heights shortly after leaving our Randall’s Island base. Upon booking the suspect and resuming patrol, our department radio crackled: “Street Crime Officer shot — being transported to Harlem Hospital.”
We sped uptown and ran into the hospital’s emergency room; maybe our colleague would be needing blood. Our lieutenant, Joe Baner, looking pale as a ghost, stopped us. “They couldn’t save him, guys.” Our friend, squad mate, brother Bobby Bilodeau had died trying to take a gun-carrying repeat criminal off a Harlem street.
The lieutenant’s next assignment for me is the reason cop-killers being paroled is such a sore subject for me, this many years later. “I want you and Mo [Maureen DiStasio, a tremendous SCU detective in our squad] to pick up Monsignor Dunne [NYPD chaplain] and get out to Whitestone and make the notification to Bobby’s wife.”
I will never forget ringing the bell of Cathy Bilodeau’s house at 3 a.m. Seeing us and the monsignor in his white collar, she knew why we were there. It is every cop’s spouse’s worst nightmare. Maureen and I were assigned to the Bilodeau family through the wake and funeral. Every night, we shared with them the pain that this violent felon had inflicted upon the young widow and her children.
I read some time ago about a Marine Corps casualty notification officer’s technique when breaking the devastating news to a fallen Marine’s family. “When I pull up, I check to make sure I, with no doubt, have the right house. Then, I look at my watch. I wait five minutes before getting out of the car and knocking on the door. I want to give that family inside five minutes more of life as they know it. Once they open the door and see me in my dress blues, their lives will never be the same.” I know how that Marine feels.
Bobby Bilodeau’s killer was released from prison Jan. 12, 2021.
I, and every cop, active and retired, I know will be voting Tuesday for Lee Zeldin and his running mate Alison Esposito. If you believe cop-killers should never be paroled, you should, too.
Bob Martin is the author of “Bronx Justice” and “9/11 Remembered — Twenty Years Later.”
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