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 $25,000 to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to use in her campaign against Republican Lee Zeldin (almost “re-election”—but she never got elected) is beyond belief. The Post broke this story a day before another broke, which noted that the PBA is sounding the alarm over eight New York City cop-killers slated for parole over the next seven months.
Am I the only one here to see the great duality?
Hochul was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant governor from January 2015, when he resigned in August 2021. During his time in office, the Legislature, with the support of the governor, changed state law and parole-board rules, making it easier for violent offenders. To appeal the parole denial. The result is, as the PBA said last year, “21 police killers let loose by that panel in just three years.”
The Less Is More Laws Hochul loosened parole rules soon after taking office and promptly released about 200 criminals from Rikers Island.
Zeldin’s response to this was spot on. Hochul, They said“With criminals taking sides over our men and women in the blue and putting the safety of every New Yorker at risk.” Zeldin promises to “overhaul” the parole-board process, which includes requiring a unanimous decision when granting parole and establishing “a process for victims and victims’ families to appeal parole decisions.”
Imagine that: replacing victims’ advocates and law enforcement and members on the board of parole “who have expressed poor judgment”! Such views are the reason why Zeldin has overwhelming support from the law-enforcement and victims’ rights communities.
Has Hochul mentioned anything about how to fix these problems, should they be picked up next week? Or is she “waiting for more data,” like she’s doing about the no-cash-bell fiasco in which the fear of being the victim of a violent crime tops New Yorkers’ minds. The fear is real—and not, as Hochul said of his Republican protests, “there’s a conspiracy going on in Democratic states across America to convince people that they’re not as safe.”
Cathy, it’s very easy to read data on the no-cash bell. They’re written in red, bloody innocent New Yorkers marching on the sidewalks, streets, and subways of this city. Also note that one of Hochul’s first acts as governor was appointing a “defiance of the police” backer, later charged for bribery, Brian Benjamin as lieutenant governor. Compare this with Zeldin’s selection of highly regarded former NYPD Deputy Inspector Alison Esposito as his running mate.
Freeing the police-killers strikes a deep nerve with me. On 12 February 1980, I was a constable assigned to the Street Crime Unit. We worked mostly in plain clothes from 6 pm to 2 pm in high crime areas of the city. That night, my partner and I made an arrest in Washington Heights shortly after leaving Randall’s Island base. Upon the suspect being booked and resuming patrols, our department’s radio cracked: “Street crime officer shot – being taken to Harlem hospital.”
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We headed to town and ran to the hospital emergency room; Perhaps our ally will need blood. Our lieutenant, Joe Baner, pale as a ghost, stopped us. “They couldn’t save him, guys.” Our friend, squad mate, Brother Bobby Billodeau, was killed while trying to pick up a repeat criminal carrying a gun from a Harlem street.
The next assignment for me as a lieutenant is the reason why keeping police-killers on parole is such a serious matter for me, after so many years. “I want you and Mo. [Maureen DiStasio, a tremendous SCU detective in our squad] to pick up Monsignor Dunne [NYPD chaplain] And go to Whitestone and inform Bobby’s wife.”
I’ll never forget to ring the bell at Cathy Billodo’s house at 3 a.m. Seeing us and Monsieur in his white collar, she knew why we were there. This is every cop’s wife’s worst nightmare. Maureen and I were assigned through the wake and funeral of the Bilodo family. Every night, we shared with them the pain this violent criminal inflicted upon the young widow and her children.
I read about a Marine Corps casualty notification officer’s technique a while back when delivering devastating news to the family of a fallen Marine. “When I pull over, I check to make sure I no doubt have the right home. Then, I look at my watch. Before I get out of the car and knock on the door I wait five minutes. I want to give that family five more minutes of life as they know it. Once they open the door and see me in my blue dress, their life will never be the same I know how Marine feels.
Bobby Billodo’s killer was released from prison on January 12, 2021.
Me, and every cop, active and retired, I know will vote Tuesday for Lee Zeldin and his running mate Alison Esposito. If you think police-killers should never get parole, so should you.
Bob Martin is the author of “Bronx Justice” and “9/11 Remembered – Twenty Years Later”.