DISPATCH: 400 police officers, accompanied by widows of officers killed on duty, went to Albany on April 24. They brought with them hundreds of cardboard boxes packed with letters urging the state Parole Board to keep cop-killers in jail.
About 400 cops accompanied a dozen police widows and their families to Albany on April 24. They took with them 816,725 letters.
Each of those missives, packed into 360 brown cardboard boxes, carried a plain message: Keep cop-killers in jail.
Guard of Honor
The boxes and their contents were delivered to the state Parole Board’s headquarters. The three-hour procession to the state capital, undertaken on 10 buses, was organized by the Police Benevolent Association six weeks after the union found out that the Parole Board had discontinued a process, via the PBA’s website, whereby people could funnel their opposition to the release of people convicted of killing police officers.
Police and the families arrived at noon. Once at the board’s Washington Ave. headquarters, the officers formed a guard of honor on either side of the street, through which the widows and their families walked to applause.
Officers then carted the boxes containing the letters to a waiting truck provided by the Parole Board.
A spokesman for the state Department of Correction and Community Supervision, Thomas Mailey, said the letters will be forwarded to the Parole Board for review and then filed appropriately.
PBA Demand Deflected
The PBA found out about the termination of its letter-writing service after a police widow, Grace Russell, whose husband and another man were gunned down in Brooklyn 40 years ago, asked about the status of letters sent in opposition to the release of their killer. She was told the service had been discontinued in 2014.
Told in early March that the Parole Board was no longer getting the letters via the union’s website, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch then chastised board officials for failing to inform the union. He demanded that the board resume accepting the letters via the union’s portal.
Mr. Mailey shot back, calling the PBA’s condemnation “disingenuous.”
Following the April 24 event, he reiterated what he said then: that the PBA’s letter-writing avenue was a temporary arrangement.
“Make no mistake, this clerical change has in no way prevented the PBA or anyone else from providing letters of opposition or support. The Board always has—and continues to—accept letters that are electronically submitted through the Department’s website or submitted by mail to the facility where the individual is located,” Mr. Mailey said in a statement.
In his own statement, issued following the event, Mr. Lynch castigated the “pro-criminal advocates” who he said make up the majority of the Parole Board.
“It is no surprise to us that there is a total lack of interest by the board in the concerns and opinions of the public at large and the police officers who risk their lives in the protection of this City,” he said. “We will not be silenced or ignored. The PBA will ensure that every single letter generated via our website is delivered to the board.”
For Future Consideration
Mr. Lynch’s criticism came less than a week after a Parole Board panel voted to release Judith Clark, the former revolutionary convicted of murder for her role in a militant group’s 1981 robbery of a Brink’s truck in Rockland County during which a guard and, later, two Nyack policemen were killed. Ms. Clark has served nearly 38 years in prison and is expected to be freed from the Bedford Hills Correction Facility within a month.
While the letter delivery on Wednesday will not affect her release, other letters could have a bearing, including during the parole hearing of the man who killed Mrs. Russell’s husband, Officer Michael Russell, and Edward Brugman.
Sergio Voii, who was 18 at the time, gunned down Officer Russell and Mr. Brugman in East New York during a softball game in the summer of 1979. He was convicted in 1981 of first-degree manslaughter for the killing of Officer Russell and second-degree murder in the killing of Mr. Brugman. He received a prison sentence of 32-years-to-life but became eligible for parole in 2011. His next parole hearing is scheduled for next year.