A Hudson Valley senator is fighting to keep those convicted of killing a law enforcement official in prison and punished to the full extent of the law. Sen. Greg Ball has launched a petition and is drafting legislation to prevent “cop killers” from becoming eligible for parole.
The initiative was announced a week before a parole hearing for Joseph Comfort, who was charged with murdering State Police Investigator Robert VanHall Jr. in 1980. VanHall, a Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, was shot in the back with a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun while on-duty.
“It is clear that those who kill cops have no respect for the criminal justice system or the brave men and women that put their lives on the line everyday to ensure our safety,” said Ball, R-Patterson, said. “I urge everyone to send a letter of opposition to the Board of Parole regarding the parole of Joseph Comfort and then visit my senate website and complete the petition denying parole for all cop killers.”
While the legal system now permits sentencing of life without parole, many of those convicted in the past of killing an officer are considered for parole every two years once they have served their minimum sentence.
According to Albert O’Leary, spokesman for the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Society — the nation’s largest municipal police union —removing the possibility for parole would prevent victims’ families from being forced to relive the death of their loved ones, “ripping off the band aid” and reopening the wound.
“It’s a terrible imposition on the families of the victims in these cases because every two years they have to go and give a victims impact statement to the parole board explaining why these individuals shouldn’t be released from prison,” O’Leary said.
The New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association is also encouraging advocates to petition the Board of Parole and keep Comfort behind bars. Legislative Director for the association, Dan Sisto, said the group supports the ideals behind legislative action to keep cop killers incarcerated without the possibility of parole.
According to Sisto, the initiative should not be misconstrued to mean police believe they’re more important than the rest of society. However, those who act violently against an on-duty, uniformed police officer show not only disregard for a human life, but the entire justice system.
Assigned to the Troop “E” Narco Squad, Investigator VanHall and his partner were about to arrest two brothers on East Market Street in the City of Corning for trafficking cocaine and marijuana. VanHall was a passenger in an unmarked police car which was struck by the wanted subjects as they tried to elude arrest. Van Hall, unable to exit his vehicle, was shot through the passenger window with a double barreled shotgun.
“When a person is acting on their professional duties, when they’re wearing that uniform, they are basically the physical embodiment of the law, of the government and of society,” Sisto said. “If you’re willing to kill a cop acting as a cop, clearly you’re willing to go against anyone at any time. If you’re willing to kill that person then clearly you have no regard for any other person in society.” (ARTICLE)