New York Debate: Should Cop Killers Be Freed?

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Two men convicted of killing New York City police officers are scheduled this month to appear before a parole board that could free them, renewing a debate over when, and whether, parole should be granted to cop killers, reports the Wall Street Journal. In April, Herman Bell, 70, was released on parole after spending four decades in prison for the murder of two police officers, Joseph Piagentini, 28, and Waverly Jones, 33. The move prompted a public backlash, including opinion articles and social-media campaigns by the city’s largest police union, the New York Police Department and elected officials. Anthony Bottom, 66, convicted with Bell in the 1971 Harlem officers’ murder, is scheduled to make his case for parole to the board this week. The Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panther Party, claimed responsibility for the killings.

Eddie Matos, 50, convicted in 1990 of murder for pushing 0fficer Anthony Dwyer, 23, down an air shaft after a burglary, is slated for a parole hearing later in June. The parole board is required to use software called Compas to gauge the danger an inmate would pose to society if released. Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires the board to explain to a felon the reasons for its decision if it went against the findings of that software. In addition to the crime committed, the board considers a felon’s level of remorse and behavior in prison, and statements made by victims or their families. Police officials say the parole board isn’t putting enough emphasis on the severity of the crime. “Especially in the case of murder and murder of a police officer,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “That’s the type of evil you don’t put aside.” Inmate advocates say the efforts to keep an inmate in prison indefinitely send a message that some people are incapable of rehabilitation.

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