Patrolmen’s Union To Public: Help Oppose Parole Of Cop Killer
Currently, if a person is convicted of killing a New York City police officer, it is automatic that he or she will receive a life sentence without parole. Before the law went into effect, however, the stiffest sentence was 25 years-to-life, with the possibility, after proper investigation and agreement of a parole board, the offender could be released back into the general population.
Such is the case of Salvatore Desarno, who shot and killed 69th Precinct Police Officer Cecil Sledge on Flatlands Avenue in 1980. He was subsequently sentenced and is currently incarcerated in a Sullivan County prison.
Desarno, 54, is to appear before the parole board this week and his release is adamantly opposed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the police officers union, which has asked that New Yorkers send letters of objection to the state parole board urging members to turn down Desarno’s request.
According to Al O’Leary, spokesman for the PBA, a web page has been designed to make it easier for people to send letters to the board — www.nycpba.org.
“As of last weekend, 30,000 letters was sent to the board,” O’Leary said, “and now that we have this web site where people can voice their opinion, we expect thousands more.”
He said the web site gives the user the option of sending a letter of objection for a specific case, such as Desarno, or the user can send it for all cop killers. Letters of objection to the parole board are added to each inmate’s folder and they become part of the consideration process by the board, which weighs every case individually, according to the spokesman.
Patrick Lynch, president of the patrolmen’s union, said, “Today’s cop killers can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Sadly, though, there are literally hundreds of dangerous cop killers each year who are given a shot at freedom through parole.”
Officer Sledge was alone on patrol in January 1980 when he pulled Desarno over for a traffic stop at the corner of East 80th Street. Desarno, who was out on parole on an unrelated case, panicked and, using his own handgun, shot Sledge in the chest.
As the officer fell, his belt got caught on the bumper of Desarno’s car and, as he sped away, he dragged Sledge’s body twenty blocks to the corner of Avenue I, where he crashed and was caught by local police.
PBA officials said Sledge’s murder led directly to requiring that patrols would consist of two officers, noting that if Sledge had a partner on that fateful night the incident would not have happened.
As of 2005, a court ordered a moratorium on the death penalty in New York State, although it has not been outlawed. The last execution took place in 1976.