Death Penalty Needed For Cop Killers

April 29, 2007

Law enforcement officers risk their lives daily so that we can live in safe communities. These men and women go to work everyday facing uncertain and often dangerous circumstances and recent crime statistics indicate their job is becoming more hazardous.

According to a study done by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), violent crime outside of New York City continues to increase, with a staggering 7.8% increase in violent crimes between 2004 and 2005. Reported robberies increased by 14% to the highest number reported since 1997 and aggravated assaults have risen by five percent. While 2006 reported crime data are not complete, DCJS estimates that violent crime has increased an additional three percent from 2005 to 2006 and it is only getting worse.

As the frequency of violent crimes escalates, so have the killings and attempted murders of police officers in our state. State Trooper Andrew Sperr was killed in March of 2006 when he stopped a vehicle containing bank robbery suspects near Elmira. Later the same year, Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo was slain while conducting surveillance during the search for escaped convict Ralph “Bucky” Phillips. Earlier this year two separate incidents cost the lives of two local police officers in Central New York and the problem continues to escalate.

In 2004, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional. In its ruling, the court held that in the event of a deadlocked jury, the law creates an “unconstitutionally palpable risk” that may cause one or two jurors, who cannot bear the idea of the defendant getting parole, to be coerced to join jurors who favor the death penalty. Due to this 2004 decision, which effectively suspended the death penalty in New York, cop killers who prey on citizens of our state need not worry about being sentenced to death.

Last week robbery suspect Travis Trim received statewide attention, being suspected for shooting State Trooper Matthew Gombosi on Tuesday and later wounding Troopers Richard Mattson and David Brinkeroff in a standoff in Arkville, Delaware County. This brings the number of officers murdered in the line of duty to six in the last year and a half –the deadliest period of cop killing in a decade. This is a rate that’s double the murder rate when we had a death penalty.

Now is the time to take additional measures to protect the 70,000 law enforcement officers that protect us every day. We need to send a message to criminals that if they are going to take the life of a police officer, they will pay the ultimate price. The Assembly Minority Conference and I proposed measures to reinstate the death penalty for cop killers by addressing the concerns of the court. We need to toughen the law by closing loopholes and giving prosecutors the ability to charge cop killers with the death penalty.

I am asking residents of the 129th Assembly District to share their thoughts and opinions on the death penalty as to whether it should be reinstated for those convicted of causing the death of a police officer in the line of duty. Please send your comments by e-mailing me at