Thursday, February 28, 2008

Janet Difiore.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Our Opinion...

Veil Of Secrecy Over Officer Ridley’s Death Serves No Good Purpose

From the very beginning there has been an unreal veil of secrecy over the investigation into the tragic death of Mount Vernon Police Officer Christopher Ridley at the hands of four County police officers. At a press conference held 23 hours after the incident, attended by press and media anxious for some explanation, some details of what had actually led up to, and caused the death of Officer Ridley, no details were released. And those gathered were told that no questions would be entertained.

So little was shared by Commissioners Belfiore, Straub and Chong, of the County, White Plains, and Mount Vernon Police Departments, respectively, that it was obvious they were virtually under a gag order from DA DiFiore, who stood at the podium next to them and said not one word. In fact, it was not even established at that press conference how many Westchester County police officers had been involved, much less their identity. Most reporters were surprised to discover, several days later, that there were actually four County officers involved.

The veil of secrecy continues to be so opaque that, weeks later, the name of the 59-year old individual who reportedly suffered two broken wrists and several broken ribs in-flicted by homeless assailant Anthony Jacobs, is still being withheld from defense counsel and the press. Also withheld, except from Officer Ridley’s family, are videotapes from surveillance cameras on the County Office Building. More incredibly, we are told, three weeks following the tragedy, none of the County police officers were yet interviewed for their statements. Memory is not like wine or cheese; it doesn’t get better over time.

We have taken the position, from the start, that the investigation into Officer Ridley’s tragic and untimely death needed to be conducted by the FBI. We have taken that same position with regard to the death of Rene Perez, for which Mount Kisco Police Officer George Bubaris has been charged with Manslaughter. Quite simply stated, the record of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, with respect to homicides, and other incidents in which police officers have been implicated, is not a good one, to say the least. Given what was learned in eight days of testimony at the Evidentiary Hearing, several weeks ago, in the Court of Judge Rory J. Bellantoni into a 440.10 Motion by former New
York City Transit Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, regarding the activities of the Dobbs Ferry Police Department under the direction of Assistant District Attorney Patricia Murphy, her handling of the Ridley investigation remains particularly concernful. Confirming
our concerns were published reports on Friday, February 15 that Murphy had said that Anthony Jacobs would be granted immunity from prosecution for Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon if he would agree to appear before a grand jury.

We were outraged by that offer. And, we were not alone. Who, after all, was Murphy intending to target with the testimony of a homeless, convicted, violent felon? The National Black Police Association declared, on this page, “The recent report of the DA’s Of-fice offering immunity to Anthony Jacobs in exchange for his testimony, is distressing.”

No doubt many sources expressed their disdain and disappointment with such dealings by the Westchester DA’s Office, because the very next day, the statement was disclaimed as having been “misspoken.”

We stand by our position that the shooting death of Police Officer Ridley must be investigated by the FBI. Given the sordid history of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office in such matters, not to mention the political involvement of the various Westchester police departments in endorsing and advocating the election of Westchester District Attorneys over the years, including the present District Attorney, only a federal investigation and prosecution can ensure that there will be fairness and justice without any conflicts of interest.

Our Readers Respond...

County Into Recycling Big-Time? Don’t You Believe It

Dear Editor:

Based on your article, County Steps Into Recycling Big Time, your readers might assume that Westchester County government is the trend setter in recycling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Leadership is best achieved through setting an example. How can County government demand action from others when their own attempts are so flawed? It would appear as though there’s a program in place at County facilities (particularly recreational locations especially since they seasonally generate the most recycling potential). However, blue bins and signage are just a step.

Unlike our communities where recycling days and pickups are in place, County staff are without a plan. It is up to individual facilities to dispose of recyclables, which, too often, means trash. Usually deposit items fare better. Keep in mind there is no oops here, only blue bins have recycling potential. As for paper/cardboard, the dumpsters at County sites, piled with boxes rarely flattened, tell the tale.

It looked like something might happen when Spano wanted to ban styrofoam. The public read this, not as a goal, but a fully researched done deal. But there were many unanswered questions: What is a cost-effective alternative for businesses? What, if any, methods of dissolving styrofoam had been explored?

In the course of Westchester Government activity, staff suggestions are regularly ignored and rebuffed. A compartmentalized County truck was deemed too expensive (yet there are always funds available for a new administrator). Even the notion of working out an arrangement for pickups by local municipalities as part of their regular recycling days was cast aside.

It’s business-as-usual; County Government wants to look good, loyal staffers comply, awards continue to be made. It’s mind-boggling what can be done with numbers.

A former staff person with a conscience

Reader Lauds Coverage Of Affordable Housing Advocate

Dear Editor:

I applaud your article in your weekly publication, The Guardian, about the march on Yonkers City Hall by Affordable Housing Advocates. The current administration, I believe, is trying to get rid of low-income residents by getting rid of low-income housing. Lets face it, if you can’t afford to live there, that means you must move. What’s going to happen when you move and then the same thing happens again? How is that helping, or teaching, our children anything?

First it was just The Stadium, but Yankee Stadium has always been there and they’re building another one, in one of the worst neighborhoods in the Bronx. So I hope that wasn’t the reason that people would not come, with the projects so close by, because, as we know, 55,000 people come to see the Yankees daily, anyway.

Another problem I have with pushing low-income people out of Yonkers is that it ruins families, not just the ones moving but the people that are left behind. In closing, I see where Mayor Amicone’s spokesman said they are going to give low-income people a chance at ownership. This I got to see. Thanks for your article. I’ll be looking forwards to reading more.

John Foust, Yonkers

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