Statement from Police Commissioner O'Neill Regarding the Parole of Herman Bell

March 14, 2018

The New York State Parole Board's decision earlier today to release admitted cop-killer Herman Bell from prison is indefensible. It trivializes and condones the premeditated assassinations of NYPD Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones. It also reopens the wounds suffered not just by these heroic officers' relatives, but by the entire law enforcement community and all of civil society. Every day, police officers bravely face the risk of serious injury and death in confronting armed robbers, fleeing felons, and the unpredictability of domestic violence. But the murders of Officers Piagentini and Jones were different. Bell and his co-conspirators placed a false 911 call to lure the officers into an ambush in 1971. The officers were drawn into a trap for the purpose of killing them and fomenting social unrest. It was a horrific assault on the basic underpinnings of our society. After killing Officer Jones with a gunshot to his head, they shot Officer Piagentini 22 times, including with his own service revolver — as the dying officer pleaded for his own life. Bell was sentenced to 25-years-to-life. Over the past 47 years, he has never expressed genuine remorse. And the parole board's unjust and irresponsible decision today renders the life portion of that sentence meaningless. My position is simple: We don't have the death penalty in New York, but there has to be something more permanent than eventually getting released if you murder a police officer. Herman Bell's victims — targeted solely for the blue uniform they wore — can never be paroled from death.