Brittany's Beat: It’s time for change in MA criminal justice system

posted by Brittany Jennings -

PHOTO: Getty Images

Violent criminals shouldn’t be walking the streets. Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon paid for this with his life. His killer, Thomas Latanowich, had over 111 criminal charges against him.

Some of the most glaring are:

  • May 7, 2008, 2 counts; felony; possession of a firearm without a permit.
  • February 1, 2010, felony; assault with a dangerous weapon. Felony witness intimidation. 25 counts; felony; possession of a firearm without a permit. Conviction; 8 counts; felony; possession of a large capacity weapon/feeding device.
  • June 28, 2010, conviction: felony; carrying a dangerous weapon, a double edge switchblade.

I could go on but why bother? The point is: He had no business being out on the streets. Sadly, however, Officer Gannon isn’t the only law enforcement officer in Massachusetts who has been killed in the line of duty by a career criminal.

Our criminal justice system is broken. It’s time the citizens of Massachusetts stand up to our leaders and demand change. Our judges need to be held accountable for letting these thugs free.

Let’s go back to 2010. Woburn Officer John “Jack” Maguire was shot and killed by Dominic Cinelli the day after Christmas. Cinelli was voted unanimously to be put back on the streets by a parole board. His “thank you” to Massachusetts was to rob a store and murder a police officer who was months away from retirement.

In 2016, Auburn Police Officer Ron Tarentino was shot in the back and killed during a traffic stop at 3:00 in the morning. Officer Tarentino was killed by another career criminal, Jorge Zambrano.

Zambrano had a rap sheet as long as my arm. Before killing Officer Tarentino, Zambrano was charged with assaulting a Worcester police officer. Judge Andrew Mandell said during the hearing that, “He might not like what a police officer says, but he’s got to listen and obey them.” However, Judge Mandell let Zambrano out on $500 bail.

Now, Officer Gannon has been killed in the line of duty by a criminal with over 100 charges. How was Latanowich a free man? He was out on probation after serving four years for gun and heroin charges. This is outrageous. How can our criminal justice system fail us like this? The system failed the Yarmouth Police Department and its residents.

"I treat all of my officers like they are my own sons and daughters and to lose one is like losing my own," Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson said after the passing of Officer Gannon.

Think about this for a second. Officer Gannon was serving a warrant. Serving a warrant is a routine call patrolmen do every shift. Officer Tarentino was conducting a traffic stop. Traffic stops are routine for patrolmen every shift. Officer Maguire was responding to a robbery. A robbery is a routine call patrolmen go to during a shift. Massachusetts needs laws that will protect our citizens and our law enforcement officers from harm. Why? Because this unfortunate and preventable situation could happen to any officer, in any city, including yours. If you think Latanowich is the only criminal in Massachusetts with over 100 charges, then you are wrong.

“We are going to take Sean’s death with the help of those behind me, and they’d better do it, to change things to protect police officers because I’m sick of it!” Chief Frederickson said at Officer Gannon’s vigil.

I’ve heard this frustration before from many police officers around Massachusetts. It’s becoming difficult for police to do their jobs.

Two weeks ago, in the wake of the deadly shooting of Officer Gannon, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the Crime Bill. The Crime Bill eliminates various mandatory minimum sentences for “low level” drug offenses as well as changes for felony larceny charges from $250 to $1,200. Our lawmakers and governor have made it easier on careercriminals and harder on police to charge someone with a felony. Welcome to Massachusetts where we are not tough on crime!

Where is Baker? Where is our top law enforcement officer Maura Healey? Instead of cracking down on violent criminals, they are more interested in banning bump stocks and AR-15’s from law abiding citizens.

Massachusetts has put the rights of criminals over our hardworking, taxpaying citizens. Not only are these lawmakers and judges putting police in harm’s way, they are putting residents in danger. This is not just about protecting our men and women in blue, it’s about protecting our communities.

It’s time for us to fight back. Some of us are. A petition that has gone viral on Change.org, started by Lori Wagner, has nearly 46,000 signatures calling for change in the judicial system after the death of Officer Gannon.

Our Massachusetts legislature needs to make a change before another police officer is killed in the line of duty. Let’s face it: These thugs are being let go by liberal judges and liberal parole boards. If our legislature doesn’t do something, they will have blood on their hands.

However, there is one lawmaker calling for change in Massachusetts. State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) is calling for the death penalty for cop killers. In 1984, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

It’s time for us to bring the death penalty back; and it’s time for Thomas Latanowich to rot in hell.

 -Brittany Jennings is Executive Producer of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @Brittany_J10

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