Letter: Sheriff’s Race

In a recent episode of a YouTube show called Police Off the Cuff, the hosts interviewed Kevin McConville, the Republican candidate for Putnam County sheriff, and Robert Hyer, a candidate for the Kent Town Council.

Hyer reminisced about the days when “all cops, no bosses, pop open the back of the trunk, they take out Louisville sluggers, went in there, and I’m not kidding around, they jacked up I don’t know — 30 people? Lying out in the lobby of the theater next thing you know there’s mounted cops running in the theater playing polo with these guys’ heads…. You could walk down the block and we owned the block.”

Hyer also reminisced that “the difference between now and then was, if you had the foot post on Fifth Avenue, you would have taken your nightstick, jammed it in the door, called an 85 [arrival delay] and just beat everybody.”

McConville sat by, passively, when confronted with the cruel and illegal police behavior Hyer described. Putnam County taxpayers need a sheriff who can recognize and appropriately discipline officers who are out of control and not someone who will stand by silently if his officers want to play polo with citizens’ heads. Based on his performance in the YouTube interview, McConville is evidently not up to the job.

McConville, who found his voice to interject at many other points during the show, remained ominously silent. He never said, “Thank goodness we don’t do things like that anymore.” He never said, “Out-of-control policing and brutality are never warranted.” He saw no need to voice even the mildest objection.

We live in a time when violent extremists are trying to infiltrate local police units, as indicated by comments from a recent FBI report. There is widespread consensus that the kind of policing that killed George Floyd is unacceptable. We need leadership, not wimpy acquiescence to men who brag about beating those they’ve sworn to protect.

Linda Tafapolsky, Garrison

4 thoughts on “Letter: Sheriff’s Race

  1. I understand that it has been reported that my comments on a law-enforcement comedy podcast in February to some appear, or are being implied, to infer that I am a racist. That is not true.

    First, let me begin by saying I am a minister who loves God and loves people of all races. I have been married to my beautiful Colombian wife, Lucy, for 20 years. Together we have raised a wonderful and God-loving family. God has blessed me with three beautiful daughters two of which are Hispanic and one is from the LGBTQ community and all three have Hispanic partners.

    My comments on the podcast were relating experiences as a 20-year-old who lived in Brooklyn and was working as a police officer in Times Square at that time. During this comedy podcast, there was a discussion on experiences relating to the 1980s and how life has changed.

    I respect people, their race, gender and identity. A great deal of my life is spent serving the community; as a family we travel to New York City twice a month to serve the homeless community in the Times Square area where I patrolled as a police officer. We minister to them by feeding and clothing them spiritually and physically. This is just one outreach of many that we do.

    So you see racism is not part of my DNA. As a minister I practice tolerance, acceptance and inclusion.

    On Nov. 27, 2019, [one of my critics], [Eileen] McDermott [of Brewster], is quoted in the Gay City News stating that “on Nov. 8 [2016], Donald Trump won the presidency, and at 3 a.m. the next morning, we were awoken to a celebratory booming bass — our neighbors were elated. I had gone to bed hours earlier after sending off an angry Facebook ‘F-—k off’ you to no one in particular. Stirred by a party in our midst, I felt crushed, angry and actually scared — where was this place that I now lived? For weeks leading up to the election I had seen the Trump banners, bumper stickers and lawn signs, but I wrote them off as the desperate rantings of a few local good ole boys. Turns out, there are a lot of those up here.”

    Not sure if your comments will be taken out of context also, but I know for myself, mine were. It is surprising to see someone judging me without knowing the person that I am. I am a man of character, integrity and principles.

  2. I watched the show, and the comments quoted in the letter were not taken out of context. The writer didn’t even include all of the racist slurs in the show; they, too, should be addressed. It would be helpful if The Current made the transcript available (one has been made).

    This was not a comedy show, and the attempt to characterize it as such is misleading.

    I’m not sure why Hyer would say the public school students in Queens would have “eaten up” his daughter as opposed to the students in Carmel doing so.

    I encourage everyone to watch the show. It’s disturbing, and both Hyer’s comments and the silence are chilling. It sounds like Hyer does a lot of valuable and selfless work as a minister. He sounds like a proud dad. But his indignation toward the letter writer is misplaced. His comments deserve explanation and apologies, and he does a disservice to ministries by hiding behind the cloth.

  3. The video brings to mind the Marx Brothers’ line, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” Watch the video or read the transcript: either way, your eyes and/or ears will tell you that the two candidates in the video who are running for public office, Kevin McConville (candidate for Putnam County sheriff) and Robert Hyer (candidate for Kent Town Council), fully and knowingly participated in a roundtable condoning racism by law enforcement officers. That is a mindset that I find terrifying in any elected official, let alone one who is running for the top law enforcement job in Putnam County. McConville is clearly not up to the job of policing in the 21st century. Come November, I’ll be voting for Sheriff Langley.

  4. I took it upon myself to watch the hour-long video of what everyone was deeming to be racist. Curiosity had gotten the best of me. I am here to tell you that as a resident, homeowner and woman of color living in Mahopac, I am absolutely appalled, disgusted and regret moving to Putnam County. The comments from residents make me want to pack my bags and leave.

    I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was not the best place to be born and raised. It was and still is filled with crime, low income, projects and destitution. The majority of people living in this area, for the 38 years that I was there, have always been people of color. It wasn’t the easiest place to be raised but coming from a single parent household it was all my mother could afford. As I got older and educated myself, had a child, and a career, I saw that this was no longer the place for me and my daughter.

    It was a constant and daily nightmare. We had to dodge bullets simply to get a soda from the store. The police in our community have always encountered the residents. They made friends with us, protected us and stood as a shield between us and the criminals. My mother always taught me not to let my skin color or financial situation define me as a person. I was raised in a Baptist church with Christian values and always voted Democrat. It wasn’t until last year that I had to put my morals and beliefs into perspective. Every Saturday for months, I watched a group of young and old gather at the Putnam County Courthouse for a Black Lives Matter rally. The death of George Floyd paralyzed me. How could a police officer do this?

    It took me back to 22 years ago when my brother was caught in a crossfire of bullets between a police officer and a drug dealer. My situation was different, all of the trauma and heartbreak has never left me. It was a police officer that night who saved me. I was with my brother and the partner of the police officer firing shielded me with his body. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here to tell you about my experiences.

    As honored as I am that I see people standing up for Black lives, I am also angry to have seen signs saying that all cops are bastards or that cops are murderers. I thought, Why would a sheriff allow that? Is it the right of the people to express their opinions and beliefs? Yes, of course, but to take a knee with those very people shook me to my core.

    I don’t think anyone who stands up there or took a knee understands what real racism is. You are all calling Mr. Hyer a racist, but Mr. Hyer spoke the truth. Can any of you who made these comments say that you were born and raised in Bushwick? Do you know what it’s like to go to sleep hearing gunfire? Do you know what it’s like to hear the screams of mothers losing their children to a criminal?

    As a colored woman, I am tired of white people telling me how I should feel and think, telling me that they understand. Mr. Hyer understood, Mr. Hyer was protecting the innocent people of my neighborhood. If that meant taking a drug dealer or rapist by his hair to prison by all means, do so, but that is not what Mr. Hyer said. It seems that all the commentators were more offended because Mr. Hyer spoke the truth. You wouldn’t know what truth is unless you lived there. Tell me why we leave the city life. Why do most of us work so hard to leave those areas to come here? I can tell you why because we want to be able to go to the store and live another day.

    I thank Mr. Hyer for his courage and his honesty, and I look forward to one day meeting him. Unfortunately, I do not live in Kent so I can not vote for him and I will not be voting for Robert Langley. White people, you do not speak for me or my family. Stop telling me how to feel and think. Stop assuming everything is racist when you can’t even define racism. Not one of you have done anything for me, not now or in the past. Instead you are trying to steal the police from my neighborhoods. You are taking away from me and my daughter’s security. I will be voting for Kevin McConville, a man of his word and a man who will ensure that my daughter and I can continue to live in Putnam County safely and securely.