LONSBERRY: Governor Skips Ceremony for NY Cop of the Year

Left: Syracuse Police Officer Kelsey Francemone. Right: Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul

The plaque they gave Kelsey Francemone says it’s from the governor, but he didn’t give it to her.

He’s through town all the time, and could have presented it on his next visit, but when you’re a governor like Andrew Cuomo, you don’t want to be photographed next to a white cop who shot a black man.

You don’t want that coming back to haunt you in the middle of a presidential run.

So the first female cop and the first Syracuse cop ever to be honored as New York’s officer of the year had to take the plaque from the lieutenant governor.

But that’s how it’s gone.

That night, they almost killed her. In the weeks after, she was vilified by academics and activists, and her family had to go into hiding. Left to publicly twist in the wind, the cop haters and the press waxed long and loud about the police and the community and the racism behind the badge.

The first word of what really happened had to be leaked to me while the official position was still stony silence.

It was a year ago Father’s Day – back in 2016 – at about 11 o’clock at night. There was a call of a man down at Skiddy Park, a green expanse of no-man’s land where the gang bangers rule. Twenty-two-year-old Officer Kelsey Francemone was nearby and took the call. The place was packed with people – the politically correct press called it a “block party” – and as Francemone stepped out she heard gunfire.

She heard it and she responded to it.

It was chaos. You had maybe half a dozen guys in a two-team gunfight sending lead every which way, and you had two or three hundred people stampeding in panic.

Except for this one cop, they showed her on a surveillance camera, running toward the shooting, running to protect the people. That was Kelsey Francemone. All alone. Her against the world, the cavalry coming over the hill.

She quickly saw three of the gunmen. She ordered one of them, a guy firing his gun, to put his weapon down. He didn’t. He turned on her and she shot him. He ran off and she pursued and the gang bangers took off and, with the fusillade quieted, the crowd ran back.

And attacked the cop.

Dozens of them.

Mobbing her and stomping her, punching her and kicking her, grabbing at her clothes to rip them off, and her badge and gun to get them away from her. They were beating her to death. They were trying to get her gun to shoot her with it. Finally, more officers arrived, and had to fight their way into the mob, secure Francemone, and fight their way back out.

It was a hell of a mess.

And it got messier when the reporters showed up.

The guy Francemone shot – a recent parolee with a long criminal history and an illegal gun – was portrayed by his pals as the greatest man on earth, and all sorts of crocodile tears were shed. And while the police department said nothing, the narrative of the white cop and the black man was rolled out. And it got pretty hairy. In the riot, somebody took the shot man’s gun, and the shot man died, and by the next day the activists were condemning the police.

The threats came in and the cop, still recuperating from the gang assault, had to go into hiding.

It was weeks before anybody told the story of what had happened, and for those weeks, the police department was vilified. As people learned Kelsey Francemone’s name, some of them spit it out in a hateful tone.

As the time has passed, and the criticisms of Francemone proved wrong, there have been no apologies. The paper and the TV stations, the activists and the professors, the politicians. They were quick to judge, and slow to acknowledge they were wrong. Slow to recognize the bigotry of their anti-police hatred.

A year later, the newspaper did a story of the neighborhood’s distrust of the police, and how the police still had much to do to regain the favor of “the community.” A police substation set up in Skiddy Park in the wake of the riot recently had a dozen bullets pumped into its back window.

The gang bangers still rule, and an under-staffed police department runs from call to call, never quite sure of what’s around the corner.

Earlier this year, an organization of police associations named Officer Kelsey Francemone one of its national police officers of the year. And then yesterday, she was honored as the Governor’s Police Officer of the Year. Except the governor wasn’t there, and neither was the mayor. One took investigations of police shootings away from local district attorneys, and the other gutted the Syracuse Police Department, and they both presided over the deadliest year in Syracuse’s history.

And that’s not a coincidence. That’s cause and effect.

And that’s not changing, as yesterday’s ceremony showed.

The first female cop to earn the officer of the year award all on her own, and the first Syracuse cop ever to receive the award, and the feminist mayor of Syracuse doesn’t show. The glad-handing governor’s name is on the plaque, and he doesn’t show to present it.

 That’s because of what Kelsey Francemone wears to work, and what she does for a living.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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