Firing a bad cop is never very easy, but sending one to jail can be even more of a challenge if authorities or judges adopt the attitude that loss of career is a sufficient enough penalty. Quite the opposite happened with the sentencing of former Albany Police Officer Robert L. Schunk II Tuesday, and it was refreshing news of sorts.
Convicted in March of harassment and criminal mischief in a 2-year-old domestic violence incident, Schunk was sentenced to the maximum — a year and 15 days in jail — by Halfmoon Justice Lester Wormuth. Schunk had been accused of roughing up his then-girlfriend, kicking in the door of her bathroom (where she had tried to hide from him), and nearly running her over with a pickup truck.
The sentence seemed altogether appropriate given Schunk’s history. Dating back to 2002 — four years after he became an Albany cop — he had attracted police attention in several domestic violence incidents. In two of them, he’d allegedly pointed guns at people’s heads and threatened to shoot (in one such incident, he wasn’t even arrested; in the other, he was acquitted, although he admitted doing it). And in two other domestic violence incidents in which police were called, he also wasn’t arrested.
Schunk demonstrated contempt for the law on other occasions as well, such as in 2005, when he was arrested for DWI after crashing into two parked cars. Two years ago, he was alleged to have patronized a prostitute though, again, he was not arrested. This February, he was arrested by Glenville police for violating an order of protection, allegedly harassing his ex-girlfriend again.
Clearly, cops like Schunk, who feel they’re above the law, don’t belong on any police force. A state arbitrator ruled as much in April. Now Judge Wormuth has transmittted an equally stern warning: Cops who break the law don’t deserve a break when it comes to sentencing, either.
One can only hope that police everywhere will heed this message, not just when it comes to abiding by the law themselves, but in dealing with any brethren who think they don’t have to.