Parole officers encounter a vicious Pit Bull
By DEBORAH A. MILES
An incident occurred ten minutes after the sun rose above the Hudson River in Newburgh on the first Friday in March when the early morning temperature hovered around 25 degrees.
Parole Officers Robert Rosenberger and Michael Kenny drove through Newburgh, roughly a 3½ square-mile city, which Rosenberger described as having “the highest crime rates in the state.”
Gang violence is nothing new in this dilapidated city an hour north of Manhattan. Newburgh is racially diverse with pockets of poverty. It has a higher rate of violent crimes per capita among its 29,000 residents, than the south Bronx or Brownsville. It is known as the murder capital of New York state.
Parole officers who work this beat know all too well the daily threat of being shot or assaulted. On that particular morning, Rosenberger and Kenny entered a single room occupancy building where residents typically share kitchens and bathrooms. They were there to do a curfew check on a parolee, who had been previously convicted of assault first degree, a plea deal he received after shooting his wife.
Then something unexpected happened.
“We got halfway up the stairs, and heard the growl. Before we could turn around, the dog was right in front of Officer Rosenberger. He had to do what he had to do. No one wakes up in the morning wanting to shoot a dog,” Kenny said. “Officer Rosenberger performed very bravely that day. He faced a dangerous situation and took it head on. He saved both of us with his actions.”
“The dog continued to attack, despite being shot. It wasn’t like we hit it and that was it. It was a Pit Bull and it continued to attack us from the stairs down to the threshold of the building,” Rosenberger said. “”After shooting the dog several times, I fell down the stairs, as I tried to get away from the attack. Officer Kenny caught my head, and helped me get up and out of the way because the dog was still coming. Then he began shooting. If it wasn’t for Kenny acting quickly, I’d have been hurt a lot worse.”
Rosenberger sustained bruises and injured his hand and back from the fall, and Kenny said his hearing was affected from the loud blast of gunfire in an enclosed area. Less than a year ago, Kenny had injured his back when trying to remove a suspect who was hiding inside a dark basement, curled up inside a clothes dryer.
Both parole officers said they carry a badge and a gun, just like members of other law enforcement agencies. Even though their jobs are to keep the public safe and to reintegrate parolees back into society, they still do not receive the same benefits as afforded to other law enforcement agencies in the state.
“We don’t have any type of adequate coverage when we get hurt on the job,” Rosenberger said, “This is the reward I get for risking my life.”
PEF President Wayne Spence, who is also a parole officer, said PEF has been pushing for passage of the Parole Officers Workplace Injury Parity Bill.
“During the past few years, PEF has been very successful in sending our message to elected officials, as the Legislature has passed this bill. The governor did not sign it. With all the changes occurring at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, PEF is fighting even harder during this legislative session to have this bill become a law,” Spence said. “What happened to Officers Rosenberger and Kenny is just one example, out of many, that highlight the dangers of working day to day with convicted felons. You never know when you will be a victim of an attack of any sort.”