Probationary lapse: Massachusetts officer killed by career criminal

Some arm chair psychologists are critical of probation officers in central Massachusetts following the shooting death of a police officer.  Critics believe that Jorge Zambrano should have been in jail rather that be free to take his murderous intentions to the street.  He had at least three arrests that were said to have resulted in resistance and ultimately violence toward police officers.  This information must have been provided to Officer Tarentino at the time of the traffic stop.  Whenever an operator is checked either on the mobile data computer in the police cruiser or by a police dispatcher flags come up indicating that the operator has a history of violence.  This is a necessary officer safety protocol. 

Unfortunately, that same level of safety awareness is not provided to judges when they are making decisions about bail or no bail holds for the like of Jorge Zambrano and thousands of other career criminals who are in and out of court like a revolving door. It is up to the office of probation and parole to provide this essential information on “dangerousness” to judges as they review charges and consider bail in the cases being brought before them each day.  Otherwise, decisions about bail cannot be made with any accuracy leaving law enforcement and the general public at great risk from those who are dangerous. We have seen this disconnect over bail among domestic violence assailants and the family members they terrorize.  Sometimes serious aggression toward a spouse including strangulation and forced sexual contact are ignored or minimized when this violence occurs within the scope of a “relationship” and yet information about violent tendencies must be provided to potential victims whenever a threat exists.  

“There are points when pre-incident indicators scream for containment of violators.  Relationship behavior should be considered – especially when relationship violence is apparent in case after case”.  Michael Sefton, 2015

Bail decisions rarely include the incidence of violent behavior – especially that which occurs toward law enforcement otherwise Officer Tarentino may be alive today.  In an article in the Boston Globe detailing the criminal history of the killer of Auburn, Massachusetts Police Officer Tarentino. Zambrano was a career criminal from what was described in several background articles. I was especially sickened by the remarks of Mr. Scola the attorney for Zambrano.  Scola verbalized his surprise that Mr. Zambrano could do something so violent toward a police officer. I am puzzled by that remark and wonder if Scola has actually passed the bar examination because anyone could see that Zambrano was on the fast track toward a violent explosion of hate.


“He was a high risk for violence and recidivism,” said DOC spokesman Christopher M. Fallon. 

Former Boston police commissioner Edward Davis, now a private security consultant, said Monday night that judges have to consider a defendant’s “propensity for violence” at sentencing according to a Boston Globe article written in the aftermath of the killing of Ronald Tarentino, Jr..  “There are some people who are not amenable to counseling,” said Davis, whose security clients include The Boston Globe. “When you see a repeat record of violent activity, then you have to get really tough with a person like that and get them off the street.”

“There’s nothing more dangerous than that space, that moment, when a guy who is facing charges that can send him back to jail sits there behind death’s door, sizing up both his chances and the cop drawing nearer in the sideview mirror.”  Kevin Cullen Boston Globe   (5-24-16)

3 thoughts on “Probationary lapse: Massachusetts officer killed by career criminal

  1. As it has evolved, the US legal system has little to do with justice, facts, or the protection of anyone. The only question is who has the better lawyer. I met an attorney who specializes in defending gang members in criminal cases. The attorney has little that I would call ethics and is well-paid for what he does. His clients are often (usually ?) guilty, but everything he says and does publicly is designed to work for either getting them off or minimizing any punishment. It sounds like the lawyer quoted in the article is no different.

    • Sadly, you are correct Mr. Crain. I strongly believe that better communication is essential between the arms of the court making certain that client dangerousness is considered before release.

      • Communications happen when people are seriously engaged in a matter. My views are colored by people I know and my own experiences with Family Court (divorce). The volume of cases is sufficiently large that courts don’t consider people, they consider stereotypes and do whatever is necessary to process cases as quickly as possible.

        The focus on number of cases processed also explains why police investigations can be so sloppy and the alarming rate of false convictions.

        Serious legal reform would help a lot. We have too many people in jail and too many cases in the legal system. Simplification and decriminalization of “victimless” crimes would reduce the costs of incarceration and give judges more time to consider each case. That might have helped in this situation.

        On the other side, we have the problem of predicting future behavior and “branding” people forever in the eyes of society. We have that issue with sex offenders who can be permanently branded for causes as simple as possession of porn or (in Texas) a sex toy. Should a 16-year-old be branded as a sex offender for sex with a 15-year-old? In Massachusetts, no. In Georgia, yes. Does that make any sense?

        We have no predictive models of who will commit a crime in the future. They simply don’t exist, which explains why using racial profiling by police is so problematic. It simply maligns too many good people.

        If someone has erred and “paid their debt to society”, should they be branded for that debt for the rest of life? Other countries expunge records after a certain number of years of good behavior; the US doesn’t.

        Hindsight tells us that this guy should have stayed in jail. Maybe, if the court had had more time to spend on the case, that would have happened. However, we can’t generalize from this case to all cases.

        One generalization we can make is that the current system simply doesn’t work.

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