When Cops Kill, Should Special Prosecutors Investigate?


Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, says investigations of police killings should be led by special prosecutors, not local district attorneys, reports the Associated Press. She said a New York grand jury’s failure to bring an indictment against the police officer who choked Eric Garner before he died was a “watershed moment.” She said, “It’s clear that the system is broken and an independent prosecutor is needed.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that the process needs a fresh examination, including “potential roles for special prosecutors.” Norman Siegel, a longtime civil rights attorney in New York, cited “inherent conflict” in oversight by local prosecutors of police departments that are their day-to-day partners in criminal justice. But DAs bristle at the criticism. “Why would the people’s choice to be their elected law enforcement officer be disqualified in favor of some political appointment?” said William Fitzpatrick, the county prosecutor in the Syracuse, N.Y., area and president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association.

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