New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to grant his office the power to investigate and prosecute killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement officials, the New York Times reports. Schneiderman challenged state legislators to pass laws aimed at increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system, which he said was badly damaged after grand juries in Missouri and on Staten Island declined to bring criminal charges against officers in fatal encounters with unarmed black men. He seemed unwilling to wait for new powers to investigate the police in the event that another killing occurred before new laws were passed. “When the trust between the police and the communities they serve and protect breaks down, everyone is at risk,” he said.
The grand jury decision not to indict in the case of Eric Garner, who died after a police chokehold during an arrest on Staten Island in July, has renewed calls for special prosecutors to handle such cases. Schneiderman was joined by local and state political leaders for his his announcement. The Times called prospects for quick legislative or executive action murky. The proposal got immediate pushback from police unions and several district attorneys in New York City, particularly in Brooklyn, where a grand jury will soon be impaneled to hear evidence in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by an officer patrolling with his gun drawn.