Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is weighing whether to grant Attorney General Eric Schneiderman power to investigate and prosecute cases in which unarmed people die in confrontations with police.
"We are reviewing the attorney general's proposal as we pursue this broader approach that seeks to ensure equality and fairness in our justice system,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa. "When people begin to lose faith in the criminal justice system, reform must follow. As the governor said, meaningful change will require thoughtful dialogue and a real top to bottom review with criminal justice experts, community stakeholders, and police, prosecutorial and judicial representatives."
Schneiderman’s request comes days after a grand jury in Staten Island declined to charge a New York City police officer in the apparent choking death in July of a black suspect, Eric Garner.
Cuomo’s executive order could give the attorney general power to take cases away from local prosecutors. Cuomo has already proposed broad action involving police training, grand juries, prosecutors and other aspects of criminal justice statewide as a result of the Garner case.
"In New York, and across the country, the promise of equal justice under law has been eroded by a series of tragedies involving the death of unarmed persons as a result of the use of force by law enforcement officers," Schneiderman stated in a letter to Cuomo.
The Staten Island grand jury handed up its decision in Garner’s case a little more than a week after a Missouri grand jury also decided against charging a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18. Garner and Brown were African-Americans.
Schneiderman requested the additional authority which must come from the governor, who has declined Schneiderman’s requests in the past for more authority to investigate corruption in Albany.