The surviving family members of New Yorkers killed by the police brought their demand for a special prosecutor for police killings to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Albany.
The group, which sent a letter to the governor in February demanding he issue an executive order to authorize the establishment of a special prosecutor and requesting a meeting, said they had been frustrated by a lack of action and meeting cancellations by his office.
At a recent press conference outside of his office, resulting in a subsequent meeting with Cuomo, families described what they believe is failed accountability. They called for the governor’s leadership to implement reform through his executive authority and reiterated opposition to his “independent monitor” proposal.
The family members in the meeting included Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner and Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray.
Twenty family members of eighteen New Yorkers killed by the police wrote to Governor Cuomo in February, demanding that he issue an executive order to establish a special prosecutor for all cases of police killings.
“Our state needs a special prosecutor to solve the conflict of interest with district attorneys handling these cases against police officers,” said Malcolm. “We want justice and accountability so that no more families have to experience the heartbreak and pain of unjustly losing a loved one to police violence, like me and so many other mothers, fathers, and family members.”
Across the nation, police killings of people of color appear to continue week after week. The families noted that local district attorneys – who collaborate with and depend upon police departments on a daily basis – have a conflict-of-interest which many feel is an impediment to justice in cases where police kill civilians.
President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which released recommendations from community and law enforcement stakeholders across the country, endorsed these demands by recommending the use of prosecutors who are independent and external of local district attorneys when police kill civilians.
At a New York State Assembly hearing on criminal justice reform in March, advocated called for comprehensive reforms. A package of more limited reforms proposed by Governor Cuomo in his budget plan were omitted from a final spending plan. Bell, whose son was killed in a 2006 police shooting where 50 shots were fired, testified at the hearing about the need for a special prosecutor and how it was a more significant reform than the proposal to create an independent monitor.
“Even though my son’s case went to trial, there was no conviction,” said Bell. “During the trial, it felt as though my son was the one who had been indicted, not the police officers who killed him. There is a conflict of interest when DAs prosecute the police officers they have to work with and rely on every day, and I believe this is why there was no justice for my son.”