Senate Democrats today offered a series of proposals aimed at better investigating deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police, saying New York needs a special prosecutor and its own investigative office to address the issue.
The announcement at the Capitol comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Democratic-led Assembly have all pressed for new laws in the wake of the choking death of Eric Garner last summer at the hands of a New York City police officer in Staten Island.
“It’s very disturbing and really highlights the need for reform,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “Remember, this wasn’t a trial to determine guilt or innocence. This was just a grand jury proceeding about deciding if a trial should take place.”
Senate Democrats in January will be in the minority in the Senate, and some Senate Republicans have expressed resistance to some of the broad reforms sought by the Democratic leaders.
Senate Democrats also called on Cuomo to put $75 million in the state budget for the fiscal year that starts April so police can buy body cameras.
Stewart-Cousins said she supports Schneiderman’s request yesterday for special power to prosecute cases involving deaths at the hands of police, saying it would be a first step until a new office is installed.
Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, said something needs to be done to install confidence in the public, saying that she has children and grandchildren that she’s worried about.
“From time to time, I’ve felt victimized by fear when my children walk out the door,” she said. “The number of deaths of unarmed black people has left an indelible mark on our black community. I can’t deny it, and I feel it.”