NY Attorney General Tapped to Probe Police

     (CN) – It took six months but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally spurred into action Tuesday on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s call to be made special prosecutor for police killings of unarmed civilians.
     Schneiderman reacted by questioning why the appointment via executive order took so long.
     “In December, I requested that the governor sign an executive order to empower my office to investigate deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police,” he noted in a statement. “This order was to remain in effect only until the governor and the legislature enacted statutory reforms to address this critical issue in a permanent and considered fashion.”
     Calls to take the investigation of police killings of unarmed civilians out of the hands of local prosecutors reverberated across New York after a Staten Island grand jury refused on Dec. 3 to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold.
     Garner, a black Richmond County resident, had allegedly been selling loose cigarettes when police officers placed him under arrest. A bystander’s video of the altercation went viral, showing Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe,” at least 11 times before passing out in NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold.
     The city’s medical examiner had ruled Garner’s death a homicide by chokehold and compression to the chest.
     Timing added to the unrest, as the Garner grand jury decision was handed down shortly after the similar nonindictment of the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who killed unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown.
     Thousands of New Yorkers disappointed with the Garner grand jury’s decision took to the streets in massive, nightly protests that snarled traffic on the city’s roads, highways, bridges and tunnels.
     Five days into these demonstrations, Schneiderman issued a call to restore public trust by taking the investigation of cases like Garner’s out of the hands of local prosecutors.
     The Staten Island prosecutors’ handling of the case remains largely a mystery because a county judge refused to release the grand jury minutes of the case.
     Litigation to bring those transcripts into the light is ongoing.
     Meanwhile, Cuomo’s office honored Schneiderman’s December request without fanfare at a press event in Albany on Tuesday.
     The New York Observer reported that Cuomo “took the step with reluctance, and that the appointment would last just one year.”
     Schneiderman also did not display much enthusiasm about the executive order.
     “I am disappointed that, six months later, we did not see such statutory action – part of a broader failure to achieve meaningful reform on a range of issues in this legislative session,” he said. “The governor announced today that, as he was unable to enact statutory reform, he is issuing such an executive order.”
     Promising to “handle these cases with the highest level of care and independence,” Schneiderman added that he continue to advocate for a “long-term legislative solution to this critical matter of law and policy.”
     “All of us who care about the great state of New York must redouble our efforts to strengthen the ties between communities and the police officers and prosecutors who devote themselves so honorably to public protection,” he said.
     Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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