In a news conference Monday, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York) announced a proposal in which he requested that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) should appoint Attorney General Schneiderman as a special prosecutor to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute cases of homicide committed by police officers.
Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal is an interim move, intended as a Band-Aid approach to mounting voter pressure for police reforms, until Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature can negotiate some kind of permanent reform to state prosecutorial laws sometime next year, given widespread complaints that the state's district attorneys are too conflicted to justly prosecute cases of misconduct, including homicide, committed by police officers.
Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal deliberately overlooks many concerns being raised by police and government reform advocates. First, the proposal deliberate waits until after misconduct, including homicide, is committed, before the Attorney General's Office would begin an investigation ; there is no preëmptive srike against misconduct in the first place. Second, focusing on the conflicts of interest that exist for district attorneys overlooks the fact that internal affairs divisions of police departments have totally failed to hold police accountable for misconduct, as well. Third, Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal is not perfect, because his own office is conflicted in its relationships with police departments across the state. Fourth, the limited focus to only the occurrence of police misconduct ignores the systemic government policy of "Broken Windows" policing and similar policing worldviews that deliberately target low-income communities and communities of color, creating an environment and an impression that police are racist and classist. Fifth, Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal overlooks his own, past failures to act as a vigorous prosecutor over political corruption ; yet, he now wants to be trusted as a vigorous prosecutor over police misconduct ? Lastly, the proposal only focuses on conflicts of interest that prevent district attorneys from justly investigating and, if necessary, prosecuting police misconduct ; there is no acknowledgement that district attorneys also face conflicts of interest that encumber them from justly investigating and prosecuting political and campaign corruption. Like police reform activists like to say, the "whole damn system" is broken.
Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal is a false solution, and it should not be supported.
Gov. Cuomo is blocking reforms two ways
Gov. Cuomo's initial reaction was one of a lack of enthusiasm for Attorney General Schneiderman's proposal, meaning, the proposal isn't likely to succeed up in Albany without Gov. Cuomo's support. Another obstacle to reforming the state's criminal justice system to make police officers accountable for committing homicides is that the State Senate is controlled by the Republican Party, a situation that Gov. Cuomo is responsible for creating. State Senate Republicans oppose reforms in the wake of the devastating Staten Island grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case.
Mayor de Blasio is MIA
Mayor de Blasio, who is responsible for spearheading Gov. Cuomo's election in last September's Democratic Party primary election race, was absent from Attorney General Schneiderman's crowded announcement on Monday. In remarks made Monday, Mayor de Blasio stopped short of championing support for the interim proposal. Moreover, his acceptance of the Staten Island grand jury decision means he is not fully committed to completely overhauling the broken systems of oversight that fail to keep officers from the New York Police Department, or NYPD, accountable for corruption and misconduct. The mayor is under immense political pressure to make good on his unfulfilled promises of progressive reform, which he is unwilling to honor, as he tries to appease the big business donors and lobbyists he will need for his reëlection campaign in 2017.
As reported Monday by Progress Queens, Mayor de Blasio continues to put all his police reform eggs into the training basket being carried by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, a move that will certainly not result in justice for almost 200 families, whose loved ones have been killed by on-duty NYPD officers, or for future families of future police corruption and misconduct.
Fire Bratton, appoint a commission, and end Broken Windows
Progress Queens renews its call for the resignation of Commissioner Bratton and for the appointment of a new commission to investigate NYPD corruption and misconduct, including at the do-nothing Internal Affairs Bureau.
Since so many officials are conflicted about investigating and prosecuting NYPD officers, the appointment of such a new investigatory and prosecutorial commission can be made by either Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for New York's southern district, or George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is precedent for the creation of such a panel when the Knapp and Mollen commissions were created to address NYPD corruption ; however, those commissions lacked the power to independently prosecute cases of corruption and misconduct, powers that must be vested in a new commission.
Furthermore, no reform can permanently address the NYPD's deliberate targeting of low-income communities and communities of color with excessive force without first scrapping Mayor de Blasio's and Commissioner Bratton's controversial "Broken Windows" theory of policing.
For voters to believe that police officers are accountable, reforms must be made on a large scale, they must happen swiftly, and and they must be made permanent.
-- Progress Queens