New York state is changing the way it investigates unarmed deaths involving police

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York state announced a new strategy this week to increase accountability and transparency in the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police, two things that often prove elusive in such investigations.

The New York Times reports that, by executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman will act as a special prosecutor in cases where law enforcement was involved in killing a person who was unarmed or possibly unarmed.

Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, watches as N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issues an executive order at John Jay College on Jul. 8 to put the State Attorney General in charge of investigating allegations of police abuse. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

Local district attorneys currently handle such investigations, which many—like anti-police violence organization the Justice Committee—view as a conflict of interest, since they interact with local law enforcement on a regular basis.


Local prosecutors aren't crazy about handing authority over to Schneiderman's office, but family members of those killed by police are cautiously optimistic. “It doesn’t answer all the questions,” Gwen Carr, the mother of slain Staten Island man Eric Garner, told the Times. “But it is a step in the right direction.”

​In a statement to Fusion, Yul-san Liem and Loyda Colon of the Justice Committee echoed Carr's sentiments: "Governor Cuomo’s enactment of this executive order…is an important step in the right direction to ending the systemic conflict of interest that exists for local DAs in cases of police killings of civilians and addressing the crisis of police violence in our state and country."

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, joins activists, community leaders and other family members who have lost loved ones in incidents involving the NYPD in a demonstration in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on Jul. 7 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A lack of accountability has been a major sticking point for the #BlackLivesMatter movement and others calling for an end to the style of policing in communities of color that led to the deaths of Tanisha Anderson, Freddie Gray, Mya Hall, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott, among many others.


That's one of the reasons why prominent activists DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, and Samuel Sinyangwe launched on Friday, which they describe as the "first open-source database of police union contracts and other documents related to police accountability for the 100 largest U.S. cities." The trio also collect data on police killings at in a similar push for transparency.

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