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NY Gov. Cuomo Says He Will Offer Justice Reform Package

cuomNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday a genuine problem exists with the perception among minorities that the criminal justice system isn’t fair and he’ll propose reforms next year.

While the issue of dual standards in the American justice system is debatable, Cuomo said, the perception is real. He said it predates the case of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man whose videotaped death while being arrested by police in Staten Island led to widespread protests. No officers were indicted.

“I think it’s clear that we have a problem,” the governor told reporters. “There’s been a whole string of situations where you have people in the state who feel we have to adjust the system or they’re getting the short end of the justice system. I believe there is room for improvement. I believe there are reforms we can make.”

He didn’t specify them Thursday, saying he’s been talking to police, prosecutors and community activists. He said changes should have been made years ago, but you need to seize the moment when people are focused to make them happen. He also said being a police officer is a difficult, frightening job, noting there are two sides to the issue.

“Next year I intend to propose a number of reforms to the system, and I hope to have a serious conversation with the Legislature about it,” he said.

One option being discussed is a special prosecutor for cases against police, which Cuomo called a complex matter. “Then you have to ask yourself, under what circumstances? Only for shootings? What happens if there was a rape? Eric Garner was not shot, right? So deaths. Does this person have to die? You can beat a person senseless but if this person doesn’t die there’s no special prosecutor. That doesn’t make sense either really. So you have to talk these things through.”

Other questions include whether it would be a permanent office or if there would be case-by-case referrals, who the prosecutor should be, and whether it would be right to automatically disqualify every local district attorney from such cases within their jurisdictions.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has written to Cuomo, proposing the governor authorize his office to investigate cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police until the Legislature addresses the issue. He said that authority exists under current law.

“That’s an option,” Cuomo said. “But you have to answer the first questions first. … It has to be thought through thoroughly, but that’s one of the options.”


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