Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 6, 2016. Cuomo’s special counsel would review police-involved killings that are not presented to a grand jury or that fail to produce an indictment.
ALBANY – Family members of New Yorkers killed by police are blasting Gov. Cuomo’s plan to create an “independent special counsel” to review cases where cops kill civilians.
In a letter to Cuomo, a group of 16 family members – including the mothers of police victims Sean Bell, Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham – complained that Cuomo’s proposal was too weak and represented a “step backwards” for justice.
“This is not a special prosecutor, but more narrow, weaker and less independent,” the group wrote in the letter.
Under Cuomo’s proposal, which was outlined in his January State of the State Address, the special counsel would review police-involved killings that are not presented to a grand jury or that fail to produce an indictment.
The counsel could then recommend to the governor the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Family members contend the plan is nearly identical to Cuomo’s proposal from last year calling for an independent monitor – which they opposed and the Legislature refused to pass.
“Your slightly altered ‘independent monitor’ proposal returns the authority of investigation and prosecution to local district attorneys, which is problematic and directly contradictory to the reason a special prosecutor was so necessary,” the family members wrote.
Studio of Sean Bell and his fiance Nicole Paultre Bell.
After the Legislature balked at Cuomo’s plan, he signed an executive order naming Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a special prosecutor to handle such cases.
The governor, at the time, described the order as a temporary measure to give lawmakers and himself more time to pass legislation.
A Cuomo administration spokesman, conceding that the Legislature remains unlikely to adopt the governor’s plan, said there’s no plan to rescind the executive order naming the attorney general as special prosecutor.
“Our point is that we need a special prosecutor that is independent in both perception and reality,” said spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
“We believe that having the Attorney General in this position is working and we intend for it to continue,” he said.
In their letter, the family members asked for a meeting with Cuomo to discuss the issue and added that “any permanent proposal to replace the executive order should be stronger and broader, not narrower and weaker.”