We must restore confidence in our justice system

By Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman published an op-ed for The Huffington Post Dec. 9 on restoring public trust and confidence in the fairness of reviews of cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers.

Schneiderman sent a letter Monday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting an interim executive order directing his office to investigate cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.

The following are excerpts from the op-ed:

ON THE PUBLIC’S LACK OF CONFIDENCE: Many have suggested there is an inherent conflict when local district attorneys who work with police departments every day are asked to investigate members of those departments. I have the highest possible regard for the district attorneys in the State of New York. But as prosecutors, it is time to acknowledge that the public has lost confidence in this part of our criminal justice system.

ON THE NEED FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION: Some have already proposed legislation that would address this apparent conflict. I look forward to working with everyone here to pass meaningful reforms that move us closer to the basic promise of equal justice under the law for everyone. But the fact is, we cannot afford to wait until the legislature returns to Albany, conducts its debates and passes a bill. The crisis of confidence in our communities is real. It is powerful. It is happening now. And it carries an imminent risk of danger.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC TRUST IN POLICE: When the trust between the police and the communities they serve breaks down, everyone is at risk. New Yorkers must be able to trust the men and women of the NYPD. They must come forward to report crimes. And they must come forward as witnesses. We cannot wait months for the legislature to act. We can, and must, act now.

ON THE GOVERNOR’S AUTHORITY: Existing state law authorizes the governor to supersede any local district attorney on any criminal matter by appointing the attorney general to investigate and prosecute the case. This broad grant of authority is based in Article IV, Section 3 of the state constitution and has been invoked many times in the past. In addition, executive law section 63 (3) authorizes the governor to direct the attorney general to “investigate the alleged commission of any indictable offense or offenses,” and to prosecute the person or persons believed to have committed any such offenses. Consistent with this legal authority, the governor should to immediately issue a temporary standing order authorizing my office to investigate the circumstances surrounding cases in which unarmed civilians are killed as a result of the actions of a police officer who is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read at: ag.ny.gov/‌press‌-rele‌ase/‌op-ed‌-foll‌owing‌-garn‌er-ca‌se-we‌-need‌-rest‌ore-c‌onfid‌ence-‌our-j‌ustic‌e-sys‌tem-n‌ow

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