Mayor Bill de Blasio said today the state attorney general’s request to investigate future fatal encounters between police and unarmed civilians is a “meaningful option,” though he stopped short of offering a full-throated endorsement of the proposal.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning asking the governor, a former attorney general and fellow Democrat, to temporarily authorize him to investigate and prosecute future cases where a police officer’s actions lead to the death of an unarmed civilian.
“I think it’s a meaningful proposal. It’s certainly something we should look at as an option,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated press conference at Gracie Mansion. “There is a real frustration being felt deeply among communities about how police investigations go and how the outcome occurs.”
If Mr. Cuomo agrees to give Mr. Schneiderman the power he seeks, the attorney general would be able to supercede local district attorneys’ investigations. The attorney general’s letter came less than a week after a Staten Island grand jury voted not indict a police officer for placing a black man, Eric Garner, in an apparent chokehold that many say led to his death. In that case, critics said the local district attorney, Republican Daniel Donovan, was too close to the NYPD to carry out an effective investigation.
The vote to not indict in the Garner case also followed a Missouri grand jury’s decision last month not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager, Michael Brown, sparking protests nationwide that have continued into this week. The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into both cases.
Unlike other elected officials, Mr. de Blasio did not directly criticize the Staten Island grand jury. Rather, he has spoken more broadly about the frayed relations between police officers and communities of color.
“I think new ideas about how to approach and make things better are worth looking at,” Mr. de Blasio said. “There’s still a lot to play out, both from the Justice Department investigation and the NYPD’s own investigation.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo said the governor was reviewing the letter.