New York’s new system of investigating cases in which unarmed civilians are killed by police should serve as an example as other states look to shore up confidence in law enforcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday.
The two Democrats made their remarks following a closed-door meeting with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and members of the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, which was called to discuss the state’s new special prosecutorial unit tasked with investigating and potentially prosecuting cases involving killings by police or the deaths of civilians in police custody.
“This is a national model,” Schneiderman said. “There is no other state that has done this.”
Jeffries, a New York City Democrat, said he is pleased to see the state taking steps to respond to what he called a national problem.
“Far too often when unarmed African-American men or others are killed in a police encounter, police officers are often held unaccountable,” he said. “That shakes the confidence in the criminal justice system.”
The special prosecutorial unit was created last month by Schneiderman after Cuomo signed an executive order directing the AG’s office to investigate and potentially prosecute cases involving killings by police or the deaths of civilians in police custody.
The team’s first investigation is into the death of Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old woman who died last month in a police holding cell in Mount Vernon.
Turner was arrested July 25 on a charge of stealing a package of crab legs from a wholesale food store. She was held for arraignment and police said she reported not feeling well on July 26. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she was treated for high blood pressure, then returned to her cell a few hours later. She was last seen alive at midday July 27, then found dead at 2 p.m.
Cuomo said the case demonstrates the need for a special prosecutor.
“How does a person arrested for shoplifting end up dying? If she was that ill why was she left in her cell?” he asked.