The New York Attorney General would be allowed to investigate and if necessary prosecute the case when a person dies in police custody, according to a bill the state Legislature passed on Wednesday.
The bill (S.2574C/A.1601C) would create an Office of Special Investigation under the office of the state Attorney General to handle such cases, which also include situations when a person dies after an encounter with a police officer or a peace officer.
The Senate passed the bill 45-17 and the Assembly approved it 96-47. It now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who has said he would sign the bill.
“New Yorkers deserve a judicial system that is impartial and fair,” Assemblyman Nick Perry (D) of Brooklyn, who sponsored the bill, said in a news release. “Creating the Office of Special Investigation will address conflicts of interest and foster public confidence that when civilians die as a result of an interaction with law enforcement, justice will be served.”
Lawmakers on Wednesday also passed a bill (S.3595C/A.10002B) that would create a Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office to study and make recommendations regarding the operations, policies, programs, and practices of local law enforcement agencies. The Senate passed the measure 41-21 and the Assembly, 109-35.
‘A First Step’
The bills are part of a criminal justice package taken up by the Legislature this week following civil unrest and protests nationwide spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd. He died while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Over the past two days the Legislature also passed measures criminalizing the harmful use of chokeholds by police, making police disciplinary records public, and requiring State Police to wear body cameras.
“What we did is not a cure, but it is a first step towards acknowledging that while laws alone cannot fix racism in America, they can begin to root injustice out of our justice system, and start us on the path to equality,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at firstname.lastname@example.org