Cuomo — demands heat up for Special Prosecutor in police slayings
The families of 18 New Yorkers killed by the police have launched a campaign to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint a Special Prosecutor to handle cases involving fatal shootings by officers.
“The system is broken,” the family members of people “injustly” slain by police say in a letter to the governor.
The families urge Governor Cuomo in a separate press statement to “immediately prioritize executive action for a special prosecutor in police killings,” and have also requested a meeting with him.
“Losing a child, sibling or spouse to police violence is horrific,” the letter to the governor reads. “The loss is compounded when the criminal justice system fails to provide any justice or accountability for those responsible for the deaths of New Yorkers. A special prosecutor would have helped our families, and can help countless families in the future.”
“New Yorkers have looked to District Attorneys to investigate and charge the officers who took the lives of their loved ones for decades,” the letter continues. “In all of our cases, the District Attorneys failed to deliver any justice or accountability…even in cases for which there is video evidence. There is an inherent conflict of interest whenever District of Attorneys must investigate the NYPD they rely upon and work with every day. You can begin to fix this problem by immediately enacting an executive order to assign a special prosecutor to all cases of police killings moving forward.”
“We are glad that you have pledged to make criminal justice reform a priority this year and that you are sensitive to the historic failure of District Attorneys and the grand jury system to hold police officers who unjustly kill New Yorkers accountable,” the letter to Governor Cuomo states. “However, we are disappointed that your seven-point agenda did not include more definitive steps towards ensuring police accountability in cases of excessive, deadly force. We need you to take action immediately to ensure the independent, fair and adequate investigation and prosecution of all police brutality cases moving forward.”
“Families who have lost loved ones to unjust police violence and advocates say a special prosecutor would help address conflicts-of-interest and inadequacies that occur when district attorneys are called upon to prosecute police officers,” the families also continued, in the separate press statement.
“NYPD officers unlawfully entered our home and shot and killed my son in cold blood in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother, yet none of them have been held accountable,” said Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham. “A Bronx judge threw the original indictment out based on a technicality. This failure to hold officers who kill our children accountable sends the message that cops can continue brutalizing our communities.”
“The police and the justice system work too closely together and continually fail to hold officers accountable when they kill or brutalize our loved ones,” said Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, who was killed in a hail of more than 50 bullets on the morning he was supposed to have been married. “Even though my son was killed in a hail of 50 bullets and there was an indictment, there was no conviction. We need a special prosecutor who is independent from local police departments and local politics, to prosecute these cases moving forward.”
Also signing the letter is Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, who was hit and killed with 19 of 41 bullets fired by police 16 years ago.
“For far too long and for so many of our families, the justice system and the police department have failed to hold officers accountable when they kill or brutalize our loved ones,” Kadiatou Diallo said. “We believe that special prosecutor for police brutality cases will help restore trust between the communities and law enforcement.”
“A special prosecutor is long overdue,” added Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, also slain by police. “The Governor should enact an executive order now.”
At the end of 2014, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked Governor Cuomo for an immediate executive order authorizing his office, if necessary, prosecute cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.
Governor Cuomo in his own State of the State address last month offer a seven-point plan “to restore trust and respect between community and law enforcement.” Cuomo made no comment on a Special Prosecutor proposal.
“Police-community relations cannot improve until officers who brutalize and kill New Yorkers are held accountable,” said Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director. “We appreciate that Governor Cuomo wishes to address the historical and systemic lack of police accountability. This is why we are calling on him to issue an executive order to assign a special prosecutor to all cases of police use of deadly force moving forward.”
“We cannot get tired,” said Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, who was also killed by police. “We need to carry on. The future is now and we need to change the system.”
“Without a special prosecutor police brutality cases will continue to fall into the hands of unprofessional district attorneys and the families will continue to suffer,” said Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega, who were also fatally shot by police.
“It’s been almost three years since my sister was killed and we’ve heard nothing,” said Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis. “We shouldn’t have to wait this long for justice. No family should.”
“We’ve got District Attorneys that cannot secure indictments or convictions,” said Cynthia Howell, niece of Alberta Spruill, who was killed 12 years ago. “We’ve got officers who kill and brutalize our loved ones with no consequence. But we don’t have a special prosecutor and it’s time for this. It’s past time.”
The family members who signed the letter to Governor Cuomo and are leading the campaign include: Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, parents of Ramarley Graham, killed February 2, 2012 in the Bronx; Valerie and William Bell, parents of Sean Bell, killed November 25, 2006 in Queens; Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, killed February 4, 1999 in the Bronx; Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., killed November 19, 2011 in White Plains; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, killed on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island; Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, killed December 22, 1994 in the Bronx; Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario, killed January 12, 1995 in the Bronx; Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, killed September 26, 2012 in Manhattan; Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis, killed June 14, 2012 in Brooklyn; Cecilia Reyes, mother of Noel Polanco, killed October 4, 2012 in Queens; Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado, killed October 21, 2007 in Manhattan; Amarilis Collado, wife of John Collado, killed September 6, 2011 in Manhattan; Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward Jr., killed August 23, 1994 in Brooklyn; Olga Negron, mother of Iman Morales, killed September 24, 2008 in Brooklyn; Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray, killed March 9, 2013 in Brooklyn; Carmen Morales, mother of Hilton Vega, killed January 12, 1995 in the Bronx; Jennifer Gonzalez, mother of the child of Kenny Lazo, killed in April 8, 2008 in Bay Shore; and, Cynthia Howell, niece of Alberta Spruill, killed in May 16, 2003 in Manhattan.