July 29, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman Hold Briefing on Special Prosecutor Executive Order For 100+ Members of Clergy, Community Leaders and State Legislators

Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman Hold Briefing on Special Prosecutor Executive Order For 100+ Members of Clergy, Community Leaders and State Legislators

Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today held a briefing on Executive Order No. 147, which appoints the New York State Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement officers. The order also allows the special prosecutor to review cases where there is a question whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death. Today’s briefing was attended by more than 100 members of the clergy, community leaders and state legislators.


“The justice system does not work without the trust of the people, so it was imperative that New York act to address the crisis of confidence that has been plaguing communities nationwide,” said Governor Cuomo. “This executive order restores trust in the system by ensuring that cases of police-involved civilian deaths will be handled with independence and integrity. It addresses both real and perceived conflicts of interest, and is a critical step toward rebuilding confidence and making sure that the justice system works for everyone in every neighborhood across this state.”

“We are meeting with clergy today to ensure that equal justice is present in every New York community – and that the public is confident it will always be present,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Clergy are the people we all look to for guidance and strength at times of crisis. They act as the connective tissue between the community and its elected leaders. I have assembled an experienced team to fulfill our duties in these tragic cases, and my office is committed to handling them with the highest level of care, professionalism, and independence.”

Senator Ruth Hassell Thompson said, “I believe that the Governor's Executive Order will create an independent avenue of justice to review allegations of police misconduct against unarmed civilians. This Order empowers the Attorney General to take jurisdiction whenever and wherever there is evidence of the improper use of force by law enforcement against unarmed citizens resulting in death. By permitting the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute these special types of cases the people of New York, victims and law enforcement can have hope that these cases will be handled promptly, impartially and fairly. We need to ensure that justice is more than mere words and today, this Order brings us closer to that end.”

Assemblyman Nick Perry said, “At a time when the nation is reeling from questions of bias in the justice system, New York is standing up to change that perception. Appointing a special, independent prosecutor to handle cases of police-involved civilian deaths is a monumental and transformative action that will restore faith in our courts and move New York forward. Other communities across the nation need this kind of reform, and we thank Governor Cuomo for taking action to get it done here at home.”

Assemblyman Walter Mosley said, “It is vital for the American justice system to have the trust of the people – but too often in recent months, we have seen that thrown into question following the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of law enforcement. Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order is a crucial first step and a model for addressing this national problem. I commend the Governor for stepping up and taking action.”

Assemblyman Michael Blake said, “As 2nd Vice-Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus and Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice task force, I commend Governor Cuomo for taking this bold move toward restoring public faith in our criminal justice system. The public’s confidence is shaken any time an unarmed civilian is killed by police. Providing a mechanism for the state Attorney General to review these deaths will bring a fresh and impartial perspective that is much-needed in these very difficult cases.”

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said, “We need to restore public trust in our criminal justice system, and Governor Cuomo’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor is a critical first step. By bringing impartiality to these investigations, we will help mend the damaged public perception of collusion between police and prosecutors. I applaud him for leading the way and look forward to others following suit.”

Karim Camara, Executive Director of the New York State Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services, said, “Governor Cuomo’s executive order is a fundamental change to the status quo that will restore faith in our judicial system. The Governor took this action to stand up for the powerless, for those who have no voices or whose voices were not being heard, and for those communities across our state that have felt distrust in the system that is supposed to protect us all. It is a groundbreaking step for our state that will ensure justice is served.”

Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for his diligent work to ensure that minority communities are safe and protected from police misconduct. This change is exactly what New York needs and I hope that this is the first step to making a change nationwide.”

Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said, “Communities of color in New York and across the nation have lost faith in the justice system, largely because of cases such as those of Eric Garner, Anthony Baez, Freddy Gray and Walter Scott, among many others. New York is the first state to take action like this—and we hope we are the first of 50. The rest of the country needs to follow New York’s lead and grow the trust nationwide.”

Rev. Raymond Rivera, President of the Latino Pastoral Action Center, said, “Too often in recent memory we have heard of a family member who passes away at the hands of someone sworn to protect the public. Although there are deeper issues here regarding racism, economic opportunity and mass incarceration that must eventually be addressed, public confidence in the fairness of the justice system must come first. Governor Cuomo has shown he understands that without justice, the rule of law is a farce. We have a long way to go, but the Governor’s actions have shown us that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dr. John Boyd, Sr., New Greater Bethel Ministries, said, “The laws we live by must adequately protect every single community, and Governor Cuomo has stepped in to right a clear wrong. Even the perception of inequity, bias or corruption in the handling of these cases taints the entire system. A special prosecutor was needed, Governor Cuomo appointed one, and I applaud his decisive and correct action.”

Rev. Leslie Mullings, Pastor Community Church of the Nazarene, said, “Governor Cuomo’s naming of a special prosecutor is vital in seeking to rebuild trust with minority communities—which are all too often victims of police brutality and negligence. Now, victims’ families can be confident that police officers who act violently and dangerously will be held responsible and prosecuted not just as any other member of our community, but as a law enforcement official who should be saving lives, not taking them. I hope this Order acts as a stepping stone toward top-down reform in a criminal justice system that is supposed to protect its citizens, not harm them.”

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, said, “Governor Cuomo is blazing the trail once again – raising standards, increasing trust, and setting an exceptional example for the rest of the country follow. Appointing Attorney General Schneiderman as Special Prosecutor for these disturbing cases is a smart action that reflects New York’s commitment to leadership and integrity. I applaud the Governor for his steadfast advocacy for justice.”

Jennifer Jones Austin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, said, “Governor Cuomo’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor is one that will help put trust back into the justice system for generations to come. New York State is at the forefront of criminal justice reform and is paving the way for other States to follow. I applaud the Governor for listening to the families that have lost a loved one and issuing this Executive Order so we can restore the confidence and integrity that our justice system needs.”

Kirsten Foy, President of the Brooklyn Chapter of the National Action Network, said, “When an unarmed civilian dies at the hands of someone who is supposed to protect and serve our communities, justice must be served, and this Executive Order will ensure that standard is met. I believe that the Governor’s decision to appoint the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in these cases was the right one to make, because it ensures that fairness and integrity will guide our justice system. I thank the Governor and the Attorney General for their leadership on this issue, and for taking the time to meet with representatives from our community.”

Rev. Julius Walls Jr. Pastor Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Yonkers, said, “We want police and prosecutors to work closely together to keep our communities safe. But when a law enforcement officer causes the death of a civilian, that same close working relationship can lead to bias, or the public perception of bias, in favor of the officer. With a special, independent prosecutor, we take an enormous step toward restoring the faith many of our communities have lost in our system of justice. I thank the Governor for this critically important step forward.”

Rev. Johnnie Green, Mt. Neboh Baptist Church and Mobilizing Preachers and Communities, said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for taking the right steps to restore the public’s trust in our justice system. New York State is taking a step in the right direction and putting innocent civilians first. The families of victims will never get back their loved ones, but we can give them dignity by making positive change. With this Executive Order, we will continue progressing towards a brighter, safer future. We look forward to working with the Governor's office.”

Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall said, “I commend Governor Andrew Cuomo for his foresight and action in appointing the Attorney General as Special Prosecutor in cases of civilian death with police involvement. At a time when matters of this tenuous nature are increasingly visible, Governor Cuomo is leading New York and the nation in reforming the way these cases are addressed.”

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