“In New York, and across the country, the promise of equal justice under law has been eroded by a series of tragedies involving the death of unarmed persons as a result of the use of force by law enforcement officers.”
Under that premise, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took a step forward this week when he asked governor Cuomo to grant him special powers allowing him to investigate future cases of police brutality.
Supporters of the proposal claim that an independent viewpoint is urgently needed to better investigate cases of excessive force.
This comes after the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri both African American in which their respective juries exonerated the cops involved, in spite of evidence against them.
On the other hand, those who oppose or have qualms about Schneiderman’s approach, consider it an insult to the attorneys’ intelligence, and a disruption to the established legal system.
In all this discussion, what Schneiderman has made clear is that legal reforms are needed to ensure fair and transparent trials. Things cannot go on as they are.
On the table is, for example, the legislation proposed recently by Democrat Assembly Members Karim Camara and Marcos Crespo, which would create special prosecutors dealing specifically with cases involving cops accused of shooting unarmed civilians.
On the federal level, the Justice Department issued new guidelines to stop racial profiling in law-enforcing agencies.
The change of mentality won’t be easy, but it’s a start.
Meanwhile, New York has the opportunity to lead a national change towards recovering the trust in the judicial system.
Governor Cuomo can set a precedent for other states if he temporarily uses his executive power. But ideally he should go much further and facilitate a change to the existing laws in order to ensure that the rights of both victims and defendants are fully protected in prejudice-free trials