New York’s Cuomo Offers Plan to Bridge Police-Community Divide

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will seek more minority recruitment into local law enforcement, funds for bulletproof vests and body cameras and independent reviews of grand juries that don’t indict officers after encounters in which civilians die.

The proposals, elements of a seven-point criminal justice agenda Cuomo presented in his budget for next year, focused on issues that emerged after the July death of Eric Garner, 43, in a police action on Staten Island and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who placed him in a chokehold.

The incident led to heightened tension when, after weeks of street demonstrations, two patrolmen were shot to death in their squad car. Police union leaders reacted angrily and said Mayor Bill de Blasio had not supported and protected the city’s officers.

“People have to trust the justice system, and the trust has to go both ways,” Cuomo said during an address in Albany. “The people have to respect and trust the police and the police have to trust and respect the community.”

Talking to reporters after the plan was announced, de Blasio said he hadn’t heard about the suggestion to appoint an independent monitor before the governor proposed it.

‘More Deeply’

Greater accountability is “something we obviously need, but what form it should take is open to question,” de Blasio said. “I certainly want to look more deeply at the governor’s proposal.”

Cuomo’s recommendations were quickly endorsed by hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, who released a statement calling the set of proposals “a huge step forward in restoring fairness, protection, sensitivity and accountability for all under our justice system.”

More praise came from Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

“People must have confidence in the justice system and the governor’s proposals should help restore that confidence,” Thompson said in a statement.

State aid to buy body cameras and protective vests might help fund de Blasio’s already-announced goals of outfitting the Police Department’s 23,000 patrol officers with the gear. The cameras are in use on a trial basis in several precincts in the city’s five boroughs.

Cuomo’s proposals included a call for a statewide “reconciliation commission” on police-community relations to mediate future controversies. He offered state help as local departments move toward increased diversity, and he said the state would develop a system to provide racial and ethnic data on police interactions with civilians statewide.

Cuomo also suggested a governor-appointed monitor who would have access to review grand jury proceedings and the power to recommend a special prosecutor when a person dies in police custody and no criminal charges result.

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