Text of Jan. 28, 2019 Letter from 18 Family Members of New Yorkers Killed by Police to Gov. Cuomo Regarding "Special Counsel" Proposal
January 28, 2019
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We are 18 family members whose loved ones were killed by police officers in New York State during the last 25 years. We are writing to you today to express our deep disappointment with your proposal for a “Special Counsel” that you included in your budget proposal for the current legislative session.
Many of us fought for and ultimately worked with you in 2015 to create the historic executive order for a special prosecutor for police killings in New York. Although a special prosecutor can never address the injustice and pain that our families faced when police took the lives of our loved ones, we know that it has been an important step towards improving accountability and transparency for police killings of civilians.
Your proposed “Special Counsel” would be a major step back from what currently exists through your executive order, and is weaker and narrower than the bill that we support (A.1601-Perry) that has passed out of the Assembly for the past two years. A special prosecutor for police killings should be responsible for investigating (and if warranted, prosecuting) all killings by police and deaths in police custody. Instead of focusing on all police killings, your proposal says that a special prosecutor can investigate only when a person is unarmed. This is deeply problematic and wrong.
We don't understand why you are calling for a major step back from your own special prosecutor executive order you signed in 2015, and we know that the police reform coalition we are part of has reached out to your counsel to try to have a conversation, with no response. The 2015 executive order empowers the Attorney General to investigate cases in which civilians are killed by police – and doesn’t limit the special prosecutor’s authority to just incidents in which the person killed is reportedly unarmed.
Additionally, your latest proposal does not include public reporting on investigations, and fails to include police misconduct that is too often related to the unjust killing of New Yorkers by police – for example, police officers lying in official statements, police harassment of witnesses and survivors, and other activities related to efforts to cover-up police killings that all of us have seen take place in the case of our loved ones. You’ve included related misconduct in conforming orders that you have issued related to the Attorney General’s investigations in the past year, so again, we are confused about why your “Special Counsel” proposal goes backwards from the status quo.
A true commitment to police accountability and criminal justice reform requires abandoning this misguided and counterproductive Special Counsel proposal and working with us to improve it before your 30-day amended budget proposal is finalized or champion the passage of A.1601-Perry. This long overdue special prosecutor legislation would help our families and others in the future win justice for the painful and unfair deaths of their loved ones.
With Democrats in full control of the state legislature, it’s time for real progressive leadership that will deliver long overdue justice to families like ours and to communities harmed by police killings and misconduct.
We strongly urge you to amend your budget proposal to at minimum, enact provisions laid out in the special prosecutor legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Nick Perry. This legislation (A.1601-Perry) would codify and strengthen your executive order from 2015, provide the Attorney General’s office with jurisdiction in all cases of police killings and deaths in police custody, and ensure that there is public reporting of activities of the special prosecutor.
We urge you to maintain your commitment to justice and elevating New York as a national leader in how it handles these tragic circumstances, so that we can begin to prevent future killings by police.
We would like to hear from your office by February 1 about scheduling a meeting to discuss these vital issues before budget proposals are negotiated, finalized and considered for votes.
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez (killed by police in 1994)
Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah (killed by police in 2012)
Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell (killed by police in 2006)
William Bell, father of Sean Bell (killed by police in 2006)
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner (killed by police in 2014)
Victoria Davis, sister of Delrawn Small (killed by police in 2016)
Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo (killed by police in 1999)
Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis (killed by police in 2012)
Jennifer Gonzales, mother of Kenny Lazo's son (killed by police in 2008)
Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray (killed by police in 2013)
Angie Hicks, aunt of Shantel Davis (killed by police in 2012)
Joyce Huang, sister of Yong Xin Huang (killed by police in 1995)
Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado (killed by police in 2011)
Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham (killed by police in 2012)
Tsukasa Oyamada, father of Ryo Oyamada (killed by police in 2013)
Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado (killed by police in 2007)
Hertencia Petersen, aunt of Akai Gurley (killed by police in 2014)
Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega (both killed by police in 1995)
cc: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Assemblymember Tremaine Wright, Chair of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus
Assemblymember Nick Perry
Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor