It’s not quite clear what the state Legislature is still hoping to accomplish in its final 10 scheduled days of session, so Attorney General Tish James has an idea for it.
James today announced a bill sponsored by Brooklyn Democrats Sen. Kevin Parker and Assemblymember Nick Perry that would overhaul state law and bar police officers from using lethal force unless there's no other option.
It’s a big step in the ongoing debate among New York Democrats about the balance between police reform and tamping down a crime surge in New York City. James was joined in the city by a handful of Democratic lawmakers and Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died in 2014 after being placed in a police chokehold.
“In New York, our laws have essentially given police blanket defense to use force in interactions with the public, making it exceedingly difficult for prosecutors to go after officers who have abused this power,” she said.
The new measure would make use of force a last resort, would ensure that suspicion of criminal conduct cannot justify lethal force and would allow prosecutors to evaluate if police conduct had contributed to the use of force.
The New York City Police Benevolent Association blasted the legislation as dangerous to its members.
“This sweeping proposal would make it impossible for police officers to determine whether or not we are permitted to use force in a given situation," PBA president Pat Lynch said in a statement. "The only reasonable solution will be to avoid confrontations where force might become necessary. Meanwhile, violent criminals certainly aren’t hesitating to use force against police officers or our communities. The bottom line: More cops and more regular New Yorkers are going to get hurt.”
The PBA of New York State “respectfully" declined to comment, according to a spokesman. The legislation has not yet been scheduled for committee consideration or floor votes.