Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to create an independent review of police-related deaths of civilians if an officer is cleared by a grand jury has hit opposition from the state troopers union.
Meanwhile, a district attorneys group is supporting, in general, changes to the grand jury system that the governor proposed in his State of the State speech last week.
Thomas H. Mungeer, president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association, said that appointment of a special prosecutor would be unfair to officers because it would add unjustified scrutiny.
“By creating the position of an independent monitor who would have the power to appoint a special prosecutor after a no true bill decision by a grand jury, police officers would be subjected to different protocols than any other citizen,” Mungeer said. “This proposal, in essence, establishes a double-jeopardy situation for police officers acting under their governmental authority.”
Cuomo is recommending a two-tiered grand jury system, but Mungeer says that any such changes must ensure equal justice.
“Such a significant issue should not be influenced by political appeasement. Allowing that to be done would be a huge mistake by the New York State Legislature,” Mungeer said, referring to recent high-profile deaths of unarmed black males in encounters with police in New York City and nationwide.
“Police officers who risk their lives to uphold the law shouldn’t be forced to give up their constitutional rights based on their occupation,” Mungeer added.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, which is currently headed by Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, offered support, in general, for changes to the grand jury system that the governor has proposed.
“The District Attorneys Association accepts, in principle, the concept of statutory changes to increase the transparency of the grand jury process and to create more informed procedures in police-involved civilian fatalities, be it expanding the authority of the county district attorney to issue a written report and/or subsequent review by others founded by clearly delineated legal standards and defined procedures,” Sedita said.
The association, he added, “enthusiastically looks forward to working closely with the executive branch and the Legislature to work out the details of the proposal.”