NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s attorney general is proposing legislation to overhaul the use of force by police, in many cases requiring de-escalation tactics and other measures before officers take lethal action.
Attorney General Letitia James said Friday the bill introduced recently in the state legislature would codify a use-of-force continuum that some departments, including the NYPD, use.
“It will mandate that an officer only use deadly force when they truly believe it is necessary,” James said.
James, a Democrat, highlighted the legislation at a news conference days before the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, which led to nationwide protests against police brutality and a reckoning on officer accountability.
The new legislation would give prosecutors wider latitude to charge officers for killing civilians by eliminating loopholes, James said. She pointed to an exception currently on the books that allows police to use lethal force on people suspected of certain crimes — even if those people are not actively posing a threat.
The legislation wouldn’t prevent officers from taking action when lives are at risk, James said.
“This is not going to change those split-second decisions that officers must make,” she said.
The head of New York City’s largest police union blasted the proposal, saying it would “make it impossible” for officers to determine if they’re allowed to use force.
“The only reasonable solution will be to avoid confrontations where force might become necessary,” said Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, in a statement.
“Meanwhile, violent criminals certainly aren’t hesitating to use force against police officers or our communities,” Lynch said. “The bottom line: more cops and more regular New Yorkers are going to get hurt.”
James was joined at a news conference announcing the legislation by Gwen Carr, whose son, Eric Garner, died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold in 2014. The officer was fired and did not face criminal charges.
Last month, James’ office assumed jurisdiction for investigating the deaths of anyone killed by law enforcement officers, essentially eliminating county district attorneys from any involvement with police killings.
A separate bill in the state assembly would lift the veil of secrecy on grand jury proceedings in cases where no criminal charges are filed.