Cops respond after New York AG Letitia James announces ‘drastic reform’ in use of force rules

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New York Attorney General Letitia James has unveiled legislation that would drastically alter the ability of police officers in the left-wing state to apply “force” against uncooperative, potentially dangerous criminal suspects.

Dubbed the Police Accountability Act, the legislation — which has already been sponsored by lawmakers in the state’s Democrat-led Legislature — would “change New York state’s laws governing police violence to strengthen prosecutors’ ability to hold police officers accountable for unjustified and excessive use of force,” according to a press release from James’ office.

More specifically, it would make it so that police officers may only use “force” as a “last resort,” meaning they would be mandated to first try applying other methods such as “de-escalation” and “verbal warnings.”

During a press briefing Friday joined by Gwen Carr, the mother of deceased criminal suspect Eric Garner, who died while being apprehended by authorities in 2014, James claimed that this new bill is part of an ongoing “racial reckoning.”

“At a time of racial reckoning in this country, it’s important that we reform the laws and that we provide justice for all individuals who feel that their lives do not matter,” she said.

NY AG press conference

WATCH LIVE – New York Attorney General Letitia James is making an announcement about criminal justice reform.

Posted by 7 Eyewitness News WKBW on Friday, May 21, 2021

(Video: WKBW)

“There is no question that our criminal justice system is in need of drastic reform. For far too long, police officers have gotten away with putting people’s lives in danger without facing consequences of any kind. Not only is that unjust, but it’s deeply painful for those of us who have lost family members to police violence,” Carr added.

“I commend Attorney General James for taking this bold and necessary action to reform New York’s laws and ensure that we have more tools available to hold officers accountable who use unnecessary deadly force,” she continued.

Indeed, it appears the bill was purposefully unveiled only days before the anniversary of the death of Minneapolis criminal suspect George Floyd, who died while being apprehended last May by a team of local officers led by Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin, who was promptly fired after Floyd’s death, was convicted last month on second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

Despite Chauvin’s successful conviction — albeit in another state — James maintained Friday that America’s justice system is unfair and thus requires reforms to make it easier to hold misbehaving police officers accountable.

And so with that in mind, the Police Accountability Act establishes “higher standards of proof” for using force while apprehending a suspect, therefore making it significantly easier for prosecutors to target officers who use lethal or nonlethal force.

But in a statement, Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which is the largest police union in the state, warned that these new “standards” will disincentivize the apprehension of dangerous criminals.

“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. The only reasonable solution will be to avoid confrontations where force might become necessary,” he said.

“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,” he added.

At issue is the concern that James’ proposed law will be used to railroad officers who did nothing wrong.

While not applicable to New York, a recent case out of Ohio provides a perfect example. Last month, an arriving officer opened fire on and fatally shot a 16-year-old black girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, who’d been about to stab another black girl with a knife.

Bryant’s fatal shooting provoked widespread outrage and backlash from anti-police activists and their supporters, including even NBA legend LeBron James.

While the officer who’d fired the shot was not charged, James’ proposal raises the question of whether he would have been had the shooting occurred in New York — and, more importantly, had it occurred with the Police Accountability Act in effect.

The New York Times notes, in fact, that “the proposed law could make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges against officers who use lethal force.”

However, in a statement to the Times, John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Dennis Kenney warned that the law could backfire on James.

“It creates a great deal of unnecessary ambiguity. They may more easily be able to bring charges, but they’ll have more difficultly getting convictions because it’s easier to create reasonable doubt,” he said.

All this comes as New York’s most populous city, New York City, faces a never-ending wave of crime, particularly hate crimes against Jews:

“NYPD stats for last month show crime overall up more than 30% year over year. Specifically, robberies are up 28%, assaults 35% and shootings a staggering 166%,” local station WAVY reported Friday.

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Vivek Saxena

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