New York AG rolls out police reform efforts targeting use of force

New York AG rolls out police reform efforts targeting use of force
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New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Friday rolled out a broad police reform push that would target law enforcement’s use of deadly force.

James on Friday announced that a bill is being introduced in the state legislature that would amend New York’s use of force law to an “absolute last resort” from “one of simple necessity.” New penalties would also be slapped on officers who use unnecessary force. 

“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,” James said in a statement. “The Police Accountability Act will make critical and necessary changes to the law, providing clear and legitimate standards for when the use of force is acceptable and enacting real consequences for when an officer crosses that line. 

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“While this is an important step in addressing the shortfalls of our criminal justice system, it is not a cure all for the ills that have impacted too many families and claimed too many lives," she continued. "We must continue to do everything in our power to protect our communities and ensure that no one is beyond the reach of justice.”

James, a vocal progressive who has been rumored to have her eye on public office in the future, has suggested she will tackle criminal justice reform after the March 2020 police killing of a Rochester man who was experiencing a mental health crisis. 

James maintained that the law would still allow officers to protect themselves and others in a “reasonable” fashion in the line of duty.

The bill is sponsored by assembly member Nick Perry (D) and state Sen. Kevin Parker (D).

“Currently, the ‘excessive use of force’ is a term of poetry in the state of New York. This important legislation corrects that and defines it in the law,” said Parker. “This creates a reasonable expectation for law enforcement as well as the people of our great state. Thank you to the attorney general for your leadership on this important issue.”

The New York Police Benevolent Association panned the legislation, saying it would could put cops at a disadvantage when confronting 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," said NYPBA President Patrick Lynch. "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."