Criminal justice law marks milestone for family of Andrew Kearse
When the Andrew Kearse Act was signed into New York state law on Monday, it marked a major milestone in his widow’s fight for justice – but she says more work must be done on a federal level.
The law requires law enforcement officers to seek care for any person in their custody experiencing a medical episode or mental health crisis. If they do not, they can now be held liable in civil court.
The policy was inspired by the death of 36-year-old Andrew Kearse – a Bronx man who died while he was under arrest in Schenectady three years ago.
Kearse's family says he died of a heart attack as dash camera footage shows him pleading for help 70 times in 17 minutes from the backseat of a squad car.
The officer behind the wheel was never criminally charged.
Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez and Angelique Negroni-Kearse, Andrew Kearse's widow, are working to make it a criminal offense for officers to ignore anyone in police custody experiencing medical distress. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is co-sponsoring a federal bill that aims to do the same nationally.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new reforms for members of the NYPD on Wednesday including making police disciplinary records available online and giving the Internal Affairs Bureau two weeks to complete investigations into officers accused of causing substantial injury.
While Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association criticized the move, other officials applauded the effort. However, they are asking the mayor to release more details about the plans.