NY AG James proposes changes to police use-of-force laws
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday proposed legislation that would change the state's current laws regarding how police officers use force.
The bill, which is named the Police Accountability Act, would also strengthen a prosecutor's ability to hold police officers accountable for unjustified and excessive use of force.
"Our goal today is to preserve lives by making sure that under the law lethal force is the last resort. And while there is legitimate reason why police officers have some special protections, those protections should not preclude them from being held accountable," James said.
If passed, the bill would change the use-of-force law from being used as a simple necessity to only using force after all other alternatives have been exhausted.
It also puts into place new criminal penalties for police officers who use force that is grossly in excess of what is warranted. Any potential charges would depend on the severity of the injuries that are caused.
James said current laws gives police blanket defense to use force, which she said makes it hard for prosecutors to go after officers who abuse their powers.
"It is exceedingly difficult to prosecute police officers who kill civilians because of an expansive justification law that gives officers extraordinary wide latitude to use force," James said.
One case that is widely known when it comes to use of police force is that of Eric Garner, who died while being put in a chokehold during an arrest back in 2014.
"We have to have some accountability to let them know they're not just going to get away with it. It's not just going to be swept under the rug when you just kill us and say 'oh, well,'" said Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother. "That doesn't work, you cannot bring back a life."
PBA President Pat Lynch responded to the announcement of the bill and said it would make it impossible for police officers to determine whether or not they can use force in a given situation. He added that violent criminals are not hesitating to use force against police officers or the community.