As protests over Eric Garner’s death continue, Crespo proposes changes
A day after a grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer for killing a Staten Island man by putting him in an illegal chokehold, one local legislator said he will push the state to require tougher oversight of police.
On the steps of City Hall on Dec. 4, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, whose district includes Hunts Point and Longwood, announced he would present bills to his colleagues in Albany in the next few weeks that would include the creation of a new independent prosecutor position to oversee cases of police misconduct across the state. Fellow Assemblyman Karim Camara of Brooklyn joined Crespo in addressing a small gathering of media.
Following Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury in the Eric Garner case, New Yorkers have held demonstration across the city to demand more police accountability.
“Every time there’s a grand jury, we’re not surprised there’s no indictment,” said Crespo, referencing the killing of an unarmed civilian by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last month, in which a grand jury also declined to indict.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said Crespo. “How many times does this have to happen?”
Crespo’s 85th Assembly District also includes Soundview, where Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by police from the 43rd Precinct in 1999.
Crespo has pushed for increased community policing, including a policy that would require every NYPD officer conduct at least one tour of community policing duty every year. He acknowledged after Thursday’s press conference that his South Bronx constituents commonly complain to his office that police in the 41st and 43rd precincts are rude and dismissive when they register police complaints. Basic courtesy on the part of local cops would help heal strained relations between NYPD and communities, he said.
But Crespo was careful not to place blame entirely on NYPD, pointing out that more effective training for cops is urgently needed.
“It’s not a matter of vilifying every officer,” Crespo said. “It’s a bigger picture issue.”
Camara questioned whether the state’s district attorneys are impartial enough to effectively run investigations into alleged police misconduct. The creation of a special prosecutor position at municipal and state levels would add oversight the system now lacks, he said.
“The DA’s actions are compromised,” Camara said. “There needs to be an objective, independent voice to look into the facts of the case.”
Other bills the two legislators say they are drawing up to present to their colleagues in Albany include the creation of a temporary state commission on the use of excessive force by law enforcement; requiring all officers to complete community affairs duties on an annual basis; mandatory annual training for interactions with the mentally disabled; an annual cultural and community awareness course; and requiring officers to identify themselves to the public.
In addition, they say they will call for measures to increase transparency into law enforcement, such as requiring departments to file reports of civil rights offenses, allowing the state’s Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate alleged misconduct by police and peace officers, and videotaping uniformed cops during the course of their duties.