Attorney General James, lawmakers announce legislation to change police use of force rules

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NEW YORK (NEWS10) — New York Attorney General Tish James has collaborated with members of the New York State legislature to create legislation that would change when police use of force is considered acceptable.

“In New York it is exceedingly difficult to prosecute police officers who kill civilians because of an expansive justification law that gives officers extraordinary wide latitude,” James said.

But, legislation introduced in the state legislature aims to change that. It’s called the Police Accountability Act. It requires officers to first “exhaust alternatives, including de-escalation, lower levels of force, verbal warnings, and other methods.”

“The centerpiece of this effort is to amend the use of force law to one of simple necessity to one of absolute last resort,” James said.

If someone is simply suspected of criminal conduct, that alone cannot be used as a justification for lethal force.

The bill is supported by Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr. Garner was killed in 2014 by police choke hold. “We are tired of having our black and brown murdered by the police, our unarmed black and brown,” Carr said.

The bill also gives prosecutors a mechanism to evaluate if a police officer’s conduct led to the need to use force. Peter Kehoe with the New York State Sheriffs’ Association says for starters, he finds the name of the legislation insulting, and he says it’s impractical. “It creates second guessing of everything a police officer does… the officer will be responsible for the result if the officer creates a situation where force is required makes no sense. What is an officer going to do stand down the block and say, ‘hey you over there, be nice,'” he said.

James says otherwise. “I want to be clear. Now, this is not going to change those split-second decisions that officers must make,” she said.

The bill also sets criminal penalties for excessive use of force by police officers.

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