NEW YORK CITY—Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would issue an executive order appointing a special prosecutor to investigate police killings if the legislature fails to approve his plan to create an independent monitor.
Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday in Albany after meeting with family members of those killed by police including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham and Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell.
In his State of the State address in January, Cuomo announced plans to introduce an independent monitor, such as a retired judge to review police cases where an unarmed civilian is killed and the case is not presented to a grand jury.
The monitor would have access to police and grand jury records and be able to recommend that Cuomo appoint a special prosecutor.
Currently such cases are handled by the local district attorneys.
The proposal falls short of a request by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that he be appointed as a special prosecutor to review police killings of unarmed civilians. The family members of people killed by police applauded Cuomo's ultimatum but also want an independent prosecutor.
"We remain committed to demanding an executive order for a special prosecutor for all police killings, because establishing prosecution that is independent and external of local DAs is the only way to resolve the conflict of interest that has systemically failed to provide justice in these cases within our state and across the nation," the group said in a joint statement.
The move comes in the wake of a spate of killings of unarmed black men by police officers around the country. Riots recently erupted in Baltimore after Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man, died of severe spinal injuries following a foot chase and arrest by police
“Even though my son's murder was caught on video, there was still no indictment,” said Carr, mother of Eric Garner. “This just shows you why we need the governor to sign an executive order for a special prosecutor today.”
The officers in the Sean Bell case were put on trial but not convicted.
“During the trial, it felt as though my son was the one who had been indicted, not the police officers who killed him," Valerie Bell said. "There is a conflict of interest when DAs prosecute the police officers they have to work with and rely on every day, and I believe this is why there was no justice for my son.”
The city's district attorneys do not agree with the call for a special prosecutor but did largely endorse Cuomo's plan for an independent monitor.
Cuomo's office was not immediately available for comment.
Kerri Biche, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said discussions are ongoing.
"The Speaker and the members of the Assembly Majority want to see more transparency in the grand jury process because citizens have a right to know what choices were available and to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest," said Biche.
"These are things we continue to discuss with the Governor."
The family members say the governor pledged to follow-up with them on the issue within a month.
“We want justice and accountability so that no more families have to experience the heartbreak and pain of unjustly losing a loved one to police violence," said Malcolm.