For years, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has joined the families of victims in calls for accountability in investigations of deaths in police custody. Tuesday’s announcement of a tentative framework designating Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as an interim special prosecutor for such cases is a milestone and a step in the right direction.

“This is an initial victory for families in New York who have demanded police accountability for years, and may offer some solace to those grieving after a year of countless deaths of African-American and Latino victims across the country,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF.

The Executive Order gives Schneiderman’s office the authority for up to one year to investigate deaths of civilians in police custody, pursuant to Section 63 of the New York Executive Law. According to Governor Cuomo, the arrangement will be in place on an interim basis while the state legislature works on a bill that would have an independent special prosecutor named. New York based Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) has been advocating for independent monitoring of police abuse investigations for over a decade given alarming disparities in the killing of unarmed minorities. Before his announcement, the Governor told Justice Committee – a CPR member organization whose members include veteran activist mothers of slain victims such as Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham – that he would work to pass a bill that addressed their concerns that justice could not be achieved through the state’s prosecutorial system.

“The Executive Order is welcomed, but a more permanent solution has to be worked out,” said Janai Nelson, Assistant Director-Counsel at LDF. “In light of overwhelming evidence of police bias, communities need a law that reassures them that each investigation will be handled with fairness, care, and impartiality. We hope that the Governor and the legislature show the leadership needed for real prosecutorial reform.”

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization.  Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.   

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