NY AG Calls For Sweeping Legislation To Hold Police More Accountable

The New York state Attorney General wants sweeping new legislation to try to hold police more accountable. It would change laws governing excessive use of force; CBS2's Dick Brennan reports.

Video Transcript

- New York's attorney general says she wants sweeping new legislation to try to hold police more accountable.

- It would change laws governing excessive use of force. CBS 2's Dick Brennan here in studio with the details for us. Dick?

DICK BRENNAN: Kristine and Maurice, the legislation seeks to change New York's law that justifies police use of force. The attorney general says the standard is too high for prosecutors seeking justice against officers who have gone too far. But police say the law will put officers lives at risk.

LETITIA JAMES: Our goal today is to preserve lives by making sure that under the law, lethal force is the last resort.

DICK BRENNAN: Attorney General James says in light of the George Floyd killing and other instances of police brutality, she wants to change the law governing use of force by police from one of simple necessity to one of absolute last resort, mandating that police officers only use force after all other alternatives have been exhausted.

LETITIA JAMES: It will mandate that an officer only use deadly force when they truly believe it is necessary and that a-- and that a reasonable person in the same position would also hold that belief.

DICK BRENNAN: James says the law would require officers to first try to de-escalate a situation. But, she says, this would not apply to officers who are making split-second decisions.

LETITIA JAMES: When their life or the life of another individual is being threatened, it will not change those situations. There are reasonable protections that officers need in situations like those.

DICK BRENNAN: PBA president Pat Lynch issued a statement saying "this sweeping proposal would make it impossible for police officers to determine whether or not we are permitted to use force in a given situation. The bottom line-- more cops and more regular New Yorkers are going to get hurt."

ROBERT GONZALEZ: I just think that it's a free-for-all now as it relates to everyone getting involved in the changes in law enforcement, whether they're experts in law enforcement or not.

DICK BRENNAN: Dr. Robert Gonzalez, a professor at St. John's University, is a former NYPD training officer. He says if the legislation is passed, police will face a new standard.

ROBERT GONZALEZ: The officers are going to be scrutinized on what level of force they use and how did they get to the point that they actually discharged their firearm.

DICK BRENNAN: Now, in a statement, the NYPD said that the department's use-of-force guidelines are a model of national standards. They say they will review the legislation. Kristine?

- Thank you, Dick.