New York attorney general seeks to probe police killings of unarmed civilians

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a news conference about a settlement announced against the Bank Of America in the Manhattan borough of New York August 21, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's attorney general on Monday asked the governor to empower him to investigate all deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police in the state, following waves of protests nationwide over police killings.

Saying the public had little confidence in local prosecutors' ability to investigate police officers with whom they work closely, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to authorize state-led investigations and prosecutions of police.

The move is necessary to address a "crisis of confidence" in the state's criminal justice system, Schneiderman said in a letter to the governor.

The country has seen weeks of racially charged protests, spreading from Missouri to New York to California following a pair of cases in which grand juries declined to charge white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black male suspects.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Scott Malone; Editing by Susan Heavey)