Family members of those who were killed during encounters with police were disappointed Friday when Governor Andrew Cuomo canceled a scheduled meeting with them. Zack Fink filed the following report.
In 2006, Sean Bell was killed by New York City police officers in hail of gunfire just hours before his wedding. The case sparked a national outcry about the excessive use of force.
Along with the members of 17 other families, Bell's father, William, was scheduled to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo at 1 p.m. on Friday. But the governor canceled his appointment with the relatives of those who have died at the hands of the police. It's the second time Cuomo has done so.
"Well, he's been postpoining them. For what reason, I do not know," William Bell said.
Cuomo is working on a package of criminal justice reforms that includes a special monitor being appointed in cases where civilians are killed by police.
"The cops are working with the DA. The DA can't, he ain't going to prosecute the police officers. He gets his information from them," William Bell said.
But families say a special monitor is not good enough. They want an independent prosecutor automatically appointed in all cases.
"We're trying to ask him for an executive order for a special prosecutor for all police killings," said Jennifer Gonzalez, who lost her son's father, Kenny Lazo, in 2008. "Unfortunately, he keeps pushing us off. He's met with artists, famous people regarding this matter."
The problem is not unique to New York City. Gonzalez lost her son's father on Long Island.
"He was beaten to death with flashlights while he was handcuffed face down on the floor by five Suffolk County officers," she said.
In a statement, a spokesman for the governor said, "The Governor proposed a balanced reform package to increase transparency, accountability and ensure justice in perception and in reality. The members of this group have endured unspeakable losses and we continue discussions with them."
This year's budget allocates roughly $200 million contingent upon some kind of criminal justice reform passing by the end of the year. That includes roughly $60 million for protective gear for officers, bulletproof vests and bulletproof glass for patrol cars. Insiders say that is highly unusual, since it's usually the opposite. More often than not, legislation passes, and then there is scramble to find money in the budget to pay for it.