NEW YORK, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has requested to be appointed as the special prosecutor in a probe of civilian deaths at the hands of police.
A bill has been proposed before the state legislature to strip local district attorneys of their authority and give it to the state attorney when investigating crimes by police officers. In the interim, Schneiderman has approached Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give him temporary authority until the bill is passed. The request comes after public outrage sparked over the failure of a grand jury to indict the police officer who put Eric Garner in a fatal choke-hold.
"It is time to acknowledge that the public has lost confidence in this part of our criminal justice system," he said at a news conference Monday.
Schneiderman said the probe should be led by his office as the city district attorneys are restrained by a conflict of interest.
"There is an inherent conflict when local district attorneys who work with police departments everyday are asked to investigate members of those departments," he argued.
Both City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James stood by Schneiderman at the press conference, saying this was a bigger issue than local cases.
"It is unrealistic to expect district attorneys who rely upon local police to make their cases to be absolutely impartial when investigating police misconduct," said James.
"We have to think beyond street corners, beyond local jurisdictions and appoint someone with impeccable credentials who can do this work throughout our state," echoed Stringer.
The prosecutors in New York City have come out against Schneiderman's effort to lead the probe, saying they should be the authority on the cases in their jurisdictions.
District Attorneys Kenneth Thompson of Brooklyn and Richard Brown of Queens are adamantly opposed to the governor overriding their authority.
"As the duly elected district attorney of Brooklyn, I am adamantly opposed to the request by the New York State attorney general for authority to investigate and potentially prosecute alleged acts of police brutality," said Thompson. "No one is more committed to ensuring equal justice under the law than I am."