By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) - New York will appoint a special prosecutor to handle investigations when civilians are killed during confrontations with police, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
Cuomo told reporters he would issue an executive order valid for one year that would place Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in charge of investigating and prosecuting police-involved killings, taking those cases out of the hands of district attorneys.
"We will be the first state in the country to acknowledge the problem and say we’re going to create an independent prosecutor who does not have that kind of connection with the organized police departments," Cuomo said, according to the New York Times.
Cuomo said the appointment of a special prosecutor would help rebuild public confidence in law enforcement, following several high profile killings of unarmed black men by officers. Among them was Eric Garner on Staten Island in New York, who was choked to death nearly one year ago.
A grand jury in March declined to indict the officer who placed Garner in a chokehold, a maneuver banned by New York City police. The decision led to weeks of protests over law enforcement's use of force.
The phrase "I can't breathe," which Garner was heard saying before his death, became a slogan of "Black Lives Matter" demonstrations around the country.
Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, attended a rally on Tuesday urging Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to handle deaths of civilians, saying some district attorneys are too closely linked with local police to conduct a fair investigation.
"It's for future families. We don't ever want to see this happen, what happened to my son," she said in comments carried on local news broadcaster NY1.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the New York City's largest police union, called the executive order "unnecessary" and said it could lead to the indictment of officers "for the sake of public perception," a statement said.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Larry King)