New York State's top prosecutor on Monday sought the power to probe all police killings of unarmed civilians in his state, following sometimes violent protests over two grand juries' moves to clear officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said action was needed to address a "crisis of confidence" in the criminal justice system.
Cities across the United States have seen large demonstrations in recent nights following a grand jury's decision not to charge an officer in the July killing of Eric Garner. An unarmed 43 year-old father of six, Garner died after police placed him in a banned chokehold.
The decision in the Garner case came a little more than a week after a Missouri grand jury cleared an officer in the August fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown.
"The horrible events surrounding the death of Eric Garner have revealed a deep crisis of confidence in some of the fundamental elements of our criminal justice system," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Nothing could be more critical for both the public and the police officers who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe than acting immediately to restore trust."
Schneiderman said he was seeking a temporary executive order from state Governor Andrew Cuomo shifting authority to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians to the state from local prosecutors, who work closely with local police, until lawmakers could pass a more permanent measure.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose office is investigating the Garner case, on Monday plans to unveil a set of changes to federal law enforcement guidelines intended to set an example for local police, according to a Justice Department official.
Cold, wet weather in New York brought smaller crowds of protesters over the weekend, though organizers have vowed fresh actions on Monday.
Police in Berkeley, California, on Monday said they made five arrests during Sunday night protests, when a crowd of more than 500 people hurled objects at police and a number of stores were looted. One protester who tried to prevent the looting was assaulted, police said.
While no criminal charges have been brought, and Schneiderman's request would not apply to the Garner case or any other case preceding the executive order he has sought, the NYPD is conducting an internal investigation into the case. The probe into whether Pantaleo broke any department rules could take four months, officials have said. The Justice Department is also investigating the case.
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