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Cuomo meets with families of those who died in police confrontations

Baltimore police stand guard at North and Fulton

Baltimore police stand guard at North and Fulton avenues as violence that erupted Monday afternoon spills into the wee hours Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Nearly 200 people were arrested and 15 officers hurt, six of them seriously, city officials said Tuesday morning, following clashes that began after the funeral for Freddie Gray. Businesses were looted and cars damaged, with officials saying 144 vehicles and 15 structures were set on fire. Credit: CS Muncy

ALBANY - ALBANY -- Relatives of African-Americans who died in police confrontations said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has promised that if the state legislature doesn't approve his proposal to revamp the handling of such cases, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the cases.

A day after riots broke out in Baltimore following the death of an African-American man in police custody, the dozen relatives and supporters who met with Cuomo said the governor would use the threat of appointing special prosecutors to persuade the legislature to agree to his plan. The families say prosecutors, who work closely with local police and run the grand jury system, can't be trusted to prosecute police.

Several said they wanted a special prosecutor appointed immediately. "Where is the justice?" said Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island last summer after police appeared to use a chokehold on him. "We are begging you," she said of Cuomo. "We need an executive order. You heard from all the other mothers, we are all in pain. . . . Our children are not animals. "

Cuomo's counsel, Alphonso David, said, "The governor believes that his reform package is a balanced approach that would correct real and perceived inequities that exist within the system, and he is intent on passing them in the remaining weeks of the legislative session. He made it clear that if these reforms were not approved by the legislature, he would sign an order creating a special prosecutor for police-involved fatalities."

Cuomo has proposed appointing an independent monitor who would review grand jury decisions in police confrontation cases that don't result in officers being indicted. Under his plan, the monitor could recommend the governor use his executive power to appoint a special prosecutor to take the cases away from local prosecutors.

Cuomo is seeking approval before the end of the legislative session on June 17. He faces opposition by the Senate's Republican majority,

Critics of new legislation argue that in most cases the suspects resisted arrest and posed a threat to police. In many cases, a grand jury of local citizens heard evidence in the case and found police committed no crime. But the relatives of those who died and the public aren't allowed to see that evidence under law, which has prompted suspicion.

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