Thompson, Schneiderman Cross Swords Over Cop Investigations

Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson
Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson

In a battle of jurisdictions, Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson didn’t waste much time in denouncing State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s call for Governor Cuomo to issue an executive order allowing his office to immediately take over all cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers.

Schneiderman’s call for the executive order comes after Thompson announced Friday his office is investigating the shooting death of Akai Gurley, and following the no indictment of a police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

“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,” said Schneiderman. “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 and confidence in the  independence of reviews in any case involving an unarmed civilian killed by a law enforcement officer. While several worthy legislative reforms have been proposed, the Governor has the power to act today to solve this problem. I strongly encourage him to take action now.”

But Thompson countered by noting as the duly elected district attorney of Brooklyn it is his role to investigate and potentially prosecute alleged acts of police brutality.

“No one is more committed to ensuring equal justice under the law than I am,” said Thompson. “Moreover, acts of police brutality are not only crimes against the individual victim but also are attacks on the communities in which they occur. Therefore, local prosecutors who are elected to enforce the laws in those communities should not be robbed of their ability to faithfully and fairly do so in cases where police officers shoot, kill or injure someone unjustly. The people of Brooklyn have voted for their District Attorney to keep them safe from all crimes, including those of police brutality. The Attorney General’s proposal would override their choice – and that should not happen,” he added.

Schneiderman noted in his call for the executive action it would apply only to incidents occurring on or after the date the order is signed.  Additionally, the order would expire when the Legislature acts to permanently address this issue in such manner as it deems appropriate.

Either prosecutor will have their hands full in the Gurley case.  Rookie Police Officer Peter Liang shot the unarmed Gurley Nov. 20 while doing a vertical patrol in the darkened stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York.  The incident begs several chain of command questions such as why were two rookie cops doing vertical patrols in a crime-plagued public housing project when just months ago Police Commissioner William Bratton insisted rookies would not patrol high crime neighborhoods known as Impact Zones.

Schneiderman’s call for the executive order drew wide support from other Brooklyn lawmakers including former Brooklyn City Council Member and current Public Advocate Letitia James, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Members  Karim Camara, Felix Ortiz and Nick Perry, and City Council Members Brad Lander and  Jumaane D. Williams.

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