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New York Attorney General Letitia James on Friday introduced police reform legislation allowing prosecutors to determine whether officers unlawfully abuse the use of force.
The Police Accountability Act aims to make officers' use of force a last resort rather than "simple necessity" after attempting multiple other de-escalation tactics, according to a press release.
"For far too long, police officers in this country have been able to evade accountability for the unjustified use of excessive and lethal force," Attorney General James said in a Friday statement. "In New York, our laws have essentially given police blanket defense to use force in interactions with the public, making it exceedingly difficult for prosecutors to go after officers who have abused this power."
The new legislation will provide "clear and legitimate standards for when the use of force is acceptable and enacting real consequences for when an officer crosses that line," she said, adding that the bill, however, is "not a cure all for the ills that have impacted too many families and claimed too many lives."
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The bill includes reform measures that aim to reduce police-involved shootings of civilians, the press release reads.
Those measures include: establishing a ‘last resort’ standard for the use of force; eliminating justification for police officers to use "excessive force" when they suspect someone of criminal activity; allowing prosecutors to determine whether an officer's behavior created the risk that force would become necessary; and creating criminal penalties for officers who use unnecessary, excessive force.
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Local and federal politicians across the country have introduced police reform legislation over the past year since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on May 25 after kneeling on his neck for nine minutes, sparking debate about unlawful use of force by police on detainees.