In the wake of the Baltimore riots, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and another New York Democrat also thought to have his eye on the White House, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, got behind two major criminal justice reforms Wednesday.
For Clinton, it was backing the widespread use of police body cameras and an end to excessive prison sentences in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots.
For Cuomo, it was the promise of an executive order appointing special prosecutors in cases like Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore and Eric Garner’s on New York’s Staten Island.
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America," Clinton said at Columbia University.
"There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes," she said, calling on Congress to help "end the era of mass incarceration."
Clinton was speaking at the 18th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum named in honor of New York’s first black mayor.
Clinton addressed the violence in Baltimore, where rioters looted stores and burned buildings to the ground on Monday after the funeral of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering injuries while in police custody.
"There is something wrong when the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve breaks down as far as it has in many of our communities," she said.
She said body-worn cameras for police should be "the norm everywhere," Reuters reports.
"That will improve transparency and accountability; it will help protect good people on both sides of the lens."
Requiring police to wear body cameras has been one of the issues in the debate over policing tactics following the killing of black men by white officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, among other places, last year.
After missing several meetings with the families of New Yorkers who had relatives die at the hands of police, the governor met with relatives from 10 different cases.
From the Albany Times Union: "If lawmakers don't approve his call for an independent monitor to oversee legal proceedings that follow such deaths …. Cuomo will use his executive powers to go even farther and create a special prosecutor who would have the power to pursue charges against officers."
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in a police chokehold, was among those there.
So was Constance Malcolm, the mom of Ramarley Graham, who was shot dead by a New York City cop inside the family’s Bronx home in 2012. The cop who pulled the trigger was convicted, but the finding was later overturned on a technicality.
“The local [district attorneys] are not doing their job,” Malcolm said, according to Capital New York.
Cuomo has been trying to get the Albany legislature to pass a package of reforms and now says he will move ahead on the use of special prosecutors with or without them.
"These families have endured unspeakable losses and their voices are important ones in this debate," Cuomo's counsel Alphonso David said in a statement. "The governor has vowed to keep the dialogue open and meet with them again in the coming weeks."