ALBANY, N.Y. -- As the national debate over policing and criminal justice reform continues to roil, New York state lawmakers are pushing for action now on responding to the crisis.
"We cannot continue to pretend that all is well and not necessary to change," said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D.
Democratic lawmakers are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to take up cases in which an unarmed civilian dies in a confrontation with police. The push comes after a spate of deaths of unarmed black men involving police have grabbed national headlines and led to protests both peaceful and violent.
"There's an unrest among these young people. They're feeling no one is hearing them and this is our year that the Assembly especially is saying we hear you and we're going to move forward on legislative action not just through June, but all the way through until we get this done," said Assemblyman Michael Blake, D-Bronx.
Cuomo has said he would appoint a special prosecutor to handle such cases if the legislature doesn't approve his own criminal justice reforms, including grand jury transparency measures and the creation of a monitor to oversee police brutality incidents. Cuomo this week met with family members of those who died when interacting with law enforcement.
"I believe that something will happen by the end of June. I think it's imperative," said Stewart-Cousins.
But reform is complicated. Senate Republicans are pushing for more protections for police, and Assembly Democrats want to go further than Cuomo's reforms and consider changes to other areas, such as post-arrest procedures and interrogations.
"We intend to look at all of the areas of where the criminal justice system needs reform and where people think that they don't get a fair shot," said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn.
The Assembly in May will hold a public hearing on criminal justice reforms, which were not part of the budget negotiations, given their complexity.
"You can't really do justice to criminal justice issues that are contentious issues in the budget negotiation. They should be aired in the legislative process, in the light of day," said Lentol.
The clock is ticking on these changes: The legislative session runs until June 17.