During a recent visit Upstate, New York ‘s Attorney General Letitia James Brought a Message of Healing to Rochester. Announced Lawsuit Against Local Landlords for Lead Exposure in Buffalo
During a visit to Rochester last Sunday New York’ s Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James brought a message of healing to Rochester in the wake of the death of a mentally challenged Black man – Daniel Prude – at the hands of police which was followed by days of protest and unrest.
The day before, she was in Buffalo where she announced a lawsuit against a local landlord for lead exposure predominantly in low-income communities of color, resulting in dozens of instances of lead poisoning in children due to the violations.
Buffalo had also experienced the shooting of a 60-year-old Black man with a history of mental problems who was shot by Buffalo police on September 12 which also sparking protests and calls for reform. And in another tragic similarity both cities saw senseless gun violence over the weekend of September 19 ending in the deaths of innocent young people. Sixteen people were shot at a Rochester party resulting in the deaths of two 19-year olds. In Buffalo over the same weekend, five young people were shot at a popup party, killing a 23-year-old female and injuring four young men.
It is a tale of two cities sharing similar crisis and an empathetic, determined State Attorney General with one message. “I am here to bring healing to the city… ” she said during a press conference at Rochester’s Aenon Missionary Baptist Church, “to let everyone know my quest is for justice.”
She expressed her sympathy over the “senseless gunfire” that injured 14 including a 7 year old and killing two and denounced the “over proliferation of guns in urban centers across the nation.”
She revealed that she met with protesters to hear their concerns; sharing with them her own personal participation in protest marches for justice and against police abuse from the murder of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell to Eric Garner in New York.
She offered her deepest condolences to Daniel Prude’s family. Last Sunday (Sept 20) would have been Prude’s 42nd birthday.
She acknowledged the “twin pandemics – Covid 19 and long standing inequalities” – that continue to divide us as a nation.
“I Stand in solidarity with the entire Rochester community yearning for positive change,” she said.
-Semblance of Justice-
Pledging transparency, Attorney General James said Sunday that going forward, her office will now decide when to publicly release body camera footage of police-involved deaths of unarmed civilians to avoid a repeat of what happened in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death.
“Poverty and mental illness should not be crimes and they should not be crimes that result in death,” she declared “Up until now the release of footage has been up to the discretion of local authorities, but this process has caused confusion, delays, and has hampered transparency in a system that should be as open and available to the public as quickly as possible, publicizing the footage, as soon as we have shown it to the deceased family,” James continued .
She said that regardless of the grand jury investigation’s outcome, her office will seek an order from the presiding judge to release the grand jury minutes to the public. Under the new policy, which takes effect immediately, James says she will tell the public when her office opens an investigation into a police-involved death of an unarmed civilian. The public will see the body camera footage as soon as the family of the deceased victim sees it, she said. “We will take into account applicable security, HIPPA laws and other privacy concerns, but we will move as swiftly as possible so the public no longer has to wait months and months before seeing video in the hands of law enforcement,” James said
Vowing to “work together to make sure all voices are heard,” Attorney general James pledged that her office would guarantee fairness and be “ thorough and transparent as we can.” The attorney general also announced that her office would have a link on her website where protesters could submit videos, photos, and testimony of police conduct during protests. Additionally, she wants to consider changing the Freedom of Information Act so there’s penalties for those who abuse it.
Letitia “Tish” James is the 67th Attorney General for the State of New York. With decades of work, she is an experienced attorney and public servant with a long record of accomplishments. She is the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the first woman to be elected Attorney General, the top law enforcement officer in the state.