The order will remain valid for one year, in an attempt to rebuild public confidence in the police following the high profile killings of unarmed men such as Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.
"We will be the first state in the country to acknowledge the problem and say we're going to create an independent prosecutor who does not have that kind of connection with the organized police departments," Cuomo said in his statement on Tuesday. "And therefore you should have more confidence in the proceeding, because the perceived conflict or actual conflict doesn't exist when you have an independent prosecutor and in this state the law allows me to name the attorney general a special prosecutor, and that's what we'll be doing."
Eric Garner, was killed nearly a year ago by a police chokehold, but received no justice after a grand jury declined to indict the officer. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, has been publicly calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed for these cases ever since.
"If we had a special prosecutor at the time of my son's death, I think it would've made a tremendous difference but now we're asking for a special prosecutor for other families," Carr told reporters at a rally outside the governor's office on Tuesday before the announcement.
Carr, as well as many activists and community leaders, have long argued that district attorney’s are too closely tied to police departments. They maintain that the relationships between them leaves them incapable of being impartial in these cases and actively pursuing convictions.
"We have seen this all across the country where there's a lack of trust in the criminal justice system, triggered by a particular case," Cuomo told reporters. "And the basic argument is always the same. That they don't trust the prosecution because of the connections with the police. And a criminal justice system doesn't work without trust."
A statement by Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, slammed the decision- calling it unnecessary and claiming that it could lead to officers being indicted for the sake of public perception.
“Given the many levels of oversight that already exist, both internally in the NYPD and externally in many forms, the appointment of a special prosecutor is unnecessary. The rules of law apply regardless of who is investigating a case, but our concern is that there will be pressure on a special prosecutor to indict an officer for the sake of public perception and that does not serve the ends of justice.” Lynch wrote in his statement.