New York has conducted 43 investigations into police killings. None of them have led to convictions yet.

New York has conducted 43 investigations into police killings. None of them have led to convictions yet.
Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, right, and his son Armin, stand with a picture of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey
  • New York state has investigated 43 occasions where police killed unarmed individuals since 2015.
  • Zero of those cases have resulted in convictions, though 12 cases are still ongoing.
  • Police officers enjoy special legal doctrines that make it harder to prosecute them.

On Tuesday, a grand jury in New York declined to indict any of the seven police officers involved in the killing of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died in March after officers placed a bag over his head while he appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis.

It was another loss for the office of the New York Attorney General. Out of the 43 investigations into police killings the attorney general's office has conducted since 2015, zero have resulted in convictions.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a special unit to investigate police killings in 2015, with a mission to "strengthen public trust in the criminal justice system in these sensitive incidents."

Ten investigations within the unit are ongoing, and two are headed to trial.

The New York State Attorney General's office shared the figures with Insider. It was first reported by The New York Times.


Three officers have been charged following investigations into the unit: Wayne Isaacs, Errick Allen, and Eduardo Oropallo. A jury found Isaac not guilty at trial, but the NYPD served him disciplinary charges.

The unit also accused Joel Abelove, a former Rensselaer County district attorney, of prosecutorial misconduct in a criminal case, alleging he lied to a grand jury about an officer's actions in the killing of a Black man.

Another three cases - for the deaths of Prude, Luke Patterson, and Andrew Kearse - resulted in "no true bills," where prosecutors brought the case before a grand jury, but the grand jury declined to indict officers involved in the killings.

Police officers have unique legal protections

The lack of indictments in Prude's case, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement, show that existing laws governing police conduct aren't strong enough.

"While I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will rightfully be devastated and disappointed, we have to respect this decision," James said in a statement Tuesday. "The current laws on deadly force have created a system that utterly and abjectly failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him. Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice system as a whole."


The lack of an indictment in Kearse's case - combined with a nationwide swell of protests against racism in policing - led to the passage of the Andrew Kearse Act in 2020. It allows law enforcement officials to be held civilly liable if they do not seek care for a person in custody experiencing a medical episode or mental health crisis, according to the New York-area news outlet News 12. Kearse's widow also received a $1.3 million settlement from the city of Syracuse after suing over his death.

New York has conducted 43 investigations into police killings. None of them have led to convictions yet.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James addresses the media at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Police officers in the US kill an average of around 1,000 people every year, and legal doctrines like qualified immunity make it hard for prosecutors to investigate and bring charges for those killings.

The unit Cuomo created also has limitations. It is only permitted to investigate cases that have resulted in a death, and where the victim was unarmed.

The rules have held back cases such as that of Kwesi Ashun, who police officers shot and killed in 2019.

The New York Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the incident and never announced the results. A representative for the department directed Insider to a statement saying the investigation was ongoing.


Ashun injured a police officer with a chair during the altercation. Prosecutors declined to prosecute the case against the officers, according to The New York Times, deciding the chair qualified as a weapon.