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All eyes on Cuomo as Albany seeks police reform

ALBANY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a week of publicly struggling with how to balance support for demonstrators with his long-standing relationship with powerful police unions, said on Sunday: “I figuratively stand with the protesters.”

When the state Legislature returns to the Capitol this week, hungry to pass police reforms, Cuomo will find out if the protesters are standing with him.

From New York City to Buffalo, the outcry over police abuses after the killing of George Floyd has crescendoed in the past two weeks and given new momentum to critics who have been demanding systemic reforms at the state level. Cuomo’s response to the conflicting pressures of protest politics and the desire to keep order has been erratic.

Cuomo, who calls himself a true progressive because he “gets things done,” has led New York through transformational change, including legalizing gay marriage and a minimum wage boost. And now, as clamor to address social disparities expands to other arenas, such as health care and taxing the rich, that Cuomo has been wary to address, voters might again demand more plays on offense, said Neal Kwatra, a Democratic consultant who has advised both Cuomo and de Blasio.

“That’s the conversation America is going to increasingly have to have over these next few months heading into this election,” he said. “And Cuomo’s either going to be sort of stuck in trying to defend and rationalize his past record, or he will recognize the moment we're in and get out in front of it like he did on gay marriage.”

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