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Rangel seeks federal probe into N.Y. friendly-fire police deaths

  • Story Highlights
  • Officer Omar Edwards of NYPD killed in friendly fire incident last month
  • Edwards, who is black, was shot by white officer who didn't realize he was fellow cop
  • Rep. Charles Rangel asks Justice Department to look into police training, practices
  • New York Gov. David Paterson has set up task force to look at issue statewide
From Kristen Hamill
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Rep. Charles Rangel said he is satisfied with the steps New York police are taking in response to the death of Officer Omar Edwards, but renewed his call for a federal investigation into instances of police friendly fire.

Rep. Charles Rangel is calling for a probe into police friendly-fire incidents.

Officer Omar Edwards was shot to death by another officer on May 28.

Edwards, 25, a black officer, was shot to death May 28 by a fellow officer, Andrew Dunton, who is white. Edwards was off duty at the time.

Edwards was in plainclothes and carrying a handgun as he chased a suspect past a police car, authorities said.

Dunton shot him after Edwards failed to drop his weapon when ordered to, they said. Officials said Dunton said he didn't realize Edwards was an officer.

"Every white cop that shot down a black cop, I would believe it was a mistake and not because of racism, but it takes special training for them to know," Rangel , D-New York, told CNN's Don Lemon on Saturday.

In the wake of Edwards' death, the New York Police Department has implemented sensitivity training and provided guidance to officers on identifying themselves.

In a statement, Rangel asked the Department of Justice to look into "police department practices, training of police officers and whether and to what extent race was an issue in the tragedy."

The shooting prompted New York Gov. David Paterson to commission a task force to investigate shootings between police officers statewide, spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein told CNN on Saturday.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne pledged Saturday to assist Paterson's investigation.

Also Saturday, the NYPD released a list of 10 New York City officers killed in cases of mistaken identity since 1930. Five of the officers were African-American or Hispanic; five were white. The list does not include officers who were injured by friendly fire, and does not specify whether the officers killed were on or off duty.

The formation of the New York task force came after Paterson met with state officials, clergy members and civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, in a closed-door meeting Friday. The group called for an independent investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the NYPD incident.

"We are handling this sensitively," Paterson told reporters after the meeting. "There may be issues that involve race, [but] we are not discussing any institutional or direct racism."

The governor spoke of what he described as a "high percentage of African-American and Hispanic police officers who were shot either on or off duty by friendly fire." However, the commission will examine friendly fire incidents between all officers regardless of race, according to Shorenstein.

The task force will ask NYPD and police departments across the state to provide any data related to shootings where officers were either killed or injured by other officers.

The governor said the task force will look at the statistics to "determine if there's any disproportionate sense that any particular group has been victimized more than any other."

Paterson said that he would "not close the door" on an independent investigation or special prosecutor to look into the death of Edwards, but would rely for now on the investigation by the New York City district attorney and the NYPD.

The focus of the task force, the governor said, would be to prevent friendly fire among all police officers, regardless of race, and to instill confidence in the state and community that such incidents are investigated properly

CNN's Alona Rivord contributed to this report.

All About PoliceCharles RangelDavid PatersonU.S. Department of Justice

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