City Council Is Poised to Defy Eric Adams on 2 Criminal Justice Bills – PPT News

Police officers will be required to record the race, age and gender of most people they stop and solitary confinement will be banned in New York City jails after the City Council overrode Mayor Eric Adams’s veto of two criminal justice bills on Tuesday.

The 42-to-9 vote was a major defeat for Mr. Adams, and it laid bare a growing rift between the mayor and his Democratic colleagues who lead the Council.

Mr. Adams, a former police captain who ran for office on a public safety message, warned that the bills would make the city and its jails more dangerous. He fought the override until the last moment, but his efforts to persuade moderate council members to support him failed: The police accountability bill received seven more yes votes than when it first passed in December.

The two measures aim to track a broader number of police stops to guard against discriminatory patterns and to make jails more humane after the deaths of several people who were held in solitary confinement.

The police accountability bill, known as the How Many Stops Act, will require police officers to log basic information for a far broader array of stops than is currently required. They will have to note the person’s race, gender and age and whether force was used.

The Police Department will have to begin providing online quarterly reports about police stops to the public starting in October. Leaders in the Council have said the bill will help curb abuses of stop-and-frisk policing.

Mr. Adams has objected to the bill’s inclusion of so-called Level 1 encounters, which the Council bill defines as interactions between a member of the Police Department and a member of the public for a law enforcement or investigative purpose.

The mayor said the requirement was too broad and could delay investigations and hamper noncriminal police activities like helping someone find a lost parent who has Alzheimer’s disease. He argued that it would take too much time for officers to log the information, though supporters said that they could use the smartphone app they already use to log other encounters, and that it would take 30 seconds or less.

“These bills will make New Yorkers less safe on the streets, while police officers are forced to fill out additional paperwork rather than focus on helping New Yorkers and strengthening community bonds,” Mr. Adams said in a statement after the vote. “Additionally, it will make staff in our jails and those in our custody less safe by impairing our ability to hold those who commit violent acts accountable.”

Veto overrides in New York City are increasingly rare: Aside from a housing bill last summer, the last time the Council took this step was in early 2014, when it overrode six vetoes that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had cast at the end of his third and final term. The last veto override of a Democratic mayor came in 1991 under Mayor David N. Dinkins, and it was the only one during his four-year term.

Both Mr. Adams, the city’s second Black mayor, and Adrienne Adams, the first Black Council speaker, are moderate Democrats. (They are not related.) But Ms. Adams has taken a position to the left of the mayor on several key issues, including her insistence on closing the Rikers Island jail complex by mid-2027, as required by law.

On Tuesday, Ms. Adams defended the bill, which will take effect in roughly six months.

“Here in New York City, solitary confinement is almost exclusively inflicted on Black and Latino people who are simply awaiting their day in court and don’t have the money to avoid pretrial detention,” Ms. Adams said at a rally preceding the vote.

The solitary confinement bill will ban the practice beyond a four-hour “de-escalation” period during emergencies and will require that all detainees spend at least 14 hours outside cells each day.

The bill has highlighted a national discussion about whether solitary confinement is torture or a legitimate form of punishment for detainees who grossly violate codes of conduct. A federal monitor who was appointed to oversee city jails expressed concerns about the bill.

It is possible that implementation of the two laws may be delayed, either by the Adams administration’s reluctance to comply with the requirements or by a potential court challenge. If Mr. Adams slow-rolls implementation of either bill, the Council or a civil rights group could sue the city.

The debate over the bills intensified over the weekend after Yusef Salaam, a newly elected council member who was wrongfully convicted in 1990 as a member of the Central Park Five, was pulled over by a police officer while driving with his family. Mr. Salaam said the officer did not give him a reason for the stop and contended that the episode showed why the accountability bill was needed.

The police responded by releasing body camera footage of the stop and saying that Mr. Salaam had been stopped for illegally tinted windows. Mayor Adams also defended the stop as a “picture-perfect example” of a courteous police response.

Mr. Salaam voted to override the mayor’s veto of both bills. He began to explain his vote, but then choked up, wondering how his life might be different “if these laws were in place in 1989.” He paused to collect himself before saying, “I vote aye.”

The police accountability bill would have had no effect on the reporting requirements related to the stop of Mr. Salaam; all traffic stops already must be documented. So must so-called Level 3 and 4 stops, in which the police question or arrest a person suspected of committing a crime, according to Michael Sisitzky, an assistant policy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The two sides have disagreed over what types of interactions would be recorded under the new law and how much effort it would require.

A top police official claimed that offering a marathon runner a Gatorade would have to be recorded. The bill’s supporters disputed his remarks, arguing that the law’s language makes clear that it only applies to investigative issues and not casual conversations.

“Our bill very specifically says we do not want general or casual encounters” to be tallied, said Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate and a bill sponsor.

Mr. Adams fought vigorously to stop the Council from overriding his vetoes of the bills, which were approved the first time with a veto-proof two-thirds majority of the 51-member body. He organized a police ride-along with council members on Saturday to try to show them how requiring officers to submit documentation would slow them down.

On the solitary confinement bill, the mayor raised concerns that correction officers would not be able to restrain detainees while they are transported on buses, and argued that separating violent detainees is necessary.

The tension between the mayor and the City Council is expected to continue in the coming months as they negotiate the next city budget, which is due by the end of June. Council leaders have promised to fight the mayor’s unpopular budget cuts to libraries and schools.

Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.

Leave a Comment