A convoy of seven police vans carrying Mayor Eric Adams, top NYPD brass, reporters and nine councilmembers traversed Harlem and the South Bronx on Saturday night, turning the heads of confused onlookers.
The ride-along came after Adams vetoed a bill earlier this month that would require NYPD officers to publicly disclose their “low-level” encounters with civilians. That bill passed following a 35-9 vote in December of last year. The Council is set to convene on Tuesday afternoon to override the mayor’s veto of this bill as well as another that would ban solitary confinement in the city’s jails.
The mayor has been vocal about his opposition to the legislation, and has argued it would burden officers with additional work and jeopardize public safety.
NYPD officials gathered councilmembers and news reporters in a room at Harlem’s 28th Precinct on Saturday, where they showed physical paperwork they say officers would have to complete if the bill passed.
The NYPD is currently required to document stop-and-frisk reports and arrests, where officers are legally required to have “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” that someone is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime, according to the NYPD training guide.
But the How Many Stops Act governs what are called “level one” or “level two” stops — encounters where the person being stopped is legally free to leave. This includes when police stop someone to ask where they are going or request identification. Some advocates and civil liberties groups said these seemingly innocuous stops can have catastrophic consequences, such as escalating to violence or unlawful arrests.
The bill would require police to log demographic information about the people they stop, including their race – something the mayor warned against.
“Having to guess someone’s gender in the environment we’re in right now … we’re opening those officers up to civilian complaints,” Adams said.
“We need to find out what’s going on with the NYPD: who are they stopping, where are they stopping, what’s the demographic and why,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, previously told Gothamist.
Councilmember Kamillah Hanks, former chair of the Council’s public safety committee, called the bill “highly contentious.”
“As legislators, we probably should have done this a month ago,” she said, adding that she had reservations ahead of the ride-along.
Councilmembers including Hanks, Gale Brewer, Eric Dinowitz, Bob Holden, Francisco Moya and Lynn Schulman piled into the police vans, which mostly kept their sirens on to speed through traffic. The convoy pulled over in the South Bronx at around 9 p.m. after police received a 911 call about a domestic assault. As police officers interviewed the block’s residents about what happened, NYPD officials told councilmembers about the information police would have to collect if the bill passed.
Dinowitz, who represents parts of the northwest Bronx, shook his head as police officials made their plea.
“That is not in the bill,” Dinowitz said. “There’s nothing related to asking anyone’s name, everything’s anonymized … And there’s nothing in the bills that says when the officer has to [file a stop report].”
Brewer said enforcing the bill would be harder than getting it passed.
“That’s when the real rubber hits the road,” she said.
Despite an uptick in stops under Adams, police have stopped just a fraction of the people they did at stop-and-frisk’s height under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But the racial disparities have become starker: Of the tens of thousands of pedestrians police have stopped during Adams’ tenure, just 5% were white, compared to 9% under Bloomberg, Gothamist previously reported.
Councilmember Yusef Salaam, who chairs the public safety committee, was originally scheduled to accompany the mayor on the ride-along, but issued a statement on Saturday saying he would no longer participate after being stopped by police on Friday. Salaam said the officer who pulled him over didn’t tell him why he was being detained.
“In light of this encounter and coupled with the lack of logistical details provided by Mayor Adams’ office in advance, I will no longer be participating in tonight’s scheduled ride-along with the Mayor and NYPD,” Salaam said. “It is critical that I begin to organically develop constructive relationships with all of the precincts in City Council District 9.