The “How Many Stops Act,” legislation intended to increase police transparency was vetoed by Mayor Eric Adams last Friday. And now Speaker Adrienne Adams and several council members, including Eric Dinowitz, have vowed to override that veto.
The legislation sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Alexa Aviles would require the New York Police Department to provide quarterly reports detailing information on three levels of investigative encounters between police and civilians. They would also have to include the race, ethnicity, age and gender of an individual that is approached, as well as the factors that led to the interaction.
Several law enforcement and advocacy groups have opposed the bill, arguing it would slow NYPD police response times, erode police-community relationships that help prevent crime and add to police overtime each year.
“While Intro. 586 has good intentions behind it, the bill is misguided and compromises our public safety,” Mayor Adams said Friday. “Our administration supports efforts to make law enforcement more transparent, more just, and more accountable, but this bill will handcuff our police by drowning officers in unnecessary paperwork that will saddle taxpayers with tens of millions of dollars in additional NYPD overtime each year, while simultaneously taking officers away from policing our streets and engaging with the community.”
Councilman Dinowitz, who voted to approve the bill, admitted that he had reservations about it when he first heard about the legislation, but his concerns were alleviated upon learning more. The bill passed the council last month on a 35-9 vote with four absences and three abstentions.
“I initially had concerns about the additional paperwork or administrative tasks an officer would have to do but after having conversations with community members, NYPD officers, two things became clear,” he said. “One is that this bill is going to produce much needed transparency on an issue that impacts a lot of people. We are unable to have conversations about police and civilian interactions in a lot of ways because we don’t know what those interactions look like.”
The second thing that became clear to him was that the information the NYPD is being asked to log was for the most part already being done or supposed to be done, he said.
“Right now without this bill, if this bill never becomes law, the NYPD still has to after their shifts log all level 1, 2, 3 interactions from their body worn cameras,” Dinowitz said. “Again, they are already going back and tagging that information online on evidence.com.”
During level 1 stops, NYPD officers canvassing the area may ask people questions related to their investigation, such as if someone’s seen a missing person. It does not include minute interactions such as basic greetings or asking for directions. Civilians may be asked for their name, address and destination. This level does not require any suspicion of criminal activity according to the Patrol Guide.
A level 2 stop involves the NYPD interacting with someone with founded suspicion of criminal activity, but is free to walk away. Level 3 stops, also known as Terry stops, are for individuals believed to have committed a crime and are not free to immediately leave. Level 3 stops are already posted online on the NYPD’s website, according to W42ST.nyc.
Community Board 8 expressed some concerns regarding the bill during their full board meeting, as well as the public safety committee meeting on Jan. 16.
“We have a lot of concerns,” public safety committee Ed Green told The Press. “We’ve heard from different entities about this and some of our concerns are that it would incentivize officers not to talk to community members and lead to massive amounts of police overtime over this. There’s also this perception that the NYPD officers are already on their phones too much.”
Green said it is true that some of the work being asked of police via the bill is already being done, however not all of it. He said that as far as he knows police are not already reporting on the age, race and gender of people they’re interviewing. The 50th Precinct was asked for confirmation of whether they are but did not return a comment.
District Attorney Darcel Clark expressed her opposition to the bill in a news release, stating she was concerned about the effect there would be on community engagement if police officers had to document “nearly every encounter.”
“There needs to be a thoughtful discussion with district attorneys and other criminal justice stakeholders about the purpose of this bill, and its collateral impact on discovery,” Clark stated Jan. 15. “We would need to collect millions of documents that could ultimately be considered related to a future case. The discovery law mandates we turn over the material on a case as soon as it is created, which would be near impossible under the ‘How Many Stops Act.’”
Councilmember Pierina Sanchez, a supporter of the bill, told The Press the legislation came from impacted families who were hurt by level 1 or level 2 stops that were never reported but ended in tragedy. She was perplexed by why the mayor who campaigned on police accountability and transparency would veto a bill in line with his stated goals.
“For me the relationship between the community and police is a delicate one,” Sanchez said. “It is one that suffers from a history of unconstitutional practices that target Black and brown communities.”
In a joint statement from Speaker Adams and Public Safety Chair Yusef Salaam, they stated Adams veto betrays his goal of public safety and harms Black and Latino communities who are often stopped by police. They cited data from a court-appointed monitor that showed 25 percent of the stops made by Mayor Adams’ new reconstituted plain clothes police unit were unconstitutional. Ninety-seven percent of those stops were Black and Latino, despite them making up just under half of the city’s population.
“At a time when one out of every four stops made by the Mayor’s new police unit has been found to be unconstitutional, and civilian complaints are at their highest level in more than a decade, the Mayor is choosing to fight to conceal information from the public,” they stated. “Rather than focusing on governing our city, the Mayor and his administration have sought to mislead and incite fear through a propaganda campaign, wasting government resources and creating division. These actions only raise questions about why this administration fears sharing data with New Yorkers about the use of their tax dollars. NYPD officers and our entire city deserve better.”
Mayor Adams also announced Friday he was vetoing a recently passed bill that would ban solitary confinement in city jails.