- Associated Press
NYPD Officers will have to Record Race of People They Question under New Police Transparency Law
11:21 JST, January 31, 2024
New York City police officers will be required to record the apparent race, gender and ages of most people they stop for questioning under a law passed Tuesday by the City Council, which overrode a veto by Mayor Eric Adams.
The issue was thrust into the national spotlight in recent days when NYPD officers pulled over a Black council member without giving him a reason.
The law gives police reform advocates a major win in requiring the nation’s largest police department and its 36,000 officers to document all investigative encounters in a city that once had officers routinely stop and frisk huge numbers of men for weapons — a strategy that took a heavy toll on communities of color.
Since 2001, NYPD officers have been required to document instances in which they have asked someone “accusatory” questions as part of an investigation, detain or search someone or arrest them.
But the new law requires officers to document basic information in low-level encounters, where police ask for information from people who aren’t necessarily suspected of a crime. Officers also will have to report the circumstances that led to stopping a particular person. The data would be made public on the police department’s website.
City Council Member Kevin Riley, a Bronx Democrat who is Black, was among the council members who conveyed how many New Yorkers of color dread interacting with police on the street as he voted in favor of the measure.
“When we see those red and blue lights, our hearts drop into our stomachs,” he said.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill, said that reporting the encounters could be done in less than a minute on an officer’s smartphone through the system already in place.
“This is not about preventing police work,” Williams said. “This is police work.”
The mayor, a Democrat and former police captain, on Tuesday argued that in police work, minutes and seconds could be the difference between life and death.
“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,” he said in a statement after the vote, in which the council cleared the bar of two-thirds support needed to override the veto with 42 in favor and 9 against.
The department’s largest police officers’ union, in a statement after the vote, warned that the council would have to answer to constituents for “rising 911 response times and diminished police presence” in city neighborhoods.
“New York City police officers will comply with the new law and do the job the way the City Council wants it done,” said Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association. “Despite the increased workload and the NYPD’s critically low staffing levels, we will continue to protect our communities to the best of our ability.”
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Democrat who is not related to the mayor, said police and other opponents were exaggerating how much of a burden the new requirements would be. The law doesn’t require officers to document casual conversations, such as providing directions, which are explicitly exempt under the requirements, she stressed.
“There should not be resistance to telling people who is being stopped in this city and why,” she said.
Republicans, by far the minority on the council, suggested the bill only served to further racial divisions in the city.
“Please don’t make this a racial issue. It isn’t,” Council Member Vickie Paladino, a Queens Republican who is white, said after a number of her council peers spoke strongly in favor of the bill, with some even speaking in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and Haitian Creole.
“We didn’t make this a race thing. This is a race thing,” responded Riley as he related his own experience of being detained by police simply for hunting for a parking spot in Manhattan while fresh out of college.
Others noted that this coming Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of when a young, unarmed Black immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot dozens of times by NYPD officers in the Bronx.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD violated the civil rights of Black and Hispanic residents with its stop-and-frisk tactic. Since then, the department has reported a large decline in such encounters, though an ACLU report found people of color were still the targets of the vast majority of stop-and-frisks in 2022.
Tuesday’s vote came after Adams and the NYPD launched a last-ditch effort to peel off some supporters from the measure by hosting police ride-alongs for council members.
But the Friday event was overshadowed that same evening when an officer pulled over Council Member Yusef Salaam, an exonerated member of the “Central Park Five” who with four other Black and Latino men were falsely accused and convicted of raping a white jogger in Central Park in 1989. Their convictions were eventually overturned through DNA evidence.
In the very brief encounter, an officer asked Salaam to roll down his windows and identified himself. Salaam told the officer he was on the City Council and asked why he was pulled over, according to audio of the encounter published by The New York Times.
The officer told Salaam, “Oh, OK. Have a good one” before walking away, body camera footage showed. The NYPD later released a statement that said Salaam was pulled over for driving with dark window tints beyond the legal limit.
Though such a stop would not be covered by the transparency law — police already have to record information when they pull a driver over — Salaam argued that it showed the need for greater police transparency.
The council on Tuesday also overrode Adams’ veto of a bill that would restrict the use of solitary confinement in the city’s jails.
The law places a four-hour limit on isolating inmates who pose an immediate risk of violence to others or themselves in “de-escalation” units. Only those involved in violent incidents could be placed in longer-term restrictive housing, and they would need to be allowed out of their cells for 14 hours each day and get access to the same programming available to other inmates.
In his letter vetoing that bill, Adams argued the restrictions would put inmates and corrections officers alike at risk. He also cited concerns raised by a federal monitor appointed to evaluate operations at the city’s jails.
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