“Central Park Five” Councilman Yusef Salaam was pulled over by cops while driving through Harlem with his family on Friday night and was never given a valid reason why he was stopped — a move which the legislator said called into question how the cops justify their street stops without giving any explanation or documentation.
The Friday night incident happened as City Council leaders are pushing for the passage of the “How Many Stops Act” which would force the NYPD to better document street stops that are investigative in nature.
Mayor Adams has vetoed the bill, claiming cops would be buried in paperwork as they document every interaction, which will take time from policing.
The bill is “extremely detrimental to public safety,” Adams said as he tried to put the kibosh on the bill. The Council will meet to vote to overturn the veto on Tuesday.
Salaam said that he was driving through Harlem with his wife and children in the car and “was listening in to a call with my Council colleagues on speakerphone” when the officer pulled him over.
“I introduced myself as Councilman Yusef Salaam, and subsequently asked the officer why I was pulled over,” Salaam said in a statement. “Instead of answering my question, the officer stated, ‘We’re done here,’ and proceeded to walk away.”
Salaam, who was just named the chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said that the officer should, at the very least, have explained why he was being pulled over. If the How Many Stops Act is made law, the cop would have also taken down Salaam’s name and file a report about the stop.
“This experience only amplified the importance of transparency for all police investigative stops, because the lack of transparency allows racial profiling and unconstitutional stops of all types to occur and often go unreported,” said Salaam, who was planning to attend a Saturday night ride-along with the NYPD to better learn how they deal with the public while responding to calls.
After this incident, Salaam, who was exonerated after spending years in prison as part of the “Central Park Five,” teens accused of rape three decades ago, said he has no intention of going on the ride along.
“While it is imperative for all of us as New Yorkers to understand the difficult tasks that we ask the NYPD to take on, it is also critical to understand the lived experiences of those subjected to unjust police stops in this city,” he said. “Many of us in the Council know what it’s like to feel vulnerable and powerless when stopped by an officer, because we have personally experienced triggering interactions like I had last night.”
Salaam’s council colleagues railed against Friday’s stop, with Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens) calling the interaction “a glimpse into what every day Black and Brown New Yorkers encounter.”
“Glad my colleague, @dr_yusefsalaam, and his family made it home safely last night,” she wrote on X.
About 10 councilmembers had agreed to go on the Saturday evening ride-along. The legislators were expected to meet at the 28th Precinct station house on Frederick Douglas Blvd. at about 5 p.m., watch a police roll call and then go on patrol with officers.
Mayor Adams, who insiders say is using the ride-along to encourage legislators not to overturn his veto, is also scheduled to attend.
Salaam said he was pulled over “in my beloved village of Harlem” but didn’t say exactly where or when on Friday night. An email to the councilmember for more information about the incident was not immediately returned.
An NYPD spokesman said the department was aware of Salaam’s claims and were looking into the incident.
Emails to the Mayor’s office for comment was not immediately returned.
The How Many Stops Act, which passed the Council last month, lays out three levels of police encounters for which cops would have to document their interactions with the public. Supporters said the law would prevent the return of the kind of biased law enforcement the city saw during the Bloomberg-era peak of stop-question-and-frisk policing.
Although he planned to attend the ride-along, Salaam has vowed to override the Mayor’s block ever since the mayor vetoed the bill on Jan. 19. He and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams have accused the mayor of peddling a “false narrative” about the bill with an aim to “mislead and incite fear” among New Yorkers.