In a setback for Mayor Adams, NYC Council overrides his two criminal justice vetoes

The City Council voted Tuesday to override Mayor Adams’ vetoes of the How Many Stops Act, which will expand reporting requirements around low-level NYPD stops, and a separate bill banning the use of solitary confinement in city jails.

The veto overrides cap a fraught two months for the mayor and City Council Democrats, who have sparred publicly and frequently in a heated debate over the impact of both pieces of legislation since they passed the chamber with overwhelming support in December.

During a rally on the City Hall steps before the override votes, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams zeroed in on the police transparency bill, known as the How Many Stops Act, which has attracted the most public attention amid the veto battle. The bill will require NYPD officers to log basic info, like race, age and gender, about every civilian they stop as part of an investigative encounter, an expansion of current rules the speaker said is critical at a time unconstitutional police stops of Black and brown New Yorkers remain common.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is pictured during rally on the steps of New York City Hall before the Council convenes to vote and override Mayor Adams' veto of the How Many Stops Act on Jan. 30, 2024. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is pictured during rally on the steps of New York City Hall before the Council convenes to vote and override Mayor Adams’ veto of the How Many Stops Act on Jan. 30, 2024. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

“These stops can no longer occur in the shadows, leaving those who look like us, quite frankly, to silently suffer from the trauma they can inflict,” the speaker said. “When you speak to the young people in our communities and ask them about their experiences with police stops, they will tell you how invasive and scary they can be. Our communities are traumatized because of these stops.”

The NYPD’s federal monitor found last year that nearly 25% of stops conducted by Mayor Adams’ signature modified NYPD plainclothes units were unconstitutional — and 97% of the individuals targeted in those stops were Black and brown. The monitor’s findings were key in propelling momentum for the How Many Stops Act, as supporters of it argued increasing reporting requirements to cover all investigative encounters is critical to discourage cops from confronting civilians without a legally valid reason.

Under current rules, NYPD officers only need to log information about so-called Level 3 stops, which involve confronting individuals reasonably suspected of a crime. That leaves out Level 2 stops, which must be based on a lower “founded suspicion” of a crime, and Level 1 stops, which don’t need to be based on suspicion of a crime at all.

In his push against the bill, Mayor Adams has said he’d be OK with requiring reporting for Level 2 stops, but that disclosing information on Level 1 encounters would be too big of a burden on cops that’d pull them away from other, more pressing duties.

“I’ve heard people say ‘interactions take seconds.’ If you talk to a victim of a crime or a law enforcement professional, they would tell you ‘in public safety, seconds matter,’” Adams, a retired NYPD captain, said Tuesday before the votes. “You cannot simply state we’re only talking about seconds. In policing, seconds is the difference between life and death.”

Mayor Eric Adams is pictured during his press conference in City Hall's Blue Room on Nov. 28, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)
Mayor Eric Adams is pictured during his press conference in City Hall’s Blue Room on Nov. 28, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

The mayor even asked that Council leaders sit down with him after the override so they could talk about potentially excluding Level 1 encounters from the bill. Asked whether she’d consider that request, Speaker Adams deadpanned to the Daily News: “We are not looking to amend this legislation … All the questions should have been handled way before we ever voted on the legislation.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the main sponsor of the How Many Stops Act, added that eliminating the Level 1 requirement defeats the point of the legislation. “That’s not a compromise; that’s a gutting of the bill,” he said.

In the end, the Council is getting its way — on paper at least — as both the How Many Stops Act and the solitary confinement ban are supposed to take effect in July now that Adams’ vetoes have been overridden.

However, while the lawmaking body overrode the mayor’s vetoes of the How Many Stops Act and the solitary confinement bill, both by 42-9 margins, it will still be up to Adams’ administration to implement both pieces of legislation.

Last summer, the Council overrode another veto from the mayor to push through legislation expanding eligibility for the CityFHEPS housing voucher program. Despite that override, which marked the Council’s first in a decade, Adams’ administration hasn’t implemented the CityFHEPS reforms, arguing the city can’t afford them, which has prompted murmurings that the Council will respond with a lawsuit.

Speaker Adams has said she expects the administration to follow the new criminal justice measures, but whether the mayor will do so in practice is an open question.

On Tuesday, the mayor said his administration believes the CityFHEPS legislation is yasa dışı. When asked if his administration would abide by the How Many Stops Act, the mayor said: “We’re going to follow the law.”

The mayor has argued the How Many Stops Act will force cops into spending too much time on cumbersome clerical work — “paperwork,” as he’s described it.

But the bill’s backers contend that’s a lie.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks during a New York City Council meeting at City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 20, 2023. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks during a New York City Council meeting at City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 20, 2023. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

Williams, who’s also the main sponsor of the solitary confinement ban bill, said he used to be encouraged by the mayor’s 2021 campaign promises about bringing accountability to the city’s law enforcement apparatuses.

The mayor’s vetoes changed all that, though, Williams said.

“The amount of misinformation, verifiably exaggerated and false claims … has been unacceptable and so unnecessary,” Williams said, referring to the mayor’s contention that reporting on a single Level 1 stop would take a cop several minutes.

If the administration uses existing technology, NYPD officers should be able to log information about a Level 1 stop in a few seconds on a cellphone app, Williams said at the City Hall rally.

Then, Williams turned to Speaker Adams and pretended like he was a police officer conducting a Level 1 stop: “Madame speaker, you appear to be a Black female, between the age of 20 and 65, it’s a Level 1 stop, it didn’t rise any further, it’s a 911 call. That is it, we’re done. That took less than 10 seconds.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is pictured during rally on the steps of New York City Hall before the Council convenes to vote and override Mayor Adams' veto of the How Many Stops Act on Jan. 30, 2024. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is pictured during rally on the steps of New York City Hall before the Council convenes to vote and override Mayor Adams’ veto of the How Many Stops Act on Jan. 30, 2024. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

Speaking at the same rally, Samy Feliz, brother of Allan Feliz, who was shot and killed by an NYPD officer in the Bronx in 2019, said he’s frequently subjected to low-level police stops to this day.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “I don’t tell my mom anymore how often I get stopped.”

By mandating reporting of all investigative stops, Feliz argued officers will think twice before conducting unnecessary stops.

“I want my mother to stop being afraid,” he said.

In recent weeks, Adams has also publicly pushed back on the solitary confinement legislation.

He has insisted solitary confinement isn’t used in the city, and that the bill would make Rikers Island and other local lockups more dangerous by restricting the city Department of Correction’s ability to put inmates in “punitive segregation.”

The bill to ban the practice has been pushed by Council Democrats for years, citing studies from the United Nations determining that extended times of isolated confinement amounts to “torture” and greatly exacerbates the risk of suicide.

The override votes that forced both bills into law Tuesday didn’t happen without some drama.

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks during a press conference before a New York City Council meeting at City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 20, 2023. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks during a press conference before a New York City Council meeting at City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 20, 2023. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

As Speaker Adams attempted to formally receive the vetoes — a technical step necessary to kick off the override process — Brooklyn Councilman Kalman Yeger, a conservative Democrat, interrupted to say the Council meeting hadn’t been properly noticed and that it thereby needed to be postponed.

Yeger’s complaint resulted in the Council having to vote on a motion on whether the meeting itself was valid.

The motion passed quickly, but Yeger tried to complain again on procedural grounds, prompting Council Majority Leader Amanda Farias to bang her gavel and say, “You are out of order.” The Council was then able to receive the vetoes.

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