The New York City Council advanced two controversial bills Wednesday that would ban solitary confinement in the Big Apple’s jails and force cops to file reports for every street stop they make — even low-level ones.
The two bills, which were fiercely opposed by Mayor Eric Adams along with police unions and prison guards, passed with a veto-proof majority — meaning the legislation likely won’t be overturned by Hizzoner and become law.
“The New York City Council took actions today that, if implemented, will undoubtedly make our city less safe,” the mayor said in a statement about the passage of the so-called ‘How Many Stops Act.’
The measure, passed 35-9 with three abstentions, would require cops to fill out detailed paperwork on every single person they encounter during a search, including noting their race, age and gender.
“In every City Council district in this city, our staff will be forced to spend more time in their cars and on their phones and less time walking the streets and interacting with New Yorkers,” Adams added.
While supporters of the bill insist the additional reporting system will hold officers accountable for illegal stops and help control racial profiling, critics say it will only distract officers from tackling crime and lead to countless hours of red tape.
“Thousands of police officers are no longer enough for us. Response times to critical incidents have already increased by nearly two minutes – that includes shots fired calls, where every second counts,” said Patrick Hendry, head of the Police Benevolent Association union.
“Police officers need to be able to focus on responding to calls for service, proactively dealing with crime and taking illegal guns off the streets.” Instead, these bills will take more cops offline to deal with a mountain of new paperwork.
The NYPD said the extra filing would likely add “millions of dollars in overtime costs” at a time when the Adams administration is already struggling to fill a gaping $7 billion budget hole.
Currently, cops are only required to issue reports on “Level 3” investigative stops, which is when an officer has “reasonable suspicion” to detain someone or a stop that involves arrests.
The bill would require officers to now record reports of both “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” encounters. A Level 1 stop, for example, might involve interviewing a possible witness, while a Level 2 encounter might be a potential suspect.
Public Advocate Juman Williams, who sponsored the legislation, said the new reports will provide a broader picture of which cops are stopping on the street.
But lawmakers acknowledged Wednesday that cops could potentially just guess at demographics during a Level 1 or 2 stop — causing hiccups in data collection.
The data collection fulfills a long-standing request by the NYPD’s federal watchdog, which was implemented in response to the department’s unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk after years of claims that Level 3 stops were not reported.
Separately, council members also voted Wednesday to end solitary confinement in city jails by a 39-7 vote.
Under this bill, an inmate would only be separated from the general population if they were involved in a violent incident while in custody.
The measure would allow Department of Corrections guards to isolate inmates for four hours at a time in a so-called “de-escalation” unit.
Opponents, including the DOC, rejected the ban before the vote, arguing the bill would simply jeopardize the safety of guards and inmates. Those in favor, however, insisted that the isolation amounted to torture.
Benny Boshio, president of the New York Correctional Officers Benevolent Association, claims that 6,500 officers have already been assaulted by inmates at Rikers Island and other city jails in the past three years.
“We will hold every member of the City Council and the public defender accountable for any assault on staff,” Boschio said. “It will not protect anyone in our prisons.”
The bills’ passage came after City Hall worked furiously behind the scenes in a last-ditch effort to kill them, trying to keep them at the committee level earlier Wednesday.
He also faced a failed 11th-hour attempt to amend the bill, which ended up simply dragging out passage for hours as council members argued over the NYPD requirement.
Adams chimed in when asked if he would veto the bills, but even if he tried, a majority of more than two-thirds of the council could override the mayor’s attempt to stop them from becoming law.
And sources said the administration was unlikely to change all the yes votes to know in the veto vote.