NYC council overrides mayor’s veto of solitary confinement ban
Official: “Many of the provisions could inadvertently undermine the overall goals of protecting individuals from harm, promoting sound correctional practice and improving safety for those in custody and jail staff”
By Paul Liotta
Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A pair of controversial public safety bills will move forward after the City Council overrode two vetoes from Mayor Eric Adams Tuesday.
Speaker Adrienne Adams closed Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s legislative body to applause after the Council voted 42-9 to override Mayor Adams’ vetoes of a ban on solitary confinement in city jails and the How Many Stops Act impacting NYPD investigative stops.
Mayor Adams and his allies had been on the offensive against the bills since their passage late last year, raising a series of concerns about their impact, but Speaker Adams said during a press conference ahead of the Council’s vote that those concerns should have been raised before the bill’s passage.
“We didn’t have to get here. We had a lot of time to talk about this legislation,” Speaker Adams said. "[These bills] have been in talks for a long time, so we really didn’t have to get to this point at all. In my humble opinion, all of the questions should have been handled way before we voted on the legislation and there should have been a complete understanding of what we were doing.”
Votes from Staten Island’s City Council members broke down as expected with City Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) and Councilman David Carr ( R-Mid-Island ) voting against the override while Councilwoman Kamillah Hanks (D-North Shore) voted in favor.
On the Council floor, Hanks, a resident of Stapleton, explained her vote on the police stops bill citing concerns about law enforcement’s impact on communities of color, but left an opportunity for possible future reforms. The NYPD has consistently been rebuked for its disproportionate stopping of members of the city’s Black and Latino communities.
Hanks was one of a host of council members who joined the NYPD on ridealongs over the weekend as Mayor Adams attempted to lobby against the veto overrides.
The North Shore councilwoman said that ride-along offered additional perspective about the complexities of police stops, particularly those considered low-level investigative stops.
“In neighborhoods like mine, the neighborhood I live in and raise my four children in, statistically, we will have more interaction with police whether we are the bad actors or not. This reporting bill is aimed at aiding the hardworking families who endure both the violence in their communities and the enforcement measures applied by NYPD ,” she said. “While I endorse the spirit and the intent behind (this bill) for its increased transparency, I do have concerns about the requirement to report on Level One encounters.”
Opponents of the How Many Stops legislation have framed the bill as requiring officers to track every single interaction they have with members of the public, but the language of the legislation specifies investigative encounters, while excluding everyday casual conversations.
The bill also requires the NYPD’s quarterly report to include detailed information about the nature of each interaction, including the race, gender and age of the person stopped, the reason for the stop, and the officer’s subsequent actions, like whether they issued a summons or used force.
The NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) issued a scathing statement against Hanks, who had chaired Council’s Committee on Public Safety , shortly after the How Many Stops legislation passed.
District Attorney Michael McMahon also penned an op-ed criticizing the How Many Stops legislation, but a spokesperson said he would not like to comment specifically on Hanks’ vote.
The ban on solitary confinement has also received pushback, including from Federal Monitor Steve Martin , who oversees city jails as part of a 2015 court agreement.
Martin, who has had a rocky relationship with the Department of Correction under Mayor Adams, sent a Jan. 12 letter laying out his concerns with the legislation.
“The Monitoring Team believes that eliminating solitary confinement is necessary and important,” he wrote. “However, the Monitoring Team has deep concerns about many of the bill’s provisions related to the use of restrictive housing, de-escalation, emergency lock-ins, and the use of restraints and escort procedures. Many of the provisions, as currently drafted, could inadvertently undermine the overall goals of protecting individuals from harm, promoting sound correctional practice and improving safety for those in custody and jail staff.”
Ahead of the Council’s Tuesday vote, Mayor Adams raised the possibility of future reforms of the bills, the implementation for which will be left largely to his administration, and issued a statement against the veto overrides following their passage.
“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. Additionally, it will make staff in our jails and those in our custody less safe by impairing our ability to hold those who commit violent acts accountable,” he said. “I have always believed that public safety and justice go hand in hand, and I have fought for both throughout my entire career. I share the City Council’s goal of increasing transparency in government, and our administration has remained at the table to negotiate in good faith throughout this entire process to achieve that mission. But the answer is not to compromise public safety or justice for the victims of violence. With these bills set to become law, I remain willing to partner with my colleagues in the City Council to address New Yorkers’ concerns in the period leading up to implementation.”
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