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'How Many Stops Act' Will Expose Police Abuse And Discrimination

The City Council's decision to override the mayor not only upholds the democratic process, but also amplifies the voices of our communities in demanding accountability and racial equity in law enforcement.
911 audio captures chaotic moments after NYPD cop stabbing in Brooklyn
Police officers in Brooklyn.

In December 2023, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College was pleased to join in coalition with multiple justice-oriented groups to support the passage of the How Many Stops Act. This legislation contains two common-sense, good government bills requiring the NYPD to publicly report on all street public stops and consent searches. Together, these bills provide a powerful way to expose abusive and discriminatory policing practices.

On December 20, 2023, the New York City Council passed the How Many Stops Act with a decisive, veto-proof majority vote. However, instead of moving toward a more racially just city, on January 19, 2024, Mayor Eric Adams betrayed the voices of constituents in NYC’s Black, Latino, and other communities of color when he vetoed Intro. 586, one of the two HMSA bills, claiming it would overwhelm police with “paperwork.” 

Like several others stemming from the Adams administration, that claim is false. The mayor has, unfortunately, shown a propensity for exaggeration, only to walk back or evade those same exaggerated claims when confronted with the truth. It happened when Mayor Adams said the migrant crisis would “destroy New York City.” Mayor Adams habitually spoke out against bail reform using hyperbolic language that shamefully conflated multiple unrelated issues to undermine the work of community organizers seeking to insert more justice in the criminal legal system. In May 2022, the New York Times noted that Mayor Adams claimed he “never witnessed crime at this level” even though crime was down. The Times noted that his claim did not stand up to scrutiny as there were 488 murders in the city during the previous year, “compared with 2,262 in 1990 when he was a transit police officer.” 

The NYPD has been under federal monitoring for a decade because of its unconstitutional application of stop-and-frisk practices. Despite that reality, unconstitutional stop and frisks are back to levels not seen since 2015. Additionally, from 2022 to 2023, misconduct complaints against the NYPD increased by 51% and fatal shootings by the NYPD are the highest they’ve been in a decade. According to a recent report issued by a federal monitor, at least 24% of stops made by Neighborhood Safety Teams were unconstitutional, and 97% were of Black and Latinx New Yorkers. It’s no better in NYCHA, where one-third of stops are unconstitutional, and 70% of them are of Black people. Unfortunately, these statistics do not tell the full story. We know the numbers are worse in reality because the NYPD has no requirement to report on the vast majority of officers' stops. 

Officers can complete the reporting that the HMSA legislation requires in a matter of seconds. They can report these stops through a few drop-down menus on their Department-issued smartphones. In fact, their patrol guide already requires officers to record this sort of demographic information on Level 2 stops. The HMSA legislation codifies that rule into law, requires that the information is reported publicly, and extends it to Level 1 encounters. 

With this simple reporting, HMSA will help address the NYPD’s chronic underreporting of stops, ensure stops are only made with the proper legal justification, and enable advocates and policy-makers to advance evidenced-based public safety measures. 

We applaud the New York City Council's decisive action to override the mayor's veto, which marks a historic step towards transparency and justice in our policing system. This victory not only upholds the democratic process but also amplifies the voices of our communities in demanding accountability and racial equity in law enforcement.”

Lurie Daniel-Favors, Esq., is the executive director, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.