Community officials and advocates gathered at City Hall on Wednesday to call for legislation that would ensure more accountability and transparency from the New York City Police Department.
Organizations from around the city, including Communities United for Police Reform, joined Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council members Alexa Avilés and Crystal Hudson to rally for the passage of the How Many Stops Act, which consists of two bills aiming to bring oversight and transparency to the NYPD’s interactions with the public.
“A lot of what happens, they’re saying they’re trying to deal with the violence going on but as we have seen for decades, simply adding more police and more aggressive police does not address the gun violence that is affecting so many of us in this city, state and country,” said Williams.
“As we grapple with the horrifying police killings of Tyre Nichols in Tennessee and Anthony Lowe Jr. in California, we have to remember that while these incidents occurred in different cities, they stem from the same systemic problems with policing,” said Sala Cyril of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and spokesperson for Community United for Police Reform. “We’re here today to demand that our elected officials take concrete action to end police violence and ensure true community safety.”
The How Many Stops Act aims to give a fuller picture of how the NYPD is interacting with the community, according to legislators.
Made up of Intros 538 sponsored by Hudson and 586 co-sponsored by Williams and Avilés, the bills would require the NYPD to report on low-level police street stops and encounters, including where they happen, the reason for the encounter, any demographic information on the person stopped, and if the encounter led to any use of force or enforcement action. The bills, if passed, would also require the NYPD to fully report on their use of consent searches as well as searches in which an officer needs no probable cause to search a person or their belongings if the person gives permission.
“We have mourned the lives of far too many Black people and Latinx people in this country. We’ve seen time and time again how routine police stops have ended tragically, when is enough ever going to be enough? The bills that we are talking about today are common sense,” said Avilés. “We need to understand what they are doing here. Our communities deserve it and quite frankly as you have seen in New York City and throughout the country, our lives depend on this.”
“Everybody who’s interested in public safety and community safety should be signed onto these bills because these bills are common sense bills,” said Hudson.
Currently, the NYPD is only required to report on level 3 stops, more commonly known as “stop-and-frisk.” As of 2021, 87% of level 3 stops were toward Black and Latino New Yorkers. Due to this, advocates are demanding that every stop from the NYPD should be reported.
“We need the How Many Stops Act passed with an urgency so we can try to eliminate these incidents from happening,” said Shawn Williams, the father of Antonio Williams, who was fatally shot by police in 2019.
“In most cases, these encounters escalate to beatings and even killings. If we had more transparency on the NYPD’s level one and two stops, the abuse against Black and Latinx New Yorkers would be reported and they would most likely stop doing what they’re doing out in these streets,” said Gladys Williams, Antonio’s stepmother. “If this act was back in 2019, Antonio would be here with us right now. Let’s stop these senseless acts.”
“Alongside with losing my brother, I’ve been profiled, harassed, unjustly stopped by the NYPD,” said Washington Heights resident Sammy Feliz, whose brother, Allan Feliz, was killed by NYPD in the Bronx after a traffic stop in 2019. “The NYPD’s culture of violence and disrespect for Black and Latinx New Yorkers is not a problem with a few bad apples, it’s a systematic lack of transparency and accountability.”
The co-sponsors noted that the bills are not anti-police, rather they are rooted in public safety.
“We need to understand what they are doing here. Our communities deserve it and quite frankly as you have seen in New York City and throughout the country, our lives depend on this,” said Avilés. “We don’t have to manufacture us versus them, we are fighting for the whole, we are fighting for dignity, so I just reject all this, ‘you’re either this or that,’ our community is all and then some.”
“We cannot help our city with better policing and public safety if we don’t know things like how many stops are actually happening,” said Williams.