Why NYC Council must override mayor’s veto of How Many Stops Act: Black City Council members

January 30, 2024
Daily News

Ten years after the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, Black New Yorkers continue to be the disproportionate target of police stops, too many of which are unconstitutional and underreported. 

As Black men in New York City, we know firsthand about the humiliating and genuinely traumatic experiences of being stopped by police in your own community, despite having done nothing to warrant it.

We represent the neighborhoods of East New York, Harlem, the Northeast Bronx, and Central Brooklyn, which are among those most impacted by these stops. 

That is why we support addressing the lack of transparency, which the How Many Stops Act can help provide. These stops can no longer occur in the shadows, leaving those who look like us to silently suffer from the trauma they inflict. 

For Black boys and men in our communities, there is often no distinction in experience between the different levels of stops. The intrusion into our lives is the same, and the fear of a stop escalating into violence and becoming fatal is justified by a history of such occurrences.

The federal monitor appointed as a result of the 2013 court decision to end stop-and-frisk recently found that Black and Latino New Yorkers represent 97% of those stopped by the mayor’s new reconstituted NYPD unit. The report also revealed that one out of every four stops made by the unit to be unconstitutional.

The lack of transparency and accountability in these stops diminishes the trust between the police and community residents, making our neighborhoods less safe. 

Our privilege as Council members does not protect us from being stopped. To the world, we are Black men first before we are elected officials.

We’ve all had “the talk,” an intergenerational conversation to specifically address how to navigate interactions with the police and avoid the negative outcomes that have happened to many. This burden of safety should not fall on us as individuals, but the reality is that it does. Public safety is a collective effort, and one that requires police transparency. 

As the number of police stops has increased, a report from the Civilian Complaint Review Board revealed that civilian complaints of police misconduct rose 51% last year to their highest level in more than a decade. NYPD’s own audits have also shown that too many stops continue to go underreported. All this makes the need for transparency even more urgent.

The How Many Stops Act (HMSA) would help bring uniform reporting to the department and needed transparency to the public. The “Level 1” and “Level 2” stops that are the focus of the bill are often invasive, and they disproportionately target Black and Latino New Yorkers. It is inaccurate to claim that these stops are casual interactions or that accounting for them is not police work and too burdensome. 

Officers already document these stops through body camera footage; the bill would simply add to the data. As members of the most technologically advanced police department in the world, officers already have access to smartphones that allow them to electronically file reports. This reporting would not add a meaningful burden for officers if the NYPD implements the law in a reasonable way. This isn’t just our perspective — it’s one we’ve heard from officers as well.

The HMSA originated from the remedial process of the 2013 stop-and-frisk court decision. By collecting and disclosing data on investigative stops, the How Many Stops Act seeks to bring forth a fuller picture of these encounters, fostering accountability and trust between the police and the communities they serve.

We want young people to feel a sense of belonging to their communities and be empowered to contribute meaningfully. The stops they endure without accountability steal that self-perception. When that happens enough, they risk internalizing the harmful stereotypes placed upon them. Black and Brown children deserve a childhood as free and uninhibited as their peers.

As four Black men serving as Council members in the most diverse Council in New York City history, we have a responsibility to do right by the New Yorkers whose experiences we share. We cannot cower from our responsibility but instead use the power of lawmaking to champion underrepresented voices.

We must listen to the communities and New Yorkers that have been persistently harmed by injustices, to the teachers working to repair the shame and fear felt by their students stopped by the police, and to the mothers who worry for their sons. We must meet this moment with moral clarity and a commitment to progress, because that is how we move society forward and improve the world we’ve inherited.