By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York City Council voted on Tuesday to override Mayor Eric Adams’ vetoes of two bills it passed last month, one banning solitary confinement in city jails, the other requiring police to record lower-level investigative stops of civilians.
In passing the bills with veto-proof majorities in December, lawmakers called solitary confinement cruel and torturous, and said it leads to heightened risks of injury or death for people in custody, particularly in the city’s violence-plagued main jail complex on Rikers Island.
Under the How Many Stops Act, police officers will have to record basic demographic information about people they question in low-level investigative stops, why they made the stop, and whether an officer used force against a person they questioned.
The New York Police Department, which is the subject of an independent monitor appointed by a federal judge over its past practice of stopping and frisking Black and Latino New Yorkers in disproportionate numbers, has joined the mayor, a former NYPD captain, in opposing the law.
Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled council said the law amounted to a simple extension of existing reporting requirements that “the most technologically advanced police department in the world can easily implement.”
“At a time when Black and Latino New Yorkers continue to be disproportionately subjected to unconstitutional stops that go underreported, and civilian complaints of misconduct are at their highest level in over a decade, the need for basic transparency is clear,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement.
At least two thirds of the council’s 51 members must vote in favor in order to override a mayor’s veto of a bill.
In vetoing boths bills this month, Mayor Adams, a Democrat and no relation to the council speaker, said the new reporting requirements would distract police officers from their jobs.
In an interview with NY1 shortly before the council’s vote, the mayor said that, before the law goes into effect, “let’s correct the parts of it that is going to be burdensome to catching people who are dangerous in our city.”
The mayor and the labor union representing the city’s jail guards argued the solitary confinement ban will make it more difficult to protect jail workers and detainees, most of whom are awaiting trial and were denied or unable to afford release on bail.
Under current “punitive segregation” rules, jail officials can punish detainees who are violent or otherwise break jail rules by isolating them in a cell for up to 23 hours a day for up to 60 days straight for the most serious infractions.
The new law reduces that to a maximum of four hours, with wellness checks by jail staff every 15 minutes. For serious infractions, detainees can be transferred to restrictive housing for up to 60 days in a single year.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen)
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