The measures also would mandate cops speedily turn over officers’ body-worn camera recordings to state investigators, and that the department disclose more information about traffic stops and internal operations.
Members of the Council’s Democratic Majority Conference discussed the list of seven proposals impacting the NYPD on June 28, and the bills could be approved at the next public safety committee meeting, and then by the full body.
“New York City’s current policies on access to body worn camera footage have unfortunately fallen short of prioritizing public transparency,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said at a public hearing about the bills earlier this year.
Law enforcement advocates, however, warned the rules could overburden officers and impact public safety.
“The City Council needs to stop. Stop burying cops under paperwork and the NYPD under useless reporting requirements. Stop empowering the overlapping oversight regimes to crush cops’ careers just to fuel their anti-police narrative,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry told The Post.
“If that doesn’t happen, NYPD leaders need to stop pushing police officers to engage in the kind of effective, proactive policing that the City Council clearly does not want,” Hendry fumed.
One bill pushed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — Intro. 586-A — would require officers to file a report on all low-level “police-civilian investigative encounters.” These are instances where the person the police officer is engaging is not considered a suspect or being stopped, questioned and frisked.
Currently, the NYPD is only required to issue reports on “Level III” or “reasonable suspicion” stops where an officer has the legal authority to detain someone and prevent them from leaving.
The legislation would expand that to require reporting on all levels of police stops and encounters, organized by police precinct.
Cops would have to include racial or demographic information, factors leading to the investigative encounter and whether the encounter resulted in any enforcement action or use-of-force incident.
Michael Clarke, the NYPD’s director of legislative affairs said it was counterintuitive and counterproductive to have officers file reports on the millions of basic “interactions that are not police stops” — such as speaking to witnesses to a crime, attending to a sick passenger or seeking information from residents about a missing child or a fight in a park in response to a 911 call.
“What possible value would taking this information have toward the goal of providing police accountability?” Clarke testified during a March 27 Council Public Safety Committee hearing on the bills.
“In fact the bill is detrimental to building community and police relations, as it disincentivizes officers from approaching people who might need their help,” he said.
Clarke said even the federal monitor overseeing the NYPD’s overhaul of stop-and-frisk practices objected to mandated reporting requirements for such minor interaction between cops and the public.
He said there were more than 3.2 million recorded “Level 1” encounters last year, and that’s an undercount because some interactions involving one case would be lumped together.
Another one of the measures, Bill Intro. No. 585-A, also proposed by the public advocate, would require the department to turn over body-cam footage to the Inspector General for the NYPD within 10 days of receiving a request, unless disclosure is prohibited by law.
If footage is withheld the department must provide a written explanation to the Department of Investigation, citing specific laws, such as confidentiality, that would violate disclosure.
Clarke questioned the necessity of the bill, saying the NYPD has a close working relationship with DOI investigators and turns over footage on request, as long as it complies with the law.
“The intent of this bill is to presumably make videos available for public inspection. Allowing members of the public to inspect videos of individuals, possibly having one of the worst moments of their lives, is highly problematic and should be discouraged,” he said.
During the March 27 public hearing on the proposals, Speaker Adams (D-Queens) complained that the NYPD was dragging its feet on releasing bodycam footage.
She said many other cities and states were “significantly better” at disclosing footage to investigators and the public.
“Clearly there is a transparency gap regarding body worn camera footage that requires examination and solutions,” Adams said.
In general, she said, pushing for more transparency and accountability from the NYPD goes hand in hand with public safety and claimed it was “misguided and clearly short-sighted” to suggest they’re incompatible goals.
One proposal from Adams, which would have required the NYPD to provide the Civilian Complaint Review Board direct access to video recordings taken by officers, did not end up on the Democratic Majority Conference agenda, though it was discussed at the March 27 meeting.
Of the measures on the table, Bill No. 781-B would require the police report more extensively on the justifications for stops and searches of motorists.
It would mandate quarterly reporting on the total number of vehicle stops conducted by officers, including whether the offense observed was an infraction, violation, misdemeanor, or felony.
The report would also need to include the total number of searches of vehicles, total number of summonses or arrests and the total number of use-of-force incidents that occurred in connection with vehicle stops.
Other measures the Council is readying for action include:
Intro 538-A: Would order the NYPD expand its reporting on consent searches. Sponsored by Brooklyn Councilwoman Crystal Hudson, the bill requires officers to document the time, location and date of any attempt to obtain consent to search a person, vehicle, home, property or to collect a forensic sample. It also mandates quarterly reporting on such requests, whether the search was conducted or denied, disaggregated by race, precinct, type of search and whether interpretation services were utilized.
Intro. 948-A: Would require the NYPD publicly disclose more information on its operations — including its use of stop-question-and-frisk searches, overtime spending and more data on criminal complaints, arrests, and summons issued — and to post the information on its website.
Intro. 944-A: Would revise current reporting requirements on civil lawsuits filed against the NYPD by removing a limitation on cases reported more than five years before the civil action.
Intro. 638-A: Would require an annual report on donors who contribute more than $1 million to the NYPD within a year. It would also order the release of information on programs or projects to which the NYPD applied those donations, including capital projects or pilot programs.
Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) warned that, “With crime running rampant and our police force stretched thin and unable to act effectively, the last thing we need is more ridiculous laws that make their jobs even harder.”
“The Council’s Public Safety Committee should stop passing legislation that undermines public safety,” Holden said. “Our cops and New Yorkers deserve a break.”