City Council Is Poised to Defy Eric Adams on 2 Criminal Justice Bills


The New York City Council is expected to override Mayor Eric Adams’s veto of two criminal justice bills on Tuesday, delivering what would be a major defeat to Mr. Adams and his administration’s emphasis on strengthening law enforcement efforts.

The bills, which would force police officers to document more of their interactions with the public and would end solitary confinement in city jails, have opened a bitter rift between Mr. Adams and Democratic leaders in the City Council.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who ran for office on a public safety message, has warned that the bills would make the city and its jails more dangerous. He vowed to fight the override until the last moment and encouraged moderate council members to support him.

“Crime is down, and New York remains the safest big city in America,” Mr. Adams said in a statement, adding that the bill to document police stops would “undermine that progress and make our city less safe.”

The City Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, said on Monday that she was “very confident” that she had the votes to override his veto. The two measures, which passed in December with a two-thirds majority of the 51-member body, aim to call attention to discriminatory police stops and to make jails more humane after the deaths of several people who were held in solitary confinement.

Veto overrides in New York City are increasingly rare: Aside from a housing bill last summer, the last time the Council took this step was in early 2014, when it overrode six vetoes that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had cast at the end of his third and final term.

Mayor Adams has argued that a law banning solitary confinement, the practice of holding detainees alone for long periods, is unnecessary because the city has already effectively banned it by switching to punitive segregation, a less severe form of discipline. On Monday, Ms. Adams defended the bill.

“Isolation creates psychological harms for human beings — that’s a proven fact,” Ms. Adams said in an interview on NY1. “This bill is going to make sure that there is no isolation, no matter what we call it.”

The solitary confinement bill would ban the practice beyond a four-hour “de-escalation” period during emergencies and would require that all detainees spend at least 14 hours outside of cells each day. The bill has highlighted a national discussion about whether solitary confinement is torture or a legitimate form of punishment for detainees who grossly violate codes of conduct.

The police accountability bill would require police officers to log basic information about investigative stops of members of the public, including their race. Leaders in the Council have said the bill would help curb abuses of stop-and-frisk policing.

Both Mr. Adams, the city’s second Black mayor, and Ms. Adams, the first Black council speaker, are moderate Democrats. (They are not related.) But Ms. Adams has taken a position to the left of the mayor on several key issues, including her insistence on closing the Rikers Island jail complex by 2027.

The debate over the bills intensified over the weekend after Yusef Salaam, a newly elected council member who was wrongfully convicted in 1990 as a member of the Central Park Five, was pulled over by a police officer while driving with his family. Mr. Salaam said the officer did not give him a reason for the stop and that the episode showed why the accountability bill was needed.

The police responded by releasing body camera footage of the stop and saying that Mr. Salaam had been stopped for illegally tinted windows. Mayor Adams also defended the stop as a “picture-perfect example” of a courteous police response.

Mr. Salaam said in an interview that he would vote to override the mayor’s veto of both bills.

“I think the ask is to provide more transparency,” he said.

Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has fought vigorously to stop the bills. He organized a police ride-along with council members on Saturday to try to show them how requiring officers to submit documentation would slow them down. Regarding the solitary confinement bill, he has raised concerns that correction officers would not being able to restrain detainees while they are transported on buses, and argued that separating violent detainees is necessary.

The bill “would prevent us from being able to protect our staff and those who are in our care from violent individuals,” the mayor said at a news conference this month.

In one fraught moment, Mr. Adams’s staff sought to undermine Council leaders by trying to remove chairs during their news conference in the City Hall rotunda in support of the bills. On Friday, Ms. Adams said that the debate over the bills had been “unnecessarily toxic” and that the mayor and his team had “recklessly misled the public.”

The tension between the mayor and the City Council is expected to continue in the coming months as they negotiate the next city budget, which is due by the end of June. Council leaders have promised to fight the mayor’s unpopular budget cuts to libraries and schools.

Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.



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