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Transcript: Mayor Adams, Doc Commissioner Maginley-liddie, NYPD Commissioner Caban Discuss How City Council Bills Will Make City And Jails Less Safe, Seek To Work With Council To Ensure Public Safety

January 21, 2024

Deputy Mayor Philip Banks III, Public Safety: So, good afternoon, and welcome. Today we're here to talk about two bills that are going to have an impact on public safety. It's going to have a negative impact on public safety. It will increase violence and it will actually erode public safety and public safety trust.

So, today, you're going to hear from a lot of people up here, but importantly, you're going to hear from people who live it every day and it’s going to have the most impact. And with that, I'd like to introduce the mayor of the City of New York, Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much. Let the baby, let the baby cry.

A few weeks ago when we were talking about this bill, particularly in the Department of Correction, a family member of a Correction officer stopped me on the streets and stated, everyone talks about this, but they're talking over the heads of those of us who sit at home every day and our loved ones going to New York City's toughest beat, and that's our jails.

These are real people, real family members. The baby you hear, her dad is in the Department of Correction. And people who are in jail, they have done some things that we consider it's not suitable at the time to be in society, and we forget that. And some of them don't stop their violence after being incarcerated. And when you look at these two bills that were introduced, both of them impact public safety.

And I want to be extremely clear. We believe that the City Council had good intentions but the applications of intention is different. The day‑to‑day service that men and women in Department of Correction and those who are New York City police officers, the applications of theories we must look at closely.

And our administration, we have been clear on day one, we wanted to create a city that is safer, more economically viable and more livable for all New Yorkers, and both of these occupations play a major role in doing that.

And that is why if you look at the last 24 months, crime is down, and I say over and over again, our jails are safer. Violence in our jails have decreased because of the men and women. We were dealing with a large number of officers who were not coming to work because of the conditions. That has drastically changed because of the action of the former commissioner and our current commissioner who's here today.

So, today I want to talk about two bills that will risk compromising our progress. Let us continue to move forward. Intro. 549‑A and 586‑A. Intro. 549‑A puts vulnerable New Yorkers at risk as well as those who are in custody. 80 percent of those who are injured in the Department of Correction are inmates — are inmates — who are trying to serve their time.

But many of them are preyed on and victimized like we saw with the individual who stabbed two tourists at Grand Central, he went to the Department of Correction and stabbed an inmate. Think about that for a moment.

Some are saying this bill is about solitary confinement. We need to get this clear once and for all. There is no solitary confinement in Rikers Island. The practice ended in 2019. Using this sleight of hand of using a terminology that invokes a lot of passion to get through a piece of legislation is misinformation at its worst.

We don't have solitary confinement. It is clearly defined what solitary confinement is. People can't make it up based on their own definition. We don't have solitary confinement in New York City jails. It was eliminated in 2019. And so let me say again to all New Yorkers. It does not exist in our jails.

And the New York Daily News Editorial Board made it clear this past week, the bill's defenders have often used a sleight of hand to suggest the bill is about solitary confinement when it is not. I didn't say that, that is what the observers who gave an independent analysis of the use of this bill. We all agree that solitary confinement is inhumane. We all agree on that, and that's why in 2019 it was removed and this administration does not use solitary confinement.

What this bill will do is prevent us from being able to protect the people who are in our care and who are there to ensure they get the proper humane care. And that includes correction officers, that includes staff, that includes the inmates, that includes those who work there for any reason at all. And the New York Post editorial board said the bill will make jails more dangerous for detainees and staff.

Our administration will always protect and ensure the dignity of those entrusted in our care, but this bill is misguided. It would prevent us from being able to protect our staff and those who are in our care from violent individuals.

For example, it would prevent or prohibit correction officers from restraining detainees while they are being transported on buses. This bill is saying that when they're transporting inmates, for whatever reason, they cannot handcuff them. We will never allow police officers to transport an arrestee in the back of an RMP without that person being handcuffed.

Why would we do that to correction officers? On an RMP, you carry one or two prisoners; on a correction bus, you can carry up to 20 detainees. And we're saying leave them unhandcuffed. This is just not realistic, and it just does not make law enforcement sense. We're not permitted to safety handcuff or restrain these individuals. This will endanger the lives of staff, detainees and anyone that is transported.

But you don't have to take it from me, which is so important. Everyone said over and over again, listen to the federal monitor, listen to the federal monitor. Here's what the federal monitor stated. This bill "will intensify the risk of harm to both persons in custody and department staff at Rikers." That is straight from the federal monitor.

So, we must fight against misinformation when it comes to public safety. We must stand together to protect our correction officers, our detainees and the staff that are on Rikers Island and any of our correctional facilities.

That is why on Friday I took decisive actions and vetoed this bill along with Intro. 586‑A. And I want to recognize and thank our correction officers and the family members who are here that give us their loved ones to go into these facilities to protect the detainees, the staff, and everyone who comes to Rikers Island and our other correctional facilities.

Also, I want to thank our NYPD brave officers for the work they do to keep New Yorkers safe every single day. And we need to keep driving down crime and doing what the commissioner has been leading us to do and make this city continue to be the safest big city in America.

And that brings us to Intro. 586‑A, known as the How Many Stops Act. It requires police officers to prepare a report on their most basic interactions with the public. And this misinformation, that basic interactions with the public don't have to be documented, it's just untrue.

Level 1s have been clearly defined by court proceedings, and we have to respect that. Level 1, an officer may approach someone and request information if there is an objective, credible reason to do so.

So, if it's a missing person, that's an objective, credible reason. If it's knocking on a thousand doors because we have a person who stabbed six people, that's an objective, credible reason. It does not require suspicion of criminal activity.

And so it's misinformation to give the impression that this only deals with criminal activity. It is clearly laid out what Level 1 is. This is the only part of the bill that we are in disagreement with. That was our ask of the City Council. Give us an exception to the mere stopping someone for an objective, credible reason. Those are minor interactions with the public.

We don't oppose the entire bill that they presented, we oppose this part. Good faith, but the practicality and application of it is not realistic. It's going to cause millions of reports being generated, it's going to drive up overtime, it is going to really inhibit the relationship we want to bring with the public and the New York City Police Department.

And it's going to take too much time to have these officers move forward with this, and it could be intrusive to guess the ethnicity, the age, to write down why you stopped someone in the first place. Anyone who continues to say this does not take up time really don't understand the principle of policing, but it's worded right there in clear lettering what Level 1 stops are.

You can't make Level 1 stops what you want them to be, it was handed down on what Level 1 stops are.

And so drowning officers in unnecessary paperwork when they should be out on the street keeping us safe and building a relationship with the community, it just gets in the way of the success that we have shown in this city.

Additionally, the bill will leave taxpayers with tens of millions of dollars in NYPD overtime each year. Contrary to what some have claimed, this includes Level 1 interactions with these basic conversations with the public. I think Chief Maddrey laid it out the best when he talked about asking someone are they all right after a marathon, or our community affairs officers that we've encouraged to walk inside the stores, asking store keepers is everything alright? Have you seen anything that is violent in nature?

These are common communications that would require filling out this documentation, and it does not require suspicious criminal activity. That is what needs to be fixed in the bill. This broad category, these interactions are not targeted. This is not what the City Councilmembers had in mind.

When I spoke with many City Councilmembers and shared with them, they were alarmed to know that this is something that they didn't clearly understand and I'm hoping they will reconsider what this bill is doing.

Reporting on every one of these interactions would take officers away from policing our streets. We cannot handcuff our police. Say it over and over again, the goal is to handcuff bad guys that do bad things in our city.

We, as elected officials, we have a sacred responsibility to keep our constituents safe. Our city's elected leaders deserve to see our police officers are doing their jobs every day. We believe that, and that transparency is something that I fought for.

What I'm asking for is in complete alignment with what I have stood for for the last 30‑something years including those years in the police department, and anyone that is stating this is out of alignment with what my position has been, they are incorrect. This is what I've always stand for, transparency, but also making sure we have safety in this city.

And this bill will force these officers to spend far too much time filling out paperwork, and that's why the commissioner and I are asking every single Councilmember and city‑wide elected to join members of the NYPD next week to ride along to see how this bill is enacted.

We want them to ride with a police officer, go listen to these calls and these jobs that are coming over the radio, see what it is to respond to these jobs. This is a moment where we must be on the ground and see the realization of any form of legislation that's coming out of our city government.

I'm hoping that all of our City Councilmembers and city‑wide electors will join us when this ride along. And I'm encouraged that the new Public Safety chair, Yusef Salaam, I communicated with him over the weekend, he stated that he will be joining us on this ride along. And I think it's crucial that all the City Councilmembers, as Deputy Mayor Banks alluded to a few days ago, to come and be part of this ride along.

I know the importance of transparency. Everyone knows my story. Everyone knows what I went through as a child, 15 years old. I turned that pain into purpose to become a law enforcement officer, to protect the people of the city and advocate for fair policing. We want to continue to do that.

And I want to say to my friends in the City Council, we want to work with you. We want to reach the same goal. We have been successful thus far with Speaker Adrienne Adams to navigate us through these difficult times. We want to continue to do that.

I think the speaker's intentions were right, I think that the desire was right. The wording must be examined so we can get the results that we're all looking for. Again, thank you, Deputy Mayor Banks.

Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Just want to acknowledge a couple of people here. You're going to hear from a lot of people behind us today, but some people that you won't be, but Charles Billups been very helpful, so I want to acknowledge, and certainly with many things with the mayor, his general counsel, Lisa Zornberg behind the scenes and she's working on it. So, I just want to acknowledge her effort in this particular endeavor. Next, I want you to hear from the Department of Correction Commissioner Maginley‑Liddie.

Commissioner Lynelle Maginley‑Liddie, Department of Correction: Thank you, mayor, for continuing to voice the very serious issues that Intro. 549‑A will create. I have said this many times, in a letter to the Council, in a video on social media and at press conferences and in interviews, but I want to say this very clearly once more.

Intro. 549‑A will create more violence. It will place the lives of my staff and detainees in grave danger. It is a dangerous piece of legislation. It purports to ban solitary confinement, but solitary confinement — an internationally understood term defined by the UN — is not a practice used in New York City's jails, period, full stop. Anyone claiming otherwise is flat‑out wrong.

I am the commissioner of this agency. I have been with the Department of Correction for the last eight years of my career. This practice was removed in 2019 and I'm glad it was. So, let me repeat once more so everyone can hear it: we do not use solitary confinement.

I want to be clear, this is not a matter of semantics. Intro. 549‑A extrapolates the dangers of solitary confinement and misapplies them to basic jail safety practices.

My goal is that every person in our custody returns to their family and their community better than how they entered our care. I'm equally committed to seeing every one of our staff returning home safely each day. Intro. 549‑A will make that impossible.

Our jails must have the ability to provide meaningful consequences to violent actions. This is not because we want to punish people, but because safe jail management depends on our ability to appropriately deter violence. Highly programmed restrictive housing that gradually returns people to general population privileges can achieve that.

Intro. 549‑A, by comparison, eliminates consequences and creates chaos. This misguided bill also eliminates our ability to handcuff people while transporting them to court. I cannot express to you how dangerous this is or how seriously it will impede our ability to get detainees to court.

No one, and I mean no one, should fear for their life while being transported in a city vehicle on their way to a court date. Intro. 549‑A will make it impossible for the department to guarantee anyone's safety during transport.

I reached out to the federal monitor for guidance on how we could implement this bill without undoing the violence reduction progress we have made, and the monitor's response further illuminates how dangerous this bill really is.

To quote the federal monitor's letter, "549‑A will likely exacerbate the already dangerous conditions in the jails, intensify the risk of harm to both persons in custody and department staff, and would seriously impede the city's and department's ability to achieve compliance with the requirements of the Nuñez court orders. As such, the monitoring team recommends significant revisions to Council Bill 549-A are necessary to address the issues outlined in this document and to support the overall goal of managing a safe and humane jail system and advancing the reforms of the Nuñez court orders."

Mayor Adams, thank you for vetoing this bill. To the Boldest families here today, thank you for being here to voice your concerns for your loved ones. I share those same deep‑seated concerns. And to the members of Council, I implore you to hear all that we're saying today. We all want safe jails for staff and detainees, and we will work together with you to make them safer. But 549‑A will not accomplish that goal.

Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you, commissioner. So, you've heard from the person who's in charge of setting policy, then you heard from the person who's in charge of enforcing the policy. Now you are going to hear from people who live with it 24 hours a day. We're going to hear from Muhammad Ndao. Thank you.

Muhammad Ndao: Good evening. My name is Muhammad. I'm 12 years old. My mother is a New York City correction officer. Every day I worry about her safety and every day I pray that she comes home the same way how she left our house.

All I want is for our city to do everything possible to keep her safe and to keep the officers he works with safe. I'm proud of my mom. I love her very much. I hope the City Council is listening to me

Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you, Mohammed. Now next we'll hear from Sara Walters.

Sara Walters: Hi, my name is Sara Walters and my husband, Robert Walters, is a corrections officer. This is our little baby girl, as you could all hear I'm sure. We just want him to come home safe. Twice now he hasn't come home safe, he's been assaulted twice. And the City Council really just needs to do the right thing. 

These men and women work hard, they miss holidays, they miss birthday parties, they miss special events and they work in a very dangerous environment. We don't need it to be more dangerous than it already is. So, that's it. Just do the right thing, please.

Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you, Sara. Next, we're going to hear from deputy commissioner of Legal Matters for the NYPD, Deputy Commissioner Gerber. 

Deputy Commissioner Michael Gerber, Legal Matters, Police Department: Good afternoon. I just want to take this opportunity to address a number of questions that have come up regarding the Level 1 bill and what it would mean for the department.

So, first of all, I want to speak to just the range of encounters that constitute Level 1 encounters; and again, Level 1 encounters, there's a large body of law that defines the scope of Level 1 encounters. It is vast. That language, objective, credible reason that the mayor referred to, that's in the case law, comes into our patrol guide, it's tracked in the bill.

Level 1 encounters include a police officer asking did you hear anything? Did you see anything? Even if the answer is no, that's a Level 1 encounter. A police officer asks, have you seen this missing child? That's a Level 1 encounter. Whatever the answer, yes, no, I'm not sure. That's a Level 1.

A police officer asks, or says, you seem to be in distress. Do you need help? Is everything okay? Did something happen? That's a Level 1 encounter, every time, every person. So, it is vast.

And I also, I want to be clear, Level 1 encounters, these are not based on suspicion. Once we're talking about a police officer saying, I think someone may be up to no good, I think someone may be engaged in criminal activity, about to commit a crime, now we're talking about Level 2s, now we're talking about Level 3s.

Also, these Level 1 encounters, they're not stops. As a legal matter, they are not stops. The person is free to go. If someone is not free to go, it's not a Level 1, by definition.

And finally, I just want to speak to the numbers and the sheer scope of what we're talking about. When we talk about Level 2s, or Level 3s, on an annual basis, that's being measured in the tens of thousands per year. Level 1s, we're talking about tens of thousands every day, 365 days a year. The number of Level 1 encounters that the department has on an annual basis is millions upon millions upon millions.

So, the bill, particularly with regard to Level 1 encounters, the scope is vast and the impact on the department would be dramatic. Thank you.

Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you, commissioner. Next, we will hear from the police commissioner of the City of York, Edward Caban.

Police Commissioner Edward Caban: Thank you, Deputy Mayor Banks. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And good afternoon, everyone. everyone.

So, we're here again because we need to make it crystal clear when we talk about this bill. Political posturing and misinformation do not change the facts. So, here are the facts.

Level 2 and 3 encounters are measured in the tens of thousands. Level 1 encounters, they are measured in the millions. In 2023, the NYPD responded to 8.5 million 911 and 311 calls.

Now, if officers spoke to just one potential victim or witness in response to each of these calls, that's 8.5 million Level 1 encounters. Just think about the scale of that.

But of course, our officers speak to many, many potential victims and witnesses. We are talking about millions upon millions of Level 1 encounters. But remember, that is only in response to 911 and 311 calls. Those millions of encounters do not even begin to account for the daily policing that is the bedrock of our officers' work.

This bill doesn't just ask officers to guess the race, gender and age of millions of New Yorkers, it also requires an explanation for every single Level 1 encounter. For every time we ask if someone has seen or heard anything, even when the answer is no, the resulting paperwork increases the time involved for each job by a factor of 10. And that's time our officers should and must be spending out in the street doing their jobs.

And if you think this is hypothetical, it's not. Since we stood here 48 hours ago, the NYPD has responded to over 42,000 911 calls. That's at least 42,000 Level 1 encounters. And given the nature of the job, it's almost certainly many more times than that. The demands of this bill on our offices, on our taxpayers and on our ability to keep our city safe are truly staggering.

The NYPD has one job: to keep every person in every New York City's neighborhood safe. But we know we don't do this in a vacuum and we understand that public safety policy in our city has to be a collaborative effort.

That's why for months the NYPD has engaged in good faith discussions to try and reach a compromise that will provide for additional disclosures but without undermining public safety. And we will continue working with City Hall, the City Council, our DA offices and all of our law enforcement partners with a singular purpose: keeping people safe. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: And we also want to thank the presidents of the correction officers. Benny is also here, the president of the [Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.] And Charles Billups with the Grand Council of Guardians. We want to thank them for the communication with some of the family members.

I think it's just really important these family members behind us know that we are with you as we attempt to ensure that the facilities are safe and our streets are safe. I'm going to open up to a few questions.

Question: Mayor Adams, on Friday, the second man in 2024 died in the hands of… Detainment at Rikers. Any details of what happened? Do we know the circumstances to which this death occurred and also in what conditions this person was in that maybe have likely led to that death?

Mayor Adams: And oftentimes we count the number of people who pass away on Rikers Island and we don't really do an analysis that people enter Rikers Island with real health conditions. Of my understanding, this individual had a pacemaker and they seem to have some history of heart conditions.

And so it's still under review, but there are many people who come to Rikers that are dealing with real not only mental health illness but physical illness. And so the review is still taking place; and once it's officially known, we will make sure that everyone is aware of it. Thank you.

Question: Mayor Adams, what is your message to the Councilmembers who voted to pass the bill, and to the constituents?

Mayor Adams: And several of them I spoke with in the last few days. And from the video that we sent out to very clear, concise communications, some of them shared that they were not aware that the depth of the Level 1 stops, they thought it was any time someone was suspected of criminal behavior. And as you saw, the ruling is clear, you don't have to be suspected of criminal behavior.

And so I think this is a reflection point that some of them are looking to see, how do we get what we were attempting to obtain without undermining public safety? Many of them are extremely pro public safety, and I can just think of some of the names of the individuals who I communicated with that have always been supportive of public safety.

I think those who were outside advocates for this sort of did a sleight of hand on both of these bills. And what the Council was attempting to accomplish was undermined by how this was presented to them. And I'm hoping that this is a reflection point that we could come to a good understanding how we can get what we all want. We agreed with the concept of the bill, Level 1 stops, that's where our agreement stopped.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: You mentioned the names of some of the… So you're saying you talked to Councilmembers. Can you share who you spoke with? You were saying Yusef Salaam was one of them.

And then also, with this, I mean, we were all together on Friday, now again on Sunday. You've really been pushing for this. Shouldn't have this all happened in December? I mean, isn't it too little too late, basically?

Mayor Adams: And I said Yusef Salaam agreed to do the ride alone, I want to be very clear of that. And communications I had with Councilmembers and others, you know, I don't reveal private conversations because people are transparent when they speak with you and I'm transparent when I speak with them. Yusef Salaam has agreed to do the ride along and several other Council members have agreed, and I'm hoping that the full Council agrees.

And as the commissioner stated and as the Department of Correction officials stated, we were trying to have these conversations over and over again to look at Level 1s. We're with Level 2s, we're with Level 3s because there's normally criminality or suspicions involved. We've been saying over and over again the Level 1s is what we need to look at.

So, this is not… We didn't start this information sharing. This is something that we've done over and over again. Deputy Commissioner Gerber has been very clear on trying to say we have to be clear on the Level 1s. I think people are finally waking up and noticing what we have been saying, But we have been saying this over and over again.

And even it is unfathomable to say that you can't handcuff prisoners when they're being transported. That has nothing to do with punitive segregation. That has nothing to do with what they believe they wanted. To place inmates in danger and staff in danger to have 20 people on a bus that is not placed in some form of restraint, that is something that is just unbelievable that anyone with a basic understanding of law enforcement will even suggest.

We would never allow prisoners to be transported in a police vehicle that is not handcuffed. So, why would we do it to correction officers?

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