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January 27, 2024, 10:10 PM

NYPD pulled over ‘Central Park 5’ Councilman Yusef Salaam as vote looms on bill requiring cops to record stops


“Central Park 5” City Councilman Yusef Salaam says police stopped him without explanation as he drove with his family through Harlem on Friday night — an incident that comes as the City Council plans an override vote on Mayor Adams’ veto of a bill that would require cops to document their street stops.

Salaam said he “was listening in to a call with my Council colleagues on speakerphone” when he was stopped. Police video of the stop shows he was pulled over about 6:20 p.m. on W. 125th St. near 12th Ave., just east of the elevated West Side Highway.

“I introduced myself as Councilman Yusef Salaam, and subsequently asked the officer why I was pulled over,” Salaam said in a statement. “Instead of answering my question, the officer stated, ‘We’re done here,’ and proceeded to walk away.”

Police said the officer Salaam complained about “conducted himself professionally and respectfully.”

Body-worn camera video showed the encounter differed from Salaam’s recollection, and does not show Salaam asking the officer why he was stopped.

It was dark outside as the officer approached Salaam’s blue BMW. He clearly identified himself as from the 26th Precinct, but his name was not audible on the video, and the Police Department did not identify him in its statement.

“I’m Council member Salaam,” Salaam said.

“Oh, Council member?” the officer replied.

“District 9,” Salaam said.

“Oh, OK. Have a good one,” the officer said. He immediately stepped away from the car.

“Everything OK?” Salaam asked as the officer stepped away.

The officer answered: “Yep. You’re working, right?”

Salaam’s brief reply was not audible. “Take care, Sir,” the officer responded.

The officer’s partner also approached Salaam’s car on the passenger side, the video shows. The video shows people were in the car’s front passenger and back seats, but their faces were blurred. The entire interaction lasted less than 40 seconds.

Police said Salaam’s car had a Georgia license plate, and was stopped because officers believed its windows were tinted too dark, possibly in violation of New York motor vehicle law. In a statement, the Police Department said the officer who approached Salaam “followed all proper procedures, including procedures that were put in place after Detective Russel Timoshenko was shot and killed through tinted windows in 2007.”

The officers also filed a vehicle stop report, which the Police Department posted on X with the video and its statement.

“This officer should be commended for his polite, professional and respectful conduct and for using his discretion appropriately so the Council member could complete his official duties,” police said in the statement on X.

Salaam, who joined the City Council this month and was recently named chairman of its Public Safety Committee, said the officer should have explained why he was being pulled over. If the How Many Stops Act is made law over Adams’ veto, the cop would have also taken down Salaam’s name and filed a report about the stop.

Salaam said he was pulled over “in my beloved village of Harlem.” His statement didn’t say exactly where or when.

“This experience only amplified the importance of transparency for all police investigative stops, because the lack of transparency allows racial profiling and unconstitutional stops of all types to occur and often go unreported,” said Salaam.

Salaam on Friday had agreed to attend a Saturday night NYPD ride-along with other City Council members in the hope of better learning how cops deal with the public while responding to calls.

But after the incident, Salaam, who was exonerated after spending years in prison as one of the Central Park 5 teens wrongly convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger rape case, canceled his plan to attend the event.

“While it is imperative for all of us as New Yorkers to understand the difficult tasks that we ask the NYPD to take on, it is also critical to understand the lived experiences of those subjected to unjust police stops in this city,” he said.

“Many of us in the Council know what it’s like to feel vulnerable and powerless when stopped by an officer, because we have personally experienced triggering interactions like I had last night.”

A number of Council members joined Adams in the ride-along on Saturday evening. The legislators met at the 28th Precinct stationhouse on Frederick Douglass Blvd., and then went on patrols with officers.

Insiders say Adams was using the ride-along to encourage legislators not to overturn his veto.

Salaam’s Council colleagues railed against Friday’s stop, with Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens) calling the interaction “a glimpse into what everyday Black and Brown New Yorkers encounter.”

“Glad my colleague, @dr_yusefsalaam, and his family made it home safely last night,” she wrote on X.

In a statement, Adams thanked Salaam for bringing the police stop to his attention, and commended the officers involved “for following all proper police procedures and being respectful.”

Adams previously said he vetoed the How Many Stops Act because requiring cops to document every one of their stops would take too much of their time from policing. The bill is “extremely detrimental to public safety,” Adams said.

Adams announced the veto Jan. 19. The Council will hold its overturn vote Tuesday.

The How Many Stops Act, which passed the Council last month, lays out three levels of police encounters that cops would have to document. Supporters said the law would prevent the return of the kind of biased law enforcement the city saw during the Bloomberg-era peak of stop-question-and-frisk policing.

Salaam has vowed to seek the override of Adams’ veto ever since the mayor vetoed the bill. He and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams have accused the mayor of peddling a “false narrative” about the bill with an aim to “mislead and incite fear” among New Yorkers.

In a statement Saturday, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry said “lies” are being told about the Salaam stop.

The video “shows the truth about the outstanding, professional work our members do every day,” Hendry said. “This Council member and every other elected official who baselessly smeared our police officers owe them an apology.”

With Julian Roberts-Grmela