The New York City Police Department (NYPD) justified the actions of an officer during a traffic stop involving City Council member Yusef Salaam.
Salaam, a member of the exonerated “Central Park Five” who serves as the Public Safety Chair on the City Council faced a traffic stop due to his car’s Georgia license plates and illegal window tinting, breaching New York State law on Friday, January 26th.
“At approximately 6:20 p.m. yesterday evening in the 26th precinct, an officer pulled over a blue sedan with a Georgia license plate for driving with dark tint beyond legal limits, a violation of New York State law. The officer approached the vehicle, identified himself, and asked the driver to roll down his windows,” the NYPD said.
“The driver complied and identified himself as New York City Councilmember Yusef Salaam, performing official duties, at which point the officer advised him to have a good night. This entire account is corroborated by body-worn camera footage and the vehicle report,” the police statement noted.
The NYPD statement added, “As the video shows, throughout this interaction, the officer conducted himself professionally and respectfully. He followed all proper procedures, including procedures that were put in place after Detective Russel Timoshenko was shot and killed through tinted windows in 2007. This officer should be commended for his discretion appropriately so the councilmember could complete his official duties.”
The department further clarified that this was a Level 4 encounter, as it involved probable cause due to a violation of traffic law. They stressed that such vehicle stops are meticulously documented, as demonstrated in this case.
Despite being released after identifying himself, Salaam publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the way the incident was handled and painted a different picture.
Salaam recounted the event in a Saturday statement, saying, “Last night, while driving with my wife and children and listening in to a call with my Council colleagues on speakerphone, I was pulled over by an NYPD officer in my beloved Village of Harlem within the 28th Precinct.”
He added, “I introduced myself as Councilman Yusef Salaam, and subsequently asked the officer why I was pulled over. Instead of answering my question, the officer stated, ‘We’re done here,’ and proceeded to walk away.”
The City Council member continued, “The fact that the officer did not provide a rationale for the stop…calls into question how the NYPD justifies its stops of New Yorkers and highlights the need for greater transparency to ensure they are constitutional.”
Despite Salaam’s criticism, the police department praised the officer’s adherence to protocols.
The Police Benevolent Association also commended the officer for his professionalism. Patrick Hendry, the PBA President, stated, “This Council member and every other elected official who baselessly smeared our police officers owe them an apology.”
This incident coincided with a scheduled ride-along between City Councilmembers and the NYPD amidst debates over the “How Many Stops Act.”
This proposed legislation, vetoed by Mayor Adams but facing a potential override by the City Council, aims to require detailed reporting by officers on all street stops, even minor ones.
Salaam, after the incident, decided against participating in the ride-along.
Salaam, a first-time candidate and father of ten, in June, achieved an unexpected victory in local politics, defeating state Assemblywoman Inez Dickens.
He was one of the teenagers falsely accused, convicted, and incarcerated for the assault on a woman who was jogging in Central Park in 1989.