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New York State Attorney General Letitia James is recommending that the New York Police Department no longer make arrests for certain warrants during traffic stops.
A report completed by the AG’s Special Investigations and Prosecution Units on Friday analyzed the death of 31-year-old Allan Feliz, who was shot by Sgt. Jonathan Rivera during an October 2019 traffic stop in the Bronx.
Feliz was pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt and instead of handing over his identification when officers asked, he provided his brother’s driver’s license instead, who had open warrants for littering, spitting, and disorderly conduct, which are considered violations but not crimes under New York law.
According to the New York Post, Feliz was ordered to step out of the car, but he got back into the vehicle and attempted to flee, prompting Officer Rivera to shoot the vehicle after he thought his partner was run over.
The AG found no wrongdoing on Officer Rivera’s part and declined to charge him, but said in the report that traffic stops like the one Feliz was involved in shouldn’t be performed by police officers because “the vast majority of traffic stops – including this one – do not involve criminal conduct, yet the involvement of police in such situations can result in violent interactions.”
The report then claims that the deadly traffic stop was another example of disparities in the use of force against Black and Latino men, citing studies that demonstrated these disparities.
“The untimely death of Mr. Feliz further underscores the need for change.”
The assumption is that the actions of Officer Rivera, who is himself a Latino man, were driven by systemic racism – a concept that academic Thomas Sowell says“has no meaning” and cannot be “tested” in any empirical manner. Furthermore, the suggestion that the interaction would have been non-violent had social workers made the traffic stop instead of police officers.
“The OAG believes that such a policy properly balances the risks to the community and the public interest in avoiding unnecessary arrests during car stops. In addition, the OAG encourages state lawmakers to consider whether this issue might also be more fully addressed through legislation,” the report reads.
“It is highly unlikely that the incident involving Mr. Feliz – whose warrants (Sammy Feliz warrants) were for the violations/offenses of spitting, littering, and disorderly conduct – would have escalated in the manner it did in the absence of this automatic arrest policy.”
A search of Feliz’s vehicle led to the discovery of nine grams of cocaine and 1.3 grams of meth, and police determined that he was on parole for a prior federal offense.
“Because Mr. Feliz was under federal parole supervision at the time of the incident, possession of these controlled substances would likely have violated the conditions of his release and, if convicted for possession of one or more felonies, subjected him to a mandatory New York State prison sentence.”