Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill today demanded Gov. Andrew Cuomo to immediately sign a bill that would protect police officers by taking cars with ultra-dark windows off the road.
The proposed bill—sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Michael DenDekker and Republican State Senator John DeFrancisco—would amend the Vehicle and Traffic Law to include light transmittance of a car’s windows as part of the yearly motor vehicle inspection. The bill, which has passed both houses of the legislature, was delivered to Cuomo on Nov. 16 and is due by midnight on Nov. 28.
“The governor has before him an important piece of legislation and it clearly demarcates the need to make sure that heavily tinted windows are addressed during annual inspections of vehicles,” de Blasio said at the press conference near One Police Plaza. “Cars with deeply tinted windows would fail this inspection under our current state law but there is not a current requirement that this be dealt with at the inspection process, which is the best place to do it.”
The mayor and his commissioner blamed absence of any such law for the 2007 death of NYPD Officer Russel Timoshenko, who was shot in the course of conducting a routine traffic stop. Because the vehicle had excessive tint, Timoshenko and his partner Sergeant Herman Yan were unable to see into the vehicle.
Yan survived because his ballistic vest protected him, but Timoshenko died and was later promoted to detective. The late officer’s mother and his partner were present at today’s event.
The mayor said the bill centers on a timely issue given that police officers have been assaulted, shot and in some cases killed in the city and throughout the country. Earlier this month, NYPD Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo died in a shootout with an armed robber in the Bronx, though it does not appear window tint was a factor in that confrontation.
De Blasio pointed out that Cuomo vetoed a similar bill in 2012 on the grounds that it was an unfunded mandate to service inspection stations.
O’Neill said that he had issued an officer safety reminder to members of the NYPD yesterday after four cops who were shot around the country the day before.
“With very little money, state inspection locations can easily make the jobs of police officers not just here in New York City but all across the entire state of New York safer and I think that’s everyone’s goal,” he said. “I can’t for one second understand how this legislation could be vetoed a second time. To do anything less than signing it into a law would put the lives of every cop at risk who selflessly protect the public.”
A Cuomo administration official said that, in light of the recent and increased attacks on law enforcement officials, it believes that the legislation can significantly help keep police officers safe.
“We always intended to sign this legislation and would have been glad to tell the city if they’d just asked us—no need to grandstand,” Dani Lever, a Cuomo spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.
But Austin Finan, a de Blasio spokesman, reiterated that the governor vetoed the bill before.
“Nearly five years and one veto later, we’re glad the governor is ready to protect our police by taking illegal vehicles off the street,” Finan said in an emailed statement.
The law requires at least 70 percent light transmittance on front windshields, on front seat side windows and on rear side windows of station wagons, sedans, hardtops, coupes, hatchbacks and convertibles. But the bill’s proponents point out the safety feature is not part of the yearly safety and emissions inspections vehicles must undergo.
And they claim that if the bill becomes law, vehicle inspection centers would have to buy an inexpensive device that is available in retail marks to adjust the tint density and conduct the necessary testing.
The devices generally retail for anywhere between $100 and $150 and are already owned and operated by many auto body shops throughout the state. If the glass on a vehicle is found to be tinted beyond 30 percent of light transmittance, that vehicle would not pass the state safety inspection—and the window tint would have to be removed or altered before it could be re-inspected for compliance.
The NYPD performs more than 1 million car stops a year and issues roughly 65,000 to 70,000 tinted windows summonses annually.
DenDekker said the bill will benefit drivers and pedestrians as well and that the only exceptions would be for law enforcement or individuals with medical conditions for which they receive an exemption.
“Governor, if you hear my voice, please sign this piece of legislation,” he said. “Let’s make New York safer.”
Referring to the 2007 tragedy, Yan said that police officers should have the ability to view the interior of a vehicle during a car stop, saying that vehicles with illegal tints create a “tactical disadvantage.”
“This bill being discussed today has the potential to prevent the type of tragedy that happened to Detective Russel Timoshenko and me,” he said. “This legislation will go a long way towards providing police officers with the protection and security we deserve while conducting car stops, especially at night.”