More than 80 percent of the people arrested for the possession of marijuana during the first eight months of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration were people of color, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
During de Blasio’s run for mayor last year, he vowed to direct the NYPD to reduce the number of marijuana arrests citywide.
However, between the months of January and August 2013, there were 20,080 marijuana possession arrests; during the same period this year, there were 19,684 arrests, which accounts for a drop of about two percent, according to the data and a report provided by DPA.
The current mayor also took a firm stance concerning the treatment of first time offenders, saying that:
“First time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed.”
However, statistics show that under de Blasio, the NYPD still continues to arrest first time offenders rather than fining them. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, almost 75 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession under de Blasio have been first time offenders.
Moreover, since de Blasio has been the mayor of New York City, 85 percent of the individuals arrested for marijuana possession were either black or Latino, and the number of black people arrested was more than four times higher than the number of white people arrested for the same charge.
Most shockingly, in all but two precincts this year (not including Central Park), the percentage of black people and Latinos arrested for marijuana possession is more than their percentage of the population, according to census data obtained from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
In the end, there is a blatant and obvious pattern that the percentage of arrests of black and Latino individuals is disproportionate. Furthermore, the reality is not that these populations use or possess marijuana more than their white counterparts. Use rates are similar across racial demographics. The reality is that these arrests are racially oriented and destroying countless lives.
As reported by The Huffington Post, Bill de Blasio, a candidate for New York City mayor last year, promised to end marijuana arrests, noting that they have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families.” As mayor, however, de Blasio is not living up to his promise.
According to a report released yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, between March and August of this year, NYPD made hundreds more low-level marijuana arrests than they did during the same six-month period under New York City’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
The report, which draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, depicts the blatant racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests: the NYPD continues to arrest Latinos at nearly four times the rate as white people and black people at seven times the rate of white people. This is in spite of numerous studies that demonstrate that young black people and Latinos in New York and elsewhere are no more likely than their white counterparts to use marijuana.
Moreover, the report analyzes the number of arrests by neighborhood, showing that the majority of arrests are centered in predominantly black and Latino areas.
“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”
Ultimately, the report portrays a typical arrest victim as a young person of color who generally abides by the law. In fact, as relayed in the report, three-quarters of those arrested for marijuana this year have never even been convicted of a misdemeanor.
“As a whole, we in the communities of color voted for him,” said Anastasia Sanders—a 21 year old woman from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio hoping he would reform the police department’s practices. “So for us to continue to be arrested, to be honest, it’s not fair, and we just wish we had his support a little bit more.”
Ray Kelly, who has spent the last 12 years as New York City’s police commissioner, has been a topic of discussion recently for the upcoming vacancy for the Secretary of Homeland Security. In a recent interview, Obama said of Mr. Kelly, “[He might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it.” He went on to add that Kelly would be “very well qualified” for the job.
Kelly spent 12 years instituting unreasonable and racially insensitive systems of arrest and harassment via his unpopular “Stop and Frisk” measures. The program searched more black men in 2011 than actually lived in New York City, as reported by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Despite NYC marijuana decriminalization, Ray Kelly instituted policies that were used to deceive citizens into accidentally “violating” more serious statutes than a civil matter like private marijuana possession.
The New York Times opinion page discusses the pros and cons of Kelly’s potential nomination, taking note of his tenure being marked by much controversy. The Drug Policy Alliance found that under Kelly’s leadership, 1,000,000 hours of police work were dedicated to making 440,000 marijuana possession arrests in 11 years in New York City.
If you agree with us that Ray Kelly’s job performance would be as damaging at the federal level as it clearly has been at the municipal level, then please sign this petition to stop his nomination before if can be considered further.
Have you ever wondered how many hours law enforcement officers waste on arresting and processing people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession? The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has the answer, and it’s in the seven digits.
The DPA reviewed low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests carried out by the New York Police Department (NYPD) during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure and found that NYPD used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years. That’s 1,000,000 hours that could have been spent investigating and solving serious, violent crimes. And that is just one city.
Additionally, the report, which was prepared by professor of sociology at Queens College Dr. Harry Levine, a recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, estimates that the people arrested by NYPD for marijuana possession have spent 5,000,000 hours in police custody over the last decade.
The only people who profit from a police force high on marijuana arrests are the real predators. How many more hours will be squandered until lawmakers realize that targeting non-violent marijuana users is putting our communities at risk?
A new audio recording reveals a disturbing example of current NYPD practices, specifically the “stop and frisk” policy of stopping and searching pedestrians without warrants or probable cause. A 17-year-old named Alvin, who made the recording, explains in the video below that he had been repeatedly stopped and searched by the police for no apparent reason and so had decided to record the next incident. Upon being asked why they are stopping him, the officers on the recording explain that his offense is “looking back at us like that” and “being a fucking mutt.” They then threaten to slap him in the face and break his arm.
The full audio recording is available at The Nation.
The NYPD’s numbers report that the department stopped and frisked 684,330 people last year, which as the Wall Street Journal points out, was “14 percent more than in 2010 and about seven times the number in 2002.” City officials claim the program is effective in reducing crime and getting guns off the streets. However, the New York Civil Liberties Union disputes this, pointing out that less than 0.2 percent of the stops yielded any guns, and approximately 88 percent of the stops did not result in arrests or even citations.
One aspect of the stop and frisk policy, namely the “Operation Clean Halls” program, is ostensibly aimed at drug dealing in and around low-income apartment buildings. The tactics are now being challenged in court, with Assistant District Attorney Jeannette M. Rucker testifying that people are being arrested on trespass charges for being in or around buildings which they actually live in or where friends they’re visiting live.
The tactic also seems to facilitate arrests on marijuana charges. In 2011, there were approximately 50,000 arrests made in the city for minor marijuana possession. This is despite a New York state law, which since 1977 has essentially decriminalized possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana. Under this law, the offense is only punishable by small fines or up to 15 days in prison if it is the individual’s third such offense within a three-year period. A new lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society claims that people are being illegally arrested on minor marijuana charges, sometimes for “public display” of marijuana, which is a criminal offense carrying up to 90 days in prison. Attorneys suggest, however, that the “public display” often simply involves defendants in stop-and-frisk encounters being ordered by police to empty their pockets.
This seems to be not only an attempt to get around the decriminalization law, but also in violation of the recent directive from the city’s Police Commissioner criticizing such practices. Governor Cuomo also introduced legislation earlier this year to remove the “public display” loophole, but the proposed measure did not pass.
As marijuana possession is generally a private activity, which goes mostly undetected without intrusive practices by the police, the stop-and-frisk program is likely responsible for the bulk of these unnecessary arrests. The solution seems obvious: the city should simply abandon the stop-and-frisk program, thereby saving a great deal of time and money, not to mention sparing innocent New Yorkers needless harassment.
Well, another celebrity was arrested for using marijuana. Do you feel safer?
R&B singer Robin Thicke was arrested today near Madison Square Garden when they saw him smoking a joint inside an SUV. He was ticketed and released.
Now, since police actually witnessed him smoking, this arrest is far more legitimate than the improper marijuana possession arrests of tens of thousands of New York City residents during “stop and frisk” actions.
Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, and criminal charges should only be brought if the marijuana is openly displayed or used in public, which was the case here. Recently, however, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to issue a directive to the NYPD to actually obey the law and stop tricking people into pulling their marijuana out of their pockets to warrant a criminal charge.
The fact remains that arresting Robin Thicke for misdemeanor marijuana possession does not make the community safer. While police were busy arresting a non-violent entertainer (and having him sign autographs), a crime with an actual victim most likely went unseen and unpunished.
Last September, after activists brought attention to the fact that New York City is the misdemeanor marijuana arrest capital of the United States despite marijuana being “decriminalized,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly directed the NYPD to respect the rules of “stop and frisk” and not charge those found with marijuana in their possession with a criminal charge unless the marijuana is in plain view or being smoked. New York cops have traditionally gotten around this rule by tricking people being frisked into exposing their marijuana. Research has shown that this ploy is used far more on minorities in New York City, despite higher use rates among whites.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, however, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2011 is actually greater than the previous year!
How could this be? Was there an explosion in marijuana use in New York City in the last year that led to more arrests? Doubtful.
Did some members of the NYPD simply ignore the Commissioner and carry on with their illegal, racist enforcement tactics? Probably.
Let’s see what Commissioner Kelly had to say:
“The numbers are what they are, based on situations officers encounter in the street,” Kelly said at an unrelated press conference Wednesday. “It’s very difficult to quantify whether or not what’s happening [out there],” he said.
The first sentence does not make a lot of sense and would require a massive increase in the number of people openly using marijuana to explain the arrest numbers.
The second sentence … isn’t even a sentence, much less a statement.