- Hold public hearings and thoroughly examine the costs, consequences, and racial, gender, age and class disparities of the NYPD's marijuana arrest practices.
- Ensure that law enforcement of marijuana offenses is consistent with the intent of New York State law.
- Substantially increase the pay scale of police officers to reduce the need for overtime.
- Require the NYPD to provide the City Council and state detailed, accurate and timely data on its arrests, citations and other practices, and make that information public.
NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Skyrocket, Illustrate NYPD Racial Bias, New Report Shows
The NYPD arrested and jailed nearly 400,000 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana between 1997 and 2007, a tenfold increase in marijuana arrests over the previous decade and a figure marked by startling racial and gender disparities, according to a report released Tuesday at the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYPD arrested and jailed nearly 400,000 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana between 1997 and 2007, a tenfold increase in marijuana arrests over the previous decade and a figure marked by startling racial and gender disparities, according to a report released Tuesday at the New York Civil Liberties Union. The report, The Marijuana Arrest Crusade in New York City: Racial Bias in Police Policy 1997-2007, is the first ever in-depth study of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.Researched and written by Prof. Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College, and Deborah Peterson Small, an attorney and advocate for drug policy reform, the report is based upon two years of observations in criminal courts as well as extensive interviews with public defenders; Legal Aid and private attorneys; veteran police officers; current and former prosecutors and judges; and those arrested for possessing marijuana. “The massive, organized and relentless pursuit of these arrests under two mayors and three police commissioners represents a crusade by law enforcement,” Levine said. “But that term does not capture other important characteristics of these arrests – including the harm they inflict on black and Latino young people and their families.” Between 1997 and 2007, police arrested and jailed about 205,000 blacks, 122,000 Latinos and 59,000 whites for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Blacks accounted for about 52 percent of the arrests, though they represented only 26 percent of the city's population over that time span. Latinos accounted for 31 percent of the arrests but 27 percent of the population. Whites represented only 15 percent of those arrested, despite comprising 35 percent of the population. Government surveys of high school seniors and young adults 18 to 25 consistently show that young whites use marijuana more often than young blacks and Latinos. The arrests also are heavily skewed by gender. About 91 percent of people arrested were male. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “The NYPD routinely targets young men based on their skin color and where they live. Arresting and jailing thousands for marijuana possession does not create safer streets. It only fosters distrust between the police and community and strips hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers of their dignity.” The arrests, which cost taxpayers up to $90 million a year, are indicative of the NYPD's broken windows approach to law enforcement, in which police focus on minor offenses as a method of reducing crime. This approach, also called quality of life policing, has caused a dramatic spike in stop-and-frisk encounters between police and city residents. In 2007, the NYPD stopped nearly 469,000 New Yorkers. Eighty-eight percent were found completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The racial disparity in the stop-and-frisk encounters is almost identical to the disparity in marijuana arrests: Though they make up only a quarter of the city's population, more than half of those stopped were black.