Three Former Police Chiefs Speak Out

Marijuana Arrest Crusade is a clearly written, well-documented account of the large number of marijuana arrests that New York police have made, primarily of black and Hispanic young men. Based on in-depth interviews and official arrest data, it reveals common policing patterns – including racially-skewed stops, frisks, and searches – still poorly understood by the general public. People who care about the fate of American cities and the incarceration of racial minorities should read this fine study. As a New York City police officer quoted in the report says: “Welcome to the real world.”

– George Napper, former Atlanta Chief of Police

Police throughout the U.S. have long used ‘dropsy’ arrests and other unlawful or unethical methods to make drug arrests of addicts and dealers. In the last decade New York City appears to have applied this strategy, with extraordinary efficiency, to ordinary teenagers and young adults.

Although whites use marijuana more often than racial minorities, over 80 percent of those jailed by NYPD are black and Hispanic, mostly young men. Like the authors of Marijuana Arrest Crusade, I believe the two New York City Mayors and three Police Commissioners who have presided over these practices are not motivated by personal racism. But the effects of these practices are deeply, undeniably discriminatory, as well as damaging to legitimate crime fighting, community relations and police morale.

New Yorkers should read this superlative report, weep for what their city has done, and demand an end to the outrage.

– Norm Stamper, former Seattle Chief of Police and author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing (Nation Books, 2006)

New York City’s current marijuana arrests are exactly analogous to the roundup of gays in the 1950s and 1960s that Mayor Lindsay stopped. And the offenses represent exactly the same level of risk to the public. Making marijuana arrests a priority is a waste of police resources and does not reduce street violence. Illegal, trivial, meaningless arrests undermine confidence in the justice system and corrupt the enforcers. New York’s marijuana arrests are counter productive, a classic misapplication of police resources.

– Anthony V. Bouza, former Minneapolis Chief of Police, former NYPD Commander in the Bronx, and author of The Police Mystique, Police Unbound and other books.