NYC Marijuana Arrests Highest In a Decade
In 2011, New York City police officers arrested 50,700 people for low level marijuana offenses. This is the highest such rate in over a decade and comes just after Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered officers to stop making arrests for marijuana when the pot wasn’t in public view.
Because Kelly’s order wasn’t released until September, some say it’s difficult to tell if his order has had any impact. The city says there has been a 13% drop in that time. But others argue “dips and surges” are common in marijuana arrests and they can’t necessarily be attributed to Kelly’s order.
Defense lawyer and criminal justice experts believe the order isn’t having any impact, according to this report from WNYC.
Officers and others who support arresting for low level pot offenses believe that penalizing low level crimes discourages violent crime. The data, however, suggests otherwise. The majority of people being arrested for misdemeanor pot offenses have no violent criminal history or no criminal history at all.
Further, those arrested are disproportionately minorities, despite young white males representing the majority of marijuana users.
National attention was brought to the NYPD’s pot arrests because of their questionable use of “stop and frisk” methods, whereby they stop and frisk random people in high crime areas or who otherwise might seem suspicious. Again, the people the NYPD was choosing to frisk were largely black and Latinos.
While possession of marijuana is a ticketable offense, once it is brought into public view it is a misdemeanor.
“I would say that about half of the marijuana arrest cases that I see are actually mischarged misdemeanors,” says one NYC Legal Aid attorney. “In fact, even the court papers say that the marijuana was recovered from some place that wasn’t in public view, such as a sock or a backpack or the glove compartment of a car.”
So, while the cops make the arrest for a misdemeanor, it is usually dismissed by the judge or the DA later on in the process, making the initial arrest a complete waste of time and of taxpayer’s money.
Has the practice stopped since Kelly told officers to stop making such arrests? Not likely. While the officers may back off a bit, they are pushed to come up with plenty of arrests in order to show that their time spent within the community is productive. Until this attitude that more arrests make a better cop is addressed, the arrests will continue to pour in for marijuana and other questionably legitimate charges.