Minorities continue to take the brunt of NYPD pot arrests despite a massive drop in busts.
In all, 89% of all New Yorkers arrested for smoking marijuana last year through Nov. 23 were either black or Hispanic, while just 7% were white, according to figures posted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
“People of color are over-policed and disproportionately brought into the criminal justice system for low-level offenses,” City Councilman Rory Lancman, a frequent critic of the de Blasio administration’s handling of criminal justice reforms, said Monday.
Overall, the number of marijuana arrests as of Nov. 23 plummeted to 7,348 from 17,121 in 2017, records show.
The de Blasio administration says it needs more time to reduce the racial disparity.
“This administration has taken a dead aim at disparity by dramatically reducing marijuana arrests, and developing a plan for legalization that aims to right historic wrongs,” said mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie. “But it’s naïve to think that an issue as old and complex as this can be unraveled and solved by the snap of anyone’s fingers.”
The problem will persist for years, she predicted.
“It’ll be a challenge that this administration, the next administration and those who follow will have to constantly focus on — and we will continue to do so,” she said.
In the summer, Mayor de Blasio predicted the city’s new marijuana enforcement policy would help reduce the historic racial disparity.
“The highest form of reducing disparity is to reduce the overall number of arrests,” de Blasio told reporters on Aug. 30. “And that’s what we’ve proceeded to do. But we believe we can do all that while continuing to deepen public safety.”
Lancman, and other criminal justice reformers, contend the city should do more to protect minorities. He pointed out that under the new NYPD policy put in place Sept. 1, anyone caught smoking in public gets a summons rather than an arrest.
But people wanted for a crime, on parole or probation, or with a prior arrest for violent crime are still arrested. Other exceptions include if the person is caught smoking while driving a car, is seated in the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle or unable to verify his ID or address.
“We’ve created a world where a stunning number of people of color have some criminal justice involvement,” he said. “The pool of people who are going to get arrested are more heavily black and Latino to begin with.”
He also blamed police tactics.
“We are policing marijuana use in communities of color more aggressively than we are in white communities,” he said. “That has not changed.”
“Whether it was stop and frisk or broken windows policing or marijuana policing…there’s this need on the part of law enforcement to reach into the lives of brown and black people as a means of social control and law enforcement strategy,” Lancman said.
The NYPD has long maintained that officers respond to complaints and crimes without any racial bias.
Cops started to cut back on arrests nearly four years ago by issuing summonses to anyone found to be in possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana — worth about $250 to $300 in New York City.
With Graham Rayman
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