More Whites Smoke Weed, But NYC Spent $440M Targeting Blacks and Latinos

Is the NYPD making bamboozle arrests? Study quantifies how racial bias wastes tax dollars while Black, Latino teens get disproportionately pinched for marijuana arrests.


New York City cops intentionally are targeting Black and Latino youth for marijuana possession, according to a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance.  The data suggest that the NYPD, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, is acting on racial bias to inequitably arrest Black and Latinos for marijuana possession—an initiative that's wasting both valuable taxpayer dollars and more than 1 million hours of police time.

The "One Million Police Hours" study, prepared by Queens College professor Dr. Harry Levine, quantifies that NYPD personnel have made 440,000 arrests (estimated at $1,000 to $2,000 or more a pop) over the last decade and held individuals in police custody for approximately 5 million hours, costing the city a grand total of at least $440 million dollars—the report says estimates can exceed $1 billion.

A 1977 law that decriminalized marijuana possession for amounts of less than one ounce gave police authority to arrest and charge anyone if the marijuana is in public view. It's a loophole that police have used during stop-and-frisks, which require a person to empty the contents of their pockets or bags, and are used frequently to target Blacks and Latinos.

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies also are being evaluated in the Floyd v. City of New York trial, which argues the motives and definition of "probable cause" searches.

Bamboozle Arrests Total 85 Percent Blacks, Latinos

The people arrested? Eighty-five percent were Blacks or Latinos, with 50 percent under the age of 21. This is despite research that shows the majority of marijuana users are whites.

The report reads: "We agree with Governor Cuomo who said in his 2013 State of the State address, 'These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It's not fair, it's not right, it must end, and it must end now.'"

Neither the NYPD nor Bloomberg has responded to the report or the accusations of racial bias.

Bloomberg announced in February a slight change to the marijuana arrest policy and a reduction in the legal consequences: Those in possession of low levels of marijuana (25 grams or less) will not need to remain jailed overnight.

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