New York City police have spend more than 1 million man hours arresting making about 440,000 marijuana arrests since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, according to a study released by the Drug Policy Alliance earlier today.
That number could even be higher. The study, conducted by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, used a two-and-a-half hour average for each arrest and multiplied that by the 439,056 arrests made in from 2002 through 2012.
According to the study, the number of hours would be the equivalent to having 31 police officers working eight-hour days every day of the year for eleven years. Factoring in officers working in pairs, they estimate it could be as high as four million police hours since 2002.
"Even at the minimum of one million police officer hours for the 440,000 arrests, it is clear that the marijuana arrests have taken police off the street and away from other crime‐fighting activities for a significant amount of time," the report says.
The same group took a similar look at marijuana arrests in 2011 that showed marijuana possession arrests can cost taxpayers as much as $2,000. In 2010 alone, the city spent $75 million arresting and jailing people for weed. The researchers estimate that since 1997 taxpayers have put $500 million to $1 billion towards marijuana crimes in the city.
Currently, marijuana possession in New York City for less than 25 grams is decriminalized with only a $100 fine. But that's not how they get you. Instead, the police use a loophole and arrest people for the misdemeanor crime of open and public display after they ask you to empty your pockets.
That alone can get you up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine. At the least, you were going to get hauled into the station where you'll sit until you are seen by a judge - someties up to a day and a half. In February, Bloomberg announced that police would no longer be taking people with an ID and no warrants to jail, but the public display charge would still be issued.
But still, the the cops use it. A lot. Especially on brown-skinned residents. Blacks and Latinos are up to seven times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites are.
Currently, there is bill still in the New York legislature that would decriminalize public display to help end this practice altogether, but budget talks have stalled anything else from being discussed. There may be hope, though. The Gothamist reports that part of a proposed budget deal includes the passage of the bill.