It’s a fact: if you live in New York City and your skin is anything but white, it’s a high likelihood that you’ll eventually get hassled by the NYPD using the “stop and frisk” policy to try and criminalize you. It’s something that statistics have proven time and time again: police are racially biased. And now five NYC council members – all either black or latino – have had enough and have written Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding a fix.
“This is not an abstract issue for us,” the letter, dated today, reads. “We approach this issue not just as lawmakers but also as young men of color whose lives and behavior are directly affected by the NYPD’s practices. The NYPD continues to target people who look like us, and we know from our own experiences and those of our peers that these racially skewed arrests create distrust between young men of color and the police.”
The lawmakers point out that even with changes in policy that have decreased the overall marijuana arrests for minor amounts of pot, cops are still unfairly enforcing the law. Councilman Ritchie Torres from the Bronx said that 85 percent of arrestees for cannabis are still black or brown even though whites have a statistically higher rate of cannabis use. Torres says there has been no progress and that it’s time the city truly decriminalized cannabis.
Marijuana possession of small amounts has technically been legal in New York City since the 1970s. But a loophole in the law means cops can charge and arrest people with public display of marijuana if the pot is seen from the public. So in order to make that happen, cops stop and frisk people and ask them to empty their pockets. When someone with herb pulls out a bag, they are technically displaying it publically and the cops can make their arrest.
More than 29,000 people were arrested in New York City for minor pot possession in 2013 – a rate of almost 80 people per-day. This year the arrest rate seems to be increasing slightly. Police made 15,324 minor pot arrests between March and August – a rate of about 84 arrests per day.