Friday, September 23, 2011

NYPD changes marijuana arrest policy!

On September 19, the NYPD issued an order forbidding officers from the practice of arresting people for the misdemeanor of public display of marijuana by ordering people to empty their pockets. New York State decriminalized marijuana possession in 1977, limiting the maximum penalty to a $100 fine. But over the past 15 years, the NYPD has tricked or coerced close to a half million people into publicly displaying marijuana, and in order to arrest them, fingerprint them, photograph them, and give them lifetime criminal records. 87 percent of those arrested have been black or Hispanic, a completely disproportionate figure.

In issuing the new order, NYPD Commissioner William Kelley noted that “questions have been raised about the processing of certain marijuana arrests.” Indeed! On June, 23 2011, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation filed a formal demand with the U.S. Department of Justice asking for a civil and criminal investigation of the NYPD leadership and top New York City officials suggesting that the marijuana arrest program is an unlawful pattern or practice of conduct designed to violate the constitutional rights of the persons being arrested, in felony violation of federal law. Here is the letter to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, a statement from Professor Harry Levine of Queens College, City University of New York, one of the courageous figures who spotted this problem, containing part of his detailed analysis of the arrest data, and the images of the certified mail receipts for the delivery of the letter to both the Assistant Attorney General and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

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