NYPD Spent One Million Hours, 440,000 Arrests on 'Marijuana Crusade'

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Common Dreams

NYPD Spent One Million Hours, 440,000 Arrests on 'Marijuana Crusade'

NYPD marijuana arrests the 'frontline civil rights issue' of the 21st century

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

According to a shocking new report released Tuesday by the Drug Policy Alliance, in just over a decade the NYPD has used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 arrests for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession, in what critics are calling "a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century."

The report titled One Million Police Hours and authored by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College, estimates that those detained in New York City for marijuana possession between 2002 and 2012 have spent roughly 5,000,000 hours in police custody.

The NYPD should be spending their time building communities, not tearing them down, said gabriel sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“For years, New Yorkers from across the state have organized and marched and rallied, demanding an end to these outrageous arrests. And now we learn that the police have squandered one million hours to make racially biased, costly, and unlawful marijuana possession arrests. This is scandalous,” sayegh stated.

As DPA states today, these arrests disproportionately affect black communities: "Even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates, over 85% of the people arrested and jailed for marijuana possession are black and Latino."

sayegh continued:

I’m sure we can all think of more effective things for the police to spend their time on  -- imagine if NYPD committed one million hours to working with communities to stop gun violence or to pursue unsolved serious crimes. We stand with the Caucus and other leaders in Albany – both Democrats and Republicans – in demanding reform. The hour of change is upon us, and reform is long, long overdue.

Additionally, roughly 70% of those arrested for marijuana are younger than 30 years old, and over 50% are under 21 years old.

"These young people receive a permanent criminal arrest record which can be easily found on the internet by employers, banks, schools, landlords, and others," DPA continued.

"We cannot afford to continue arresting tens of thousands of youth every year for low-level marijuana possession,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, civil rights organizer with VOCAL-NY. “We can't afford it in terms of the negative effect it has on the future prospects of our youth and we can't afford in terms of police hours. It's shocking that the same mayor who has been taking money away from youth programs and cutting other social services, is wasting tens of millions of dollars locking youth up through the NYPD's marijuana arrests crusade. We need legislative action to fix this madness."

“This report shows that people arrested for marijuana possession spend an average of 12-18 hours, just in police custody, and the vast majority of those arrested are young Black and Latino men from seven to ten neighborhoods in NYC,” said Chino Hardin, Field Coordinator and Trainer with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. “This is not just a crisis, but a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to do the right thing, and exercise the moral and political will to address this injustice.”

The report arrives as New York State legislatures consider a drug reform law proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana in public.

New York City has made more marijuana possession arrests in recent years under Mayor Michael Bloomberg than under mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined. 

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