Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Representing the 8th District of New York
 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries And Community Advocates Call On NYPD Commissioner Bratton To Reform Marijuana Arrest Policy

May 27, 2014
Press Release

New York, NY – Today, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), members of the Drug Policy Alliance and community advocates held a press conference outside of One Police Plaza, calling on Commissioner Bratton to reform the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) marijuana arrest policy.

In the final year of the Bloomberg administration, 28,644 people were arrested for possession of small quantities of marijuana. This amount is 12 times more a year than under Mayor Edward I. Koch, 28 times more than under Mayor David N. Dinkins, and it is even greater than the eight year average of arrests under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.  Between January 2014 and March 2014, 7,017 individuals were arrested for possession of small quantities of marijuana.  Accordingly, the police department is on pace to equal the number of people arrested for this offense in 2014 as compared with last year.  Equally troublesome, eighty-six percent of the individuals arrested this year were African-American or Latino, even though whites use marijuana at equal or higher numbers.

“It is deeply troubling that the gaping racial disparity in marijuana arrests in New York City continues to persist.  The police department promised change, but instead we have gotten more of the same,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.  “The possession of small quantities of marijuana is either a crime or it is socially acceptable behavior.  But it cannot constitute criminal activity for one group of people and socially acceptable behavior for another group of people when the dividing line is race.  The current policy is unfair, undemocratic and unconscionable and it must end.”

On Saturday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries wrote Commissioner William Bratton and expressed deep concern with the lack of progress concerning marijuana arrest reform.  In his letter, Rep. Jeffries references an internal order issued in 2011 by former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to commanding officers instructing them to stop arresting individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana, if the substance was never in public view.

“The New York Police Department should immediately implement a race neutral marijuana arrest policy that protects the civil liberties of all New Yorkers and stops diverting law enforcement resources away from the prevention of more serious crime. Under this administration, we should no longer be the marijuana arrest capital of the country,” said Rep. Jeffries.

Gabriel Sayegh, State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, added, “Even after the Bloomberg era, thousands of New Yorkers, mostly young men of color, are still being swept into the criminal justice system for simple marijuana possession, exposing the institutional bias embedded within our criminal justice system. Mayor de Blasio ran on a commitment to end these marijuana possession arrests, and now it’s time to follow through. We call on the Mayor, Commissioner Bratton, and the City Council to launch a focused, targeted plan to end the  racially-biased marijuana arrest crusade and address the collateral harms associated with decades of biased enforcement practices. Our City deserves drug laws and policing practices that embody fairness, justice and equity.”

"It's disappointing to see Commissioner Bratton so adamant about not ending marijuana arrests in New York City," said Shapriece Townsend of VOCAL-NY. "Bratton claims his stance is to protect young people like me from a dangerous 'gateway drug' - but the real threat to my safety and future are the biased policing practices that criminalize young people of color and saddle us with criminal records for the rest of our lives. I hope Commissioner Bratton rethinks his stance and finally puts an end to needless and biased low-level marijuana arrests."

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A copy of the letter issued to Commissioner Bratton calling for marijuana arrest reform can be read HERE.