Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is calling on New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton to reform the New York City Police Department’s marijuana arrest policy.
On Tuesday, Jeffries, along with members of the Drug Policy Alliance and community advocates, held a press conference outside of One Police Plaza, calling on the police department to address the racial disparity in the number of arrests of people possessing small quantities of marijuana.
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.
Total arrests were even greater than the eight year average of arrests under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Jeffries pointed out.
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.
“The possession of small quantities of marijuana is either a crime or it is socially acceptable behavior,” said Jeffries. “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.
Gabriel Sayegh, State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, added, “Mayor de Blasio ran on a commitment to end these marijuana possession arrests, and now it’s time to follow through. Our City deserves drug laws and policing practices that embody fairness, justice and equity.”
“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 current policy is unfair, undemocratic and unconscionable and it must end.”