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NYPD Watch Group Says 93 Percent of Weed Arrests in 2018 Were People of Color

The police watchdog group Police Reform Organizing Project is calling on progressive leaders to push for immediate decriminalization.

Adam Drury

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NYPD Facing Criticism For Racial Disparity in Marijuana Arrests
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So far this year in New York City, the NYPD has made 6,604 arrests for weed. In fact, marijuana arrests are the third most common type of arrest for the NYPD. And those thousands of arrests aren’t impacting all New Yorkers equally. Rather, they vastly, disproportionately impact Black and Latinx New Yorkers. That’s according to a new report by the Police Reform Organization Project (PROP), a group fighting to change policing in the city.

Police Reform Group Finds Massive Racial Disparity of Weed Arrests

The NYPD watchdog group PROP took data from public state records to analyze the demographics of the NYPD’s more than 6,000 arrests for cannabis in the first six months of this year.

What they found was a slight uptick in the number of misdemeanor arrests of people of color. Compared to the first six months of 2017, in which 86.5 percent of misdemeanor arrests were of Black or Latinx people, 2018 saw 87 percent of arrests involve people of color.

But the report found an even more shocking disparity. According to PROP’s analysis of public arrest records, a full 93 percent of weed arrests involved New Yorkers of color.

That means only 7 percent of all people arrested so far in 2018 for weed were white.

The report has generated a new wave of anger and criticism toward the NYPD. New York police have a documented history of racially biased enforcement. So much so, that in 2013 US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the routine practice of “stop-and-frisk” was unconstitutional.

Weed Arrests of People of Color Renew Calls For Police Reform

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ongoing efforts to reform the NYPD, officers have started taking training programs to address implicit and explicit bias.

Yet data like PROP found suggests the NYPD is still targeting their enforcement toward Black and Latinx communities. Studies show that white people sell and use cannabis at least equally and probably more than people of color.

And the fact that 93 percent of weed arrests so far this year were of people who aren’t white provides a stark example of the comments made by NY gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon when she demanded the NYPD stop criminalizing people of color for something white people do with impunity.

In its response to the report, the NYPD neglected to address the arrest data provided by PROP. Instead, the NYPD statement stressed its 90 percent reduction in stop-and-frisks. It also referenced the more than 8,000 officers that had already completed the fairness training program set up by de Blasio.

In September, a new marijuana possession policy should change how the NYPD handles weed. The new policy will strap most people police find using or possessing cannabis with a court summons. But they won’t face arrest.

When de Blasio announced the change in June, he said it was a direct response to the racial disparity in weed arrests impacting Black and Latinx people in New York City.

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