New York police continue to arrest minority residents by the hundreds on small-time marijuana charges, despite a campaign promise by the new mayor to stamp out the practice.

Marijuana Handcuffs“President Obama, Governor Cuomo, former Mayor Ed Koch and candidate Bill de Blasio all strongly criticized the NYPD’s racist marijuana possession arrests,” Queens College professor Harry Levine said in a statement. “Yet the most progressive mayor in the modern history of New York is unable to stop them? Really?”

Levine authored a report released in October that chastised the mayor for failing to stop low-level marijuana arrests. Indeed, the number of arrests has increased since de Blasio became mayor.

De Blasio won the office in part on his promise to end possession busts. Since then, he has done almost nothing to end police abuse of minorities.

The mayor is apparently unwilling to offend police organizations by demanding that they cease such arrests, which are typically made during so-called “stop and frisks.”

‘Stop and frisk’ dates back to 60s

A Supreme Court ruling from the 1960s allows cops to stop people on the street and frisk them for weapons, as long as officers have “reasonable suspicion” to believe the person might be carrying contraband.

Police aren’t allowed to search people during these stops, but officers routinely trick passersby into emptying their pockets and exposing cannabis to “public” view, allowing the cops to make an arrest.

De Blasio has said he favors decriminalization in the city, but he has done little to make that happen. Even his efforts to end stop and frisks have failed to achieve results.

Majority of arrests in ethnic neighborhoods

The study, which drew its results from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, found that the vast majority of arrests targeted ethnic minorities and their communities. Few arrests are made in white neighborhoods.

“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director of policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”

Marijuana LeavesThe report was the result of a partnership between the Drug Policy alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project. It found that Latino residents are arrested on low-level cannabis charges at four times the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at seven times the rate of whites.

Neighborhood crime patterns can’t account for those differences. Nor can marijuana use: Blacks and whites use the drug at roughly the same rate; Latinos use slightly less.

It’s not clear exactly what de Blasio’s intent really is. He ran on a platform of progressive reform, but he has firmly backed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s overall policy of targeting minor “lifestyle” crimes.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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