New York City has long been under pressure to reform its policing. A few months ago, the New York Police Department released some alarming statistics showing that an overwhelming majority of people arrested for marijuana were people of color. Since then, the City Council ruled that the NYPD must publish arrest data. Today at a Washington DC conference, Major De Blasio announced the “overhaul and reform” of New York’s marijuana enforcement laws.
Rampant Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests
In 2017, there were over 17,000 marijuana arrests. Black and Hispanic people represented 86 percent of those arrested, according to a report published by the Drug Policy Alliance & Marijuana Arrest Research Project. It looks exclusively at data from 2014 to 2016.
Comparatively, only 53 percent of New York City residents identify as Black or Hispanic per a 2010 census.
These figures have already spurred change on the City Council level. In a public hearing on this issue, the NYPD claimed that they answer complaints depending solely on who calls them. They maintained that certain neighborhoods report more to the police, therefore certain communities have higher arrest rates.
Some City Councilmembers took issue with this explanation. Councilman Donovan Richards said, “I refuse to believe that in New York City, a city of eight and a half million, that the only individuals calling 911 or 311 on this issue are people in communities in color.”
New York Is Publishing Arrest Data
The City Council unanimously voted for a bill mandating that the NYPD publish arrest data online. The NYPD website reports the number of low-level marijuana possession arrests per quarter and where these arrests took place. It also divides data by ethnicity, gender, and age.
Mayor de Blasio Responds To This Report
As the mayor of New York