Advocates: Good First Step, But Gov. Cuomo’s Bill to Stop Arrests Must Pass
In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new police policy: those arrested for marijuana in New York City will no longer have to spend a night in jail.
The Mayor said:
“But we know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor and we’ll work to help him pass it this year. But we won’t wait for that to happen.
Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly from the precinct with a desk appearance ticket to return to court. It’s consistent with the law, it’s the right thing to do and it will allow us to target police resources where they’re needed most.”
Statement by Alfredo Carrasquillo, VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Community Organizer:
“Mayor Bloomberg stopped defending the indefensible and now recognizes that we cannot afford to criminalize youth of color for carrying small amounts of marijuana, But being ‘consistent with the law’ means more than just issuing DATs instead of putting people in jail. Most people targeted for these arrests only produce marijuana in plain view after being illegally searched during stop, question and frisk encounters with police. Mayor Bloomberg’s support for marijuana reform is a step in the right direction but does not solve the fundamental problems with the NYPD’s policing strategies.”
Statement by Kyung Ji Rhee, Juvenile Justice Director, Center for NuLeadership:
“We agree with the mayor that there’s more we can do keep New Yorkers, especially young people of color, from ending up with a criminal record. For instance, the Mayor can direct Commissioner Kelly to immediately cease and desist NYPD’s broken “stop and frisk” program. We must stop these mass arrests and criminalizing people for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And we can get the police out of our schools to end the “schools to prison” pipeline.”
Statement by gabriel sayegh, New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance:
“This new policy is a step in the right direction – and it’s the direct result of the ongoing campaign led by community groups in New York to end these racially biased, unpopular, unjust and expensive arrests. Marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City and with this new policy change, tens of thousands of people, mostly young men of color, will no longer be held in jail overnight on for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the arrests themselves need to end – period. Now the legislature must act – immediately – to pass Gov. Cuomo’s marijuana decriminalization bill. Every reasonable New Yorker supports the measure. Reform is long, long overdue.”