Responding to such concerns, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson threw out more than 1,000 of the estimated 3,300 marijuana-related desk appearance tickets issued by NYPD officers between July 2014 and April of this year, according to Thompson's spokesman.
Thompson is doing so to ensure “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in nonviolent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property,” according to a policy memo released last July. Thompson’s spokesman said he plans to continue declining to prosecute many low-level marijuana cases.
De Blasio ran on a platform committing to decriminalizing marijuana possession, yet authorities arrested more than 15,000 people for marijuana during the first seven months of his administration. He ordered Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to replace misdemeanor arrests with summonses. Of those arrests in the beginning of 2014, 86 percent were blacks and Latinos, according to Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College.
“The new marijuana arrest policy Mayor de Blasio rolled out last November is squarely aimed at reducing unnecessary arrests that could saddle young people with criminal records for minor violations – and the NYPD’s 42 percent decrease in marijuana arrests clearly reflects this policy at work,” said Monica Klein, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, in a statement to News21.
“The mayor’s marijuana policy is one of the many reforms this administration is rolling out to strengthen the relationship between police and community while keeping New York City the safest big city in the country,” she said.
During the “stop, question and frisk” era of New York policing since the early 1990s, in which officers had wide discretion when deciding whether they had reasonable cause to stop and search someone, marijuana-related incidents occurred disproportionately in East New York and other Brooklyn neighborhoods with similar demographics, such as Brownsville and Canarsie.
After de Blasio downgraded marijuana possession enforcement in 2014, the number of reported “stop, question and frisk” incidents dropped from nearly 700,000 stops in 2011 to just over 46,000 in 2014. The incidents involving marijuana decreased from more than 30,000 in 2011 to about 2,000 in 2014.
More than 1,300 of the people cited for marijuana possession in 2014 were black and nearly 600 others were Hispanic, according to the NYPD Stop, Question and Frisk Database.