For those who haven’t heard, there was some pretty huge news on Friday in New York:
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has issued an internal order to the New York City Police Department commanding officers to stop arresting people for small amounts of marijuana possession, if the marijuana was never in public view. The directive comes at a time when the NYPD is taking increasing heat about alleged improper marijuana arrests.
Kelly’s Operations Order landed on the desk of police supervisors this week, and a copy of it was provided to WNYC.
Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests. At issue is whether the circumstances under which uniformed members of the service recover small amounts of marihuana (less than 25 grams) from subjects in a public place support the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree[...]
The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marihuana pursuant to a search of the subject’s person or upon direction of the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marihuana.
Given how many arrests there have been in New York, and how much it appears that this stop-and-frisk technique has been used on a regular basis to trick subjects into becoming “arrest-able,” this is a huge victory.
And it’s happening because of the work that so many reformers have done in terms of bringing these outrageous practices to light.
It’s a bittersweet victory.
It seems oddly pathetic to get excited about a police commissioner suggesting to the police that they obey the law and stop violating the rights of individuals.
The laws on the books are ones we want to eliminate and yet we’re having to work to get the police to only enforce those laws and not create new ones themselves.
And yes, we should be happy about what has been accomplished and the number of people who may now benefit (although it doesn’t help all those who have been arrested in the past, nor does it stop an officer from doing it anyway and claiming they didn’t).
So, I’m very excited about this victory…