Looks like it might be a really bad week for civil liberties.
The Bronx Defenders just released a study claiming that 41 percent of pot busts in the borough violated the rights of arrestees during the 5-month study period.
Turns out that this practice persisted despite warnings from New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly (via Daily News)
Check it out: The Bronx Defenders chatted with 518 people arrested on pot possession charges from May to October 2011. What they found? “The police lacked sufficient legal basis to justify the initial detention of the client in 34 percent of all of the cases reviewed.”
And: “In 36 percent of the cases, police officers manufactured misdemeanor charges by arresting clients for misdemeanors despite the fact that the marijuana only came into public view as a result of police action. In 79 percent of these cases, the marijuana was brought into public view as the result of an intrusive physical search by the police officer rather than by the client…[accounting for] 41 percent of all of the cases evaluated.”
Possessing small amounts of marijuana is a violation — not a crime — unless it is out in the open. So what Bronx cops would do, according to the Defenders, is prompt the commission of a crime by forcing it out in the open.
Apparently, these shakedowns swelled –from 33 percent to 44 percent — in October, a month right after Kelly told Bronx cops to back off.
The majority of pot arrests in the Bronx are black or Latino men. Many don’t have prior criminal records.
The Defenders’ announcement comes when the NYPD continues to take heat for its tactics — especially stop-and-frisk, which largely affects minorities.
From the Defenders’ study:
“For many, an arrest can lead not only to a criminal record, but also to eviction, deportation, loss of parental rights, denial of financial aid, absences from school, and lost employment. Moreover, these arrests are overwhelmingly concentrated in a select number of already under-resourced and disenfranchised neighborhoods. When the negative collateral consequences stemming from a staggering number of marijuana arrests are so concentrated at the neighborhood level, there is a significant multiplier effect that works to destabilize entire communities.”
If these stats were applied to New York as a whole, the Defenders claim that 20,000 arrests in 2011 could be suspect.
Runnin’ Scared reached out to the NYPD for comment. We’ll update if we hear back.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.