In 2012, more people subject to the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisks were arrested for marijuana than for anything else, according to a new analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union. While NYPD’s stated purpose for its aggressive and racially disproportionate stop-and-frisk program is to target guns, the number of people arrested for marijuana was more than six times the number of guns recovered. While 729 guns were recovered, 5,000 people were arrested for marijuana. Overall, more than 26,000 people were stopped for marijuana possession.
The marijuana arrest rate is particularly alarming because only “public view” possession of marijuana is a crime in New York City. It is reportedly a common practice to ask suspects to take everything out of their pockets after a police stop, and then arrest those who reveal marijuana on the theory that it is now in “public view.” The NYCLU’s study also found that, “[t]hough frisks can be legally conducted only when an officer reasonably suspects the person has a weapon that might endanger officer safety, 55.8 percent of those stopped in 2012 were frisked. Of those frisked, a weapon was found only 2 percent of the time.”
The NYCLU report is one of several analyses to emerge from recently released NYPD data, as a months-long trial concludes on the constitutional challenge to NYPD’s rampant stops of New Yorkers. While the number of stop-and-frisks has dropped somewhat since the program drew heightened controversy, the dramatic disproportionate application of the tactic to minorities has continued. Eighty-seven percent of those stopped in 2012 were black and Latino. Another analysis out this week from New York City’s Public Advocate found that these disproportionate stops do not reflect the ratios of minority-to-white crime: whites stopped by police were two to three times more likely to be found with weapons than blacks and Latinos. And a recent comparison of stop-and-frisk and crime data showed that as the stop-and-frisk rate dropped, so, too, did the crime rate.