The NYPD blamed its racial disparity in weed arrests on people or color — but the New York Times isn’t buying it.
A senior NYPD official testified to lawmakers that the reason for the racial disparity in cannabis arrests is that more residents in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods call the police to complain about cannabis.
Across New York City, Black people are arrested eight times more often than white people for low-level cannabis crimes and Hispanic people are arrested five times more often. The New York Times did some investigating and found that among neighborhoods that called the city’s help line at the same rate for cannabis, charges for cannabis possession were still four times higher in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods than they were in mostly white neighborhoods.
The Times said that’s likely because mostly Black neighborhoods have higher instances of violent crime, so the police often deploy extra officers there, which leads to more residents being exposed.
“What you have is people smoking weed in the same place in any neighborhood in the city. It’s just those neighborhoods are patrolled very, very differently and people in those neighborhoods are seen very differently by the police,” explained Scott Levy, a special counsel for the Bronx Defenders.