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Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Friday, November 18

In Tijuana, $15 million -- thought to belong to the Sinaloa Cartel -- was confiscated from a safe house. Six kilos of cocaine and four weapons were also found during the army raid, although no arrests were made.

Monday, November 21

In Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, three police officers were kidnapped while on patrol and executed.

In Harris County, Texas, a controlled-delivery by police officers attempting to catch a drug shipment went awry when suspected Zetas cut off and shot dead a truck driver who had secretly been working with the authorities. A nearby Sheriff's deputy was also wounded, possibly by friendly fire in the chaos. Four men, three of whom are Mexican citizens, were taken into custody and charged with capitol murder. It is still unclear if the men were targeting the informant or attempting to rip off his 300-pound load of marijuana.

Tuesday, November 22

In Ciudad Juarez, two police officers were killed while riding in an unmarked car. Authorities recovered 44 bullet casings at the scene.

Wednesday, November 23

In Sinaloa, at least 20 people were killed in several incidents. In Culiacan, 13 people were found dead inside two vehicles which had been set fire in two different locations. Near Guasave, three men were shot and killed. In the municipality of Mocorito, four people were murdered. Mexican media has speculated that at least some of the killings may be related to a fight between the Sinaloa Cartel and a faction of the Beltran-Leyva Organization.

Thursday, November 24.

In Tamaulipas, the army announced that a large weapons cache and almost two tons of marijuana were captured during a series of operations in the city of Miguel Aleman, across the Rio Grande from Starr, Texas. The weapons cache included a rocket launcher and ten explosive devices, including pipe bombs. Miguel Aleman is currently controlled by a faction of the Gulf Cartel.

In Guadalajara, 26 men were found bound, gagged, executed and dumped in three vehicles. Many of the men had been asphyxiated, and some appear to have been shot. Notes left written on the victims and a banner left at one of the crime scenes suggest that the killings were carried out by the Zetas and by members of an allied organization, the Millenium Cartel. Some Mexican media outlets have speculated that the killing is in response to the September dumping of 35 men, many purportedly Zetas killed by the Sinaloa Cartel.

Friday, November 25

In the Hague, Mexican activists filed a war crimes complaint against Mexican President Felipe Calderon. According to the coalition behind the complaint, Mexican security forces have been involved in approximately 470 cases of human rights violations. The complaint filed in the Netherlands also mentions crimes committed by drug cartels, and specifically mentions Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The Mexican government immediately denied the accusations.

In Mexico City, the city's police chief announced that an investigation would take place to determine the circumstances behind a journalist's video, which shows a police officer dunking a man's head into a bucket following a firefight between gunmen and police in the crime-ridden neighborhood of Tepito.

In Matamoros, the son of a deceased Gulf Cartel boss was captured. Antonio Ezequiel "El Junior" Cardenas Guillen, 23, is the son of Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen Sr., "Tony Tormenta," who was killed in a firefight with Marines in November 2010. El Junior was arrested with four associates -- including two suspected cartel accountants -- as he left a party.

Saturday, November 26

In Nuevo Leon, three alleged Zetas suspected of involvement in the July killing of two men who served as bodyguards for the state's governor were arrested during a traffic stop. Authorities said the men also confessed to four other killings, three of whom were police officers murdered in May.

In the city of Chihuahua, two men and a woman were shot and killed. The two men tried run away after their car was cut off by gunmen, but were shot as they ran. The female was killed in the automobile. Police have no leads in the case.

Monday, November 28

In Ciudad Juarez, a four-year-old boy was shot and killed while playing outside a neighbor's house. Alan David Carrillo was playing with several other children outside the home when it was sprayed with automatic weapons. He was rushed to a hospital but died there shortly after arriving.

In Hermosillo, Sonora, a prominent member of Mexico's Movement for Peace and Justice and Dignity was shot and killed. Nepomuceno Moreno, 56, was shot at least seven times by a gunman in a passing car. Last year, Moreno had accused hooded police officers of kidnapping his 18-year old son, who was never seen again. For their part, the Sonora Attorney General’s office has said that the principal line of investigation in the case is that Moreno was somehow involved with organized crime groups. In 1979, he was arrested in Arizona for heroin smuggling and possession, and is also said to have been involved in more recent criminal activity.

[Editor's Note: We have been conservatively estimating Mexican drug war deaths this year after El Universal quit publishing a box score. As of mid-November, we had estimated 8,100 deaths so far this year, but in light of new figures have revised that figure upward by about 3,000 deaths. Even that figure is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011 (approx.): 11,300

TOTAL: > 45,000

Mexico

California Marijuana Arrests and Quote of the Day

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/california-marijuana-leaf-small.jpg
It turns out that New York City isn't the only place where marijuana possession arrests have skyrocketed in recent decades. It's also happened to The State of California. The SF Weekly reports on a new study to this effect, published by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

I'm sure Phil will be writing something for the Chronicle about this, but in the meanwhile, I wanted to post a quote from the article by Mike Males, the researcher who authored the study:

"The War on Drugs is not intended to solve the drug problem -- it's intended to maximize the harm drugs cause in society."
 

I strongly agree with this and I think it sums up one key aspect of our prohibitionist policy. It's not that most supporters of the drug war think this consciously. It's that the drug war support is incoherent and emotionally based. Drugs have to continue to harm people, and more than they might do on their own without public intervention, so that we can continue to point out how bad drugs are.

If the harm that drugs do can be reduced -- and the harm of drug policies of course counts as harm from drugs, that's how incoherent it is -- there would be less reason for people to refrain from drug use, and less opportunity to tell people not to use drugs or to say we told you so. Given how low marijuana falls on the harmful substances scale, it's especially important for zealots to focus on marijuana. Otherwise people might get the idea that it would be okay to legalize it. (Oh wait, that's happening anyway...)

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Tuesday, November 1

In a swamp near Veracruz, an anonymous tip led to the discovery of eight bodies. The area where the bodies were found is near Bocas del Rio, where 35 bodies were dumped in September.

Wednesday, November 2

In La Piedad, Michoacan, town Mayor Ricardo Guzman, 45, was shot and killed. Guzman was handing out campaign flyers outside a restaurant when a gunman in a black SUV shot him once with a pistol. He was a member of President Calderon's PAN party.

In March, La Piedad police chief Jose Luis Guerrero was killed by gunmen with AK-47s. His successor was later attacked by up to 40 gunmen traveling in a ten-car convoy, but survived.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, at least three people were killed during a series of fire fights which took place in several locations around the city. Two of the dead were police officers. The fighting began between two groups of rival traffickers in the afternoon. Later in the day, students at a local university were trapped during a gun battle between Marines and unidentified gunmen.

Thursday, November 3

In Mexico City, SEDENA announced that 14 soldiers were convicted and given prison sentences for the shooting deaths of three children and two women who were killed at a checkpoint in Sinaloa in 2007. The commanding officer was given a 40-year sentence, and another officer given a 38-year sentence while 12 enlisted soldiers were given 16-year sentences.

Near Mexico City, a high-ranking member of the La Borradora Organization was captured by police. Victor Manuel Rivera Galeana, "Victor el Gordo," 35, is thought play a large role in his organization’s battle for control of retail drug sales and criminal activities in the Acapulco area.

In Ciudad Juarez, six gunmen were killed during a massive fire fight between groups of rival criminals. Two of the gunmen were killed in a car with Texas plates. Over 400 bullet casings were recovered after the battle.

Friday, November 4

In Culiacan, 11 people were killed in two separate incidents. In one of the incidents, eight people gathered at a volleyball court were killed when gunmen descended from several vehicles and opened fire on them with automatic weapons.

In another part of the same city, two men and a woman were gunned down. The killings are all thought to be related to the recent killing of Sinaloa Cartel enforcer Francisco "Pancho" Arce, who was said to be responsible for the murder of a nephew of Juarez Cartel boss Vicente Carillo Fuentes in Sinaloa not long ago.

In Hidalgo, Texas, two alleged Gulf Cartel members were arrested and charged in connection with an attempted kidnapping that occurred on Tuesday. The victim was rescued from the trunk of a car as the men attempted to smuggle him into Mexico. According to police, the men were attempting to recover a 1,500 pound narcotics shipment that had gone missing. Several other suspects are still being sought.

Saturday, November 5

In Guamuchil, Sinaloa, three bodies were left hanging from an overpass. At least one of the victims had been tortured before being killed. The other two appear to have been stored in a freezer until being dumped.

Sunday, November 6

In Veracruz, the offices of local newspaper El Bueno Tono were torched after gunmen stormed the building and told employees to flee. Nobody was injured in the incident, which involved at least 10 hooded and heavily armed men.

Monday, November 7

In Tijuana, an Arellano-Felix Cartel boss was captured after he opened fire on a car carrying two rival traffickers. Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha, "El Ruedas," 34, is thought have reported directly to cartel boss Fernando "The Engineer" Sanchez Arellano. Sillas is thought to have played a large part in the AFO's fight with the Sinaloa Cartel between 2007 and 2009 and is alleged to have masterminded the kidnapping of three women tied to Sinaloa Cartel figure Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada in 2010.

In Sinaloa, the mayor of the tourist town of Mazatlan was unhurt when his car was ambushed by gunmen on the highway to Culiacan. Alejandro Higuera Osuna was traveling in a convoy with his bodyguards when they were ambushed by at least ten men who had been hiding in the brush.

In Ciudad Juarez, the dismembered bodies of two men were left on a busy street. Their heads were inside two coolers. A note, whose contents have not been revealed, was left with the bodies.

Wednesday, November 9

In Nuevo Laredo, a blogger was found beheaded. The man, so far only identified by his online moniker "Fiddler", was a moderator on the blog "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo". His body was left with a note which said that he had "failed to understand I must not report on social networks."

Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 8,500

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

US Drug Arrest Rate Dropping, But Still Sky High

The arrest rate for drug violations in the US has decreased for the last four years, but still remains more than twice as high as rates in the early 1980s, the University of Maryland's Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) reported Monday. The finding was based on analysis of data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program.

drug bust (wikimedia.org)
According to CESAR's analysis, last year, there were 530.8 drug arrests per 100,000 US residents, down 15.6% from the all-time high of 632.9 in 2006. Overall drug arrests have declined all four years since then.

Of the 2010 drug arrests, 18% were for sale or manufacture and 82% were for drug possession. More than half of all drug arrests were for marijuana violations. CESAR will report next week on trend data for the types of drugs that have resulted in drug arrests for the past 30 years.

While the drug arrest rate is declining, drug arrests still accounted for more than 1.6 million busts last year.

The drug arrest rate per 100,000 was at about 250 in 1980 before shooting up to more than 500 in 1989 as the Reagan-era drug war blossomed. The arrest rate dipped to around 400 in the early 1990s, but went over 500 in 1994 and has remained above that mark ever since. After declining slightly in 2002, arrest rates steadily increased at mid-decade, going over 600 in 2005, 2006, and 2007, before sliding under 600 in 2008 and declining slightly since then.

United States

SF "De Facto Drug Decriminalization" Sees Violent Crime Decline

Drug arrests in San Francisco have declined dramatically over the past two years without causing a spike in violent crime, calling into question the link traditionally made by law enforcement between drug law enforcement and reducing violent crime.

Drug arrests AND violent crime are down in San Francisco. (wikimedia.org)
According to figures compiled by the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco police made 9,505 drug arrests in 2009, but that number dropped dramatically to 5,834 last year. As of October 15, there had been only 3,751 drug arrests this year, leaving the city on pace to end the year with fewer than 5,000 if current trends continue. That means drug arrests declined 39% in 2010 over 2009 totals and are on track to decline another 25% this year

Meanwhile, violent crimes have also decreased during the same period, although not so dramatically. In 2009, police reported 7,391 violent crime arrests; a year later, that figure had dropped to 7,139. As of October 15 this year, police had logged 5,366 violent crimes (the figure last year at the same date was 5,715). If the current rate continues to year's end, the number of violent crimes should drop to somewhere near 7,000.

That's a 3% decrease in violent crime in 2010 and another 6% decrease this year. This even as drug arrest rates also plummet.

"This has been somewhat of a de facto decriminalization of drugs -- in other words, they're not being prosecuted," San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey told the Examiner. "And it does not appear that violent crime in San Francisco has risen, so it may say something about the necessity for the war on drugs."

Hennessy said he noticed a shift in 2010 after the police department's drug lab was embroiled in scandal and hundreds of drug cases were dropped. The jail population dropped dramatically then, possibly because of fewer arrests and prosecutions for drug crimes, he said.

Former San Francisco Police Chief and current District Attorney George Gascon told the Examiner that as police chief, he began focusing more on mid-level drug dealers and drug offenses associated with violent crimes, sending some minor drug possession cases to neighborhood and community courts. He said he is continuing that approach as district attorney.

Street level police said they were continuing to make low-level buy-bust and undercover operations, particularly near schools, but acknowledged that the department has less grant money for certain drug enforcement operations. Also, budget cuts have shrunk the force and resulted in less overtime.

"We're doing more with less," said Capt. Joe Garrity, whose district includes the Tenderloin, a drug dealing hotspot in the city. But drug arrests were declining there, too.

UC Santa Cruz professor of sociology and legal studies Craig Reinarman told the Examiner the majority of drug arrests are traditionally been for petty offenses, mostly marijuana. "The relationship between those arrests and violent crimes was always more tenuous than police like to let on," he said.

Hmmm… maybe San Francisco is on to something.

San Francisco, CA
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Monday, October 17

In an interview published in the New York Times, President Calderon said he believes that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is in the United States. "He is not in Mexican territory, and I suppose that Chapo is in American territory," he said. Calderon also questioned why Guzman's wife wasn't detained when she gave birth at a Los Angeles area clinic in August.

Wednesday, October 19

In Arizona, an ICE officer was arrested for marijuana smuggling after a high-speed chase with authorities. Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under investigation for more than a month after a known smuggler who had been arrested identified him as being involved in drug rips and in trafficking. He was arrested after agreeing to pick up 500 pounds of marijuana from a desert location.

Thursday, October 20

In Texas, the nephew of an imprisoned Gulf Cartel leader was arrested during a traffic stop in Port Isabel. Rafael Junior Cardenas Vela was charged with immigration and drug conspiracy charges in the operation, which was conducted by ICE. Rafael Cardenas allegedly admitted to being involved in large cocaine and marijuana shipments to the US. Additionally, a July 8 shootout near Brownsville is attributed to a Zeta attempt to capture or kill Rafael Cardenas.

In Monterrey, a car bomb attack was conducted against a military patrol which had been chasing suspected cartel members. No soldiers were wounded in the incident, which took place after they gave chase to a car with suspicious men on board during a patrol. Several other car bomb incidents have taken place in Mexico over the last year.

In Veracruz, eight bodies were found in the town of Paso de Viejas.

In Tecamac, Mexico State, a well-known local drug trafficker was arrested along with 10 of his bodyguards. Adrian Soria Ramirez, "El Hongo," had been leading a gang currently fighting for control of drug sales in several areas of the greater Mexico City area.

Saturday, October 22

In Durango, cartel activity led much of the population of the towns of Villa Ocampo and Los Nieves to lock themselves inside their homes when a convoy of armed men passed through the area. The local municipal police force fled to their station. Three men were abducted by the convoy and later found executed.

Sunday, October 23

In Sinaloa, the army raided an auto shop used by cartel members to bulletproof vehicles. Ten people were taken into custody and 16 vehicles were seized. Similar bulletproofing shops have been discovered in other parts of Mexico, notably Tamaulipas.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 9 people were murdered. Among the dead was a jeweler who was shot dead in his home by two armed men, and one person who was decapitated.

Monday, October 24

In Tamaulipas, a Mexican army unit was deployed to the Frontera Chica area across the Rio Grande from Starr County, Texas. The soldiers, from Mexico's 105th Battalion, will patrol the Camargo, Miguel Aleman and Ciudad Mier areas in response to recent fighting in the area.

Tuesday, October 25

In Acapulco, authorities announced that they recently arrested a man and a woman and discovered an icebox with a human head and other remains in the car they were driving. The car was pulled over by federal police because it matched the description of a car used in a recent kidnapping. The female suspect, 19 year-old Damaris Gomez, allegedly is the leader of a group of assassins employed by a local criminal organization.

Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 8,100

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Cop Admits Planting Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quotas

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/newyorkmarijuanaarrests.png

Hmm, maybe the reason so many people still support the war on drugs isn’t because they’re stupid jerks. Perhaps they just haven’t yet had the pleasure of getting spontaneously framed, arrested, and jailed for made-up cocaine crimes concocted by dirty drug cops.

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

"As a detective, you still have a number to reach while you are in the narcotics division," he said.

NYPD officials did not respond to a request for comment. [NY Daily News]

What, did you think they were going to apologize? Because that would be a lot like admitting that it’s wrong to do these sorts of things. I can absolutely guarantee you that there are plenty of people in law enforcement who think that the worst thing about this whole episode is that it’s causing people to say unreasonable things about the cops.

I, on the other hand, am quite convinced that the worst thing about this mess is the part where they framed some random dudes for fake crimes. That is an act so extraordinarily corrupt, so corrosive to the concept of a free society, that it’s a wonder the politicians have yet to declare war on it.

Imagine for one second, at the risk of your head exploding, that despite the laws of economics, human nature and common sense, it somehow turned out to be the case that the vigorous enforcement of our drug laws actually led to a reduction in drug activity. Imagine that, and ask yourself what would happen if one day these quota-driven drug detectives couldn’t find enough dope dealers to drag downtown on drug charges. It chills the blood to imagine the multitude of malicious schemes that would emerge to ensure that the people whose job it is to put other people in prison are always busy doing just that.

NYPD Officers Regularly Plant Drugs on Innocent People, Former Detective Testifies

Drug Policy Alliance

www.drugpolicy.org

For Immediate Release: October 13, 2011
Contact: Tony Newman or Anthony Papa

 

Former NYPD Detective Testifies that Police Regularly Plant Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quota

DPA Statement: Drug War Corrupts Police, Ruins Lives, Destroys Trust Between Law Enforcement and Community

 

Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD narcotics detective, testified yesterday that he regularly saw police plant drugs on innocent people as a way to meet arrest quotas. Mr. Anderson is testifying under cooperation with prosecutors after he was busted for planting cocaine on four men in a bar in Queens. "It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators," said Anderson.

"One of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it's easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people," said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing – and quotas further incentivize such practices."

The NYPD has also come under heat recently for arresting more than 50,000 people last year for low-level marijuana offenses – 86% of whom are black and Latino – making marijuana possession the number one offense in the City. Most of these arrests are the result of illegal searches by the NYPD, as part of its controversial stop-and-frisk practices. Marijuana was decriminalized in New York State in 1977 – and that law is still on the books. Smoking marijuana in public or having marijuana visible in public, however, remains a crime.  Most people arrested for marijuana possession are not smoking in public, but simply have a small amount in their pocket, purse or bag. Often when police stop and question a person, they say "empty your pockets" or "open your bag." Many people comply, even though they’re not legally required to do so. If a person pulls mari­juana from their pocket or bag, it is then "open to public view." The police then arrest the person.

Last month, in a rare admission of NYPD wrongdoing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered all officers to stop charging people with misdemeanor marijuana violations based on improper searches. The new policy directive comes on the heels of a 2011 report released by DPA highlighting the enormous costs of marijuana arrests in New York and a public pressure campaign by advocacy groups and elected officials.

"Whether the issue is planting drugs (like this instance) or falsely charging people for having marijuana in public view (as is the case with the majority of marijuana arrests in NYC) the drug war corrupts police, ruins lives, and destroys trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve," said sayegh.

Location: 
New York, NY
United States

Ray Kelly Heard "Allegations of Improper [Marijuana] Arrests" Oh Really?

Ailsa Chang, the WNYC reporter who broke the recent New York Police Department marijuana arrests story, blogged about comments by Commissioner Ray Kelly at a news conference this week explaining why he issued the order to his officers:

"Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says he had heard multiple allegations that his officers were skirting the law when charging people for misdemeanor marijuana possession — but he says he doesn't know if they are true."
 

I suppose "multiple allegations" is one of way describing the in-depth report published on the topic in 2008, the report on the fiscal costs of the arrests published this year, or the extensive discussion of the arrests that's taken place in the media for much of this year. Oh, let's not forget the bill filed this year in Albany for the specific purpose of stopping such arrests.

Of course the nearly 12-fold sudden increase in the number of marijuana possession arrests was no tip-off that anything was up:
 

 

And to be fair, the New York Times didn't call for a federal Dept. of Justice investigation of the arrests until last Monday, after Kelly issued the order, so that doesn't count. (But it's a good idea.)

No, there's no reason why the nearly ten-year commissioner of the department, who had been commissioner for another two years prior to that, and who has worked in important positions in the department for a total of more than 30 years, could have known to look into this before now. There was no reason to suspect anything may have been amiss until an "allegation was made" recently. None at all -- he had no way to know! I believe him -- I really do.

Location: 
New York, NY
United States

Press Release: Elected Officials and Advocates Applaud Change to Marijuana Arrest Policy, Pledge Further Reform

For Immediate Release:

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, And Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Jumanne D. Williams Joined by Advocates in Front of Police Headquarters to Applaud Change in Policy for Marijuana Arrests

Policy Shift by NYPD Could End Tens of Thousands of Arrests in NYC, Save Tens of Millions of Dollars and Reduce the Funneling of Young Men of Color into the Criminal Justice System

Elected Officials and Advocates Affirm Support for Legislation in Albany that Standardizes Penalties for Marijuana Possession Offenses to Permanently Curb These Arrests Statewide

New York, NY– Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, joined by advocates from the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, VOCAL NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance, gathered in front of One Police Plaza today to celebrate an internal order issued by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to all precinct commanding officers to stop arresting New Yorkers for small quantities of marijuana if the marijuana was not in plain view.

In 2010, over 54,000 people – mostly black or Latino – were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York State. Over 50,000 of those arrests occurred in New York City, making it the most frequent arrest citywide. On Monday, September 19th, responding to mounting public pressure from elected officials and advocates, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order that clarified existing marijuana possession laws, instructing officers not to arrest people for marijuana in public view when complying with an officer's demand to "empty their pockets". This change could lead to the reduction of tens of thousands of arrests in New York City.

"The internal directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a positive step toward a more equitable criminal justice system that treats everyone the same, regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. “The NYPD's aggressive stop and frisk practices that have lead to the explosion of improper marijuana arrests in communities of color have helped poison the relationship between the community and police. We will continue to push for the passage of state legislation that changes public view possession of small quantities of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.”

Commissioner Kelly’s operations order can be made permanent, and apply to all of New York State, by passing A.7620 (Jeffries) and S.5187 (Grisanti, R-Buffalo). This legislation would standardize penalties for marijuana possession offences, protect New Yorkers from illegal searches, save taxpayer dollars, and bring down the disproportionately high number of arrests among black and Latino men for marijuana-related crimes by eliminating the misdemeanor charge.

"The New York City Police Commissioner did the right thing when he issued his directive not to arrest people who produce small amounts of marijuana in public view when compelled by police," said  New York State Senator Mark Grisanti (R- Buffalo). "Unfortunately, this order does not impact people in Buffalo who experience these same situations every day. We can make this order permanent and have it apply statewide by passing legislation in Albany that will help put an end to these racially biased, fiscally wasteful, and unlawful arrests for small amounts of marijuana."

Council Member Mark-Viverito introduced a City Council resolution that Council Member Williams is sponsoring that supports the passage of this legislation.

“The directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a huge victory for communities of color in the city of New York, who for years have been disproportionately targeted for small-time marijuana arrests” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “Finally, the NYPD will be respecting the intent of the State law that de-criminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago, and our youth will no longer face arrest for this small-time offense.  I personally raised this issue with Commissioner Kelly at two different Council hearings earlier this year as a major concern for my district and communities like mine across the city.  I applaud the Commissioner for acting on the concerns that so many of us in the Council and beyond have been expressing about this policy.  We will continue to closely monitor how stop and frisk policies are carried out in our city and to advocate for the passage of the State legislation introduced by Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Jeffries.”

Marijuana has been decriminalized since 1977, making possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a violation, punishable by a $100 fine, not arrest and jail. However, possessing or burning marijuana in public view is a criminal offense punishable by arrest and jail.

"Commissioner Kelly has finally answered the alarm sounded by advocates and our communities,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “However, it will take continued vigilance on all of our parts to make sure that officers are patrol are heeding the message and bringing an end to the racial inequality and fiscal waste of this disturbing trend of illegal arrests. We also must continue to push for the bipartisan state legislation that will ensure this order is made permanent for all New Yorkers.”

Since 1996, the New York City Police Department has made over 535,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Although the “public view” provision was meant to criminalize public display and smoking of marijuana, most of these arrests were not for that offense, but instead the result of complying with an officer's demand to disclose contraband or from a police search and being improperly charged for "marijuana in public view" instead of the non-criminal violation offense. Although marijuana use is higher among whites, 86% of those arrested for marijuana possession were young Black and Latino youth.

Advocates who have worked for years to address the out of control marijuana arrests by NYPD weighed in on the significance of the recent directive.

“It must be noted that these spurious arrests are largely a result of a racially biased and improper stop and frisk practice that often result in illegal searches, and this order does not address this injustice,” said Kyung Ji Rhee, director of  Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. “We will continue to hold NYPD accountable on this front.”

“It’s about time!,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “I just want to give a belated thanks to Ray Kelly for agreeing at last to comply with both the spirit and letter of the marijuana decriminalization law that New York enacted back in 1977.”

"We can't talk about marijuana arrests without bringing up why they happen in the first place - stop and frisks and illegal searches that are targeted in communities of color," said Alfredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer for VOCAL-NY who has been arrested in the past for marijuana possession. "That won't necessarily change as a result of this new policy, but it should. Mayor Bloomberg must also seal the records of people who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana in the past given that he knows how difficult it can make finding a job or housing."

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Location: 
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY
United States

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