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Alleged Illegal Searches by NYPD May Be Increasing Marijuana Arrests

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Antonio Rivera said police pulled marijuana out of his pants before arresting him for the misdemeanor of displaying marijuana in public view. (Ailsa Chang/WNYC)

[This is the first story in a two-part series. Read the second part here.]

Police arrest 140 people every day in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It's now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city, and thousands of these arrests take place when police stop-and-frisk young men in the poorest neighborhoods. While police say these stop-and-frisks are a way to find guns, what they find more often is a bag of marijuana.

An investigation by WNYC suggests that some police officers may be violating people’s constitutional rights when they are making marijuana arrests. Current and former cops, defense lawyers and more than a dozen men arrested for the lowest-level marijuana possession say illegal searches take place during stop-and-frisks, which are street encounters carried out overwhelmingly on blacks and Latinos.  

Alleged Illegal Searches

Antonio Rivera, 25, said he gets stopped by police up to five times a month. In January, he said he was stopped and frisked near the corner of E. 183rd Street and Creston Avenue in the Bronx. He was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Critics of the police say his case is an example of how officers may be conducting illegal searches when making marijuana arrests.

Rivera said his marijuana was in his pants and that police pulled it out of his clothes after searching him without his consent.

"So they checked my pockets, my coat pockets, and they patted my jean pockets," Rivera said, "and then once he felt the package I had in my crotch area, he went into my pants and he pulled it out."

Rivera had lodged a soft Ziploc bag of marijuana between his legs inside his pants while still in the room where he bought it.  He said he never took the drugs out when he went outside, but the police officer who arrested him told prosecutors Rivera was openly displaying his drugs.  

In the criminal complaint against Rivera, the arresting officer stated that he "observed the defendant to have on his person, in his right hand 1 ziplock bag containing a dried-green leafy substance with the distinctive odor alleged to be marijuana in public view."

There is no record of how many illegal searches take place every year.  In a written statement to WNYC, police spokesman Paul Browne acknowledged that illegal searches do happen, and officers get disciplined when the department finds out.  

"If an officer conducted an improper search, he is instructed on how to do it properly; unless it was particularly egregious in which case he would face more severe disciplinary action," said Browne.  

Under New York State law, possessing a small amount of pot becomes a crime – a misdemeanor – when it is smoked or displayed "open to public view." If the marijuana is concealed on the person, possession of the drug is only a violation, which is not a crime. The person receives a ticket and fine.

 

 

Robin Steinberg, executive director of South Bronx legal defense organization Bronx Defenders, handles thousands of marijuana arrests a year.  She said, in most of these cases, police either ordered the person to empty his pockets or, as in Antonio Rivera's case, searched his pockets themselves – that's how the drugs get into "public view," she said.

"So the police officer in fact is creating a type of criminality," Steinberg said.

"Now, I've worked in this community for 13 years, and I just never see people standing on street corners with their hands wide open, palms open to the sky, with bags of marijuana sitting in their hand," she  said. "It's nonsensical. Everybody knows it’s not true."

Carrying around small amounts of marijuana was supposed to have been decriminalized by New York State in 1977, when the Marijuana Reform Act made possession of less than seven-eighths of an ounce of marijuana a violation.  But state data shows that police officers now arrest people for the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana possession at five times the rate they will issue tickets for marijuana possession violations.  

Marijuana That May Never Have Been In "Public View"

WNYC tracked down more than a dozen men arrested after a stop-and-frisk for allegedly displaying marijuana in public view.  Each person said the marijuana was hidden – in a pocket, in a sock, a shoe, or in underwear.  There's no videotape to confirm their accounts, but they each said the police pulled the drugs out of his clothes before arresting him for having marijuana in public view.  None of them had been buying their drugs outside. And none of them were carrying a weapon when they were stopped.
 
Leo Henning (Photo left), an African-American, said he was walking with a Ziploc bag of marijuana in his sock – under his foot – when two officers stopped him in March on a street corner in East Harlem.  He had just bought the marijuana inside a warehouse several blocks away and had tucked the bag in his sock before he stepped outside, he said.  Henning said one of the officers who stopped him placed his hands on him almost immediately.

"They patted me down, and they checked the outside of my sleeves of my coat," said Henning.  

 During the pat-down, the police officer felt two hard objects. He allegedly reached into Henning's jacket and pulled out a cell phone and a bottle of cologne. But the search didn’t end there, Henning said, and the officer began putting his hand inside his pants.

"He went into my front right pocket. Then he went into my front left pocket," Henning said. "Then he went into my right back pocket. Then he went into my left pocket."

Finding nothing, Henning said the officer stuck his fingers down Henning's left sock.

"And then he switched over to my right sock," Henning said. "He stuck his hands in. His fingers was going under my foot inside my sock. That's when he felt it, I gather."


At that point, the officer allegedly pulled out the bag of marijuana and arrested Henning for displaying marijuana "open to public view." Henning spent the night in jail.  

Hasan Covington (Photo right), 32, a black man from Marble Hill, was carrying two small bags of marijuana in his left jacket pocket when he was walking near White Plains Road and Archer Street in the Bronx. Covington has a long rap sheet, including one robbery and a few attempted robberies 10 years ago.

Two officers approached Covington and he said they directed him to stand up against a fence.

"They ask, 'Yo, you got anything on you?'" Covington said. "I was like, 'No.' 'You got anything on you that we can poke ourselves with? Got any guns on you?'  'No.'"

 Covington said the officers began patting him down – starting at the shoulders, moving to his chest and midsection, and then sliding their hands to his legs.  

"Then they’re in the pockets," said Covington.

Covington said one officer slipped his hands into each of his jeans pockets and each of his jacket pockets before he found the marijuana. He said he never consented to a search.

Illegal Searches as a "Fact of Life"

The lawyers for Antonio Rivera, Leo Henning and Hasan Covington all say police found marijuana on their clients only after an illegal search. The law in this area is specific.  


First, for a police officer to stop someone, he needs reasonable suspicion the person is committing a crime. These men say there wasn’t any reasonable suspicion in their cases – they were just walking down the street.  

Second, a police officer can pat down the outside of a person's clothing only if he believes he or she is carrying a weapon.  He can only search a person  – that is, go inside a pocket – if he thinks he feels a weapon there during the pat-down. But Hasan Covington said police officers don’t seem to understand the difference between a search and a pat-down.

"I've never experienced a pat-down in my life, where officers do not go into your pockets, do not go into your pants, do not open your jacket, do not fondle your genitals, do not ask you to take your boots off," said Covington.

Browne, spokesman for the NYPD, said if an officer feels any hard object during a pat-down, he can search the person. But Peter Moskos at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said that's not the law.

"Any hard object does not give you the right to go into a pocket and search," said Moskos.  

He said the hard object has to feel like a weapon, or be big enough to store a weapon – and if it turns out it's not a weapon, the search ends there.  

"If you feel a hard object in one pocket, you can go into that pocket to investigate, but that doesn't give you the right to go into every pocket, and in people’s crotches and shoes and socks," said Moskos.

But Robin Steinberg said her clients get searched all over their clothes so routinely during police stops, she's accepted illegal searches as a fact of life.

"When enough people tell a story in the same way, with the same facts and the same circumstances over and over again – completely different people from different neighborhoods and different backgrounds – you begin to understand that that chorus of voices reflects a reality," said Steinberg.

Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Blacks and Latinos Dominate Arrest Numbers

And part of that reality, she says, is that almost all these voices belong to blacks and Latinos.  

Even though national studies show young whites between 18 to 25 years old smoke pot more than non-whites that age, almost 90 percent of the people arrested for marijuana in the city are black or Latino.

"In New York, blacks are arrested at seven times the rate of whites, and Latinos are arrested at about three to four times the rate of whites. All this is happening even as young whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks and Latinos," said Harry Levine of Queens College, who has been tracking the city's marijuana arrest rates for years. 

Levine said that's because they live in neighborhoods filled with police. Many of the precincts with the most marijuana arrests are the precincts with the most stop-and-frisks – places like Brownsville, Brooklyn, East Harlem and the South Bronx.  

On top of that, Levine said the racial breakdown of the people getting arrested for marijuana is nearly identical to the racial breakdown of the people getting stopped-and-frisked. Almost 90 percent of the people getting stopped-and-frisked are black or Latino.  

Levine said it's not that blacks and Latinos are more likely than other New Yorkers to be smoking a joint in public – it's that they're most likely to get stopped, frisked and sometimes searched.

Antonio Rivera said that fact of life eventually erodes trust in the police.

"People in this neighborhood – they tired of the cops," said Rivera. "Every time they see cops, they see trouble. They know they gonna come around, they gonna bother somebody."

But the police say they're getting results. They claim cracking down on low-level offenses like marijuana reduces violent crime. Rivera’s precinct saw murder drop 85 percent in the last 20 years, and it has one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the city.  

But law enforcement experts say it's impossible to single out these misdemeanor arrests as the cause of any long-term reduction in violent crime. 

Meanwhile, arrests for marijuana keep climbing under Bloomberg’s Administration – and just broke 50,000 last year.  

"Marijuana is against the law, or smoking marijuana," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said during a recent press conference. "Officers encounter those situations in the street, they take action. If anyone thinks that’s inappropriate, they should petition the state legislature to change the law."

Leo Henning said police found marijuana on him only after reaching into his sock.

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Comments [40]

BarleySinger

The facts have been known for a long time. People with specific psychological factors (personality disorders) are heavily drawn to both police work & to politics (each with their own profile). NOth groups want POWER. Both abuse it and have a very grey sense of the truth when THEY give information.

I say this as a person who has had cops as friends (until they became too nutty, having gone off the edge). Most cops become cops because of their personal unresolved trauma issues. They want to HAVE AND USE POWER over others to remake the world the way they want it to be. That means they have "control issues". They tend to have "Black and White Thinking" (putting people into simplified categories, often as either "all good & perfect" or "all bad"). After a short time on the job, most cops also put *ALL* people they see every day (all day) into instant categories : "criminals, victims, cops, cops relatives". Long time cops stop believing in "innocent bystanders" unless the person was also a victim of the crime. Innocent bystanders confuse them more and more as the years pass. The majority of people who are convicted are deemed 'guilty' in the mind of a single police officer based on a hunch (woo woo psychic powers), and then evidence is gathered NOT to find the truth and see where it leads (see also *science*) but gathered (or created) to CONVICT the person who THEY want to place in jail, having decided ahead of time that this one person is guilty. One suspect and only one.

Aside from "Black and White Thinking" they also have : "Substance Abuse", "Rapidly Formed turbulent relationships", "substance abuse", domestic "violence"self destructive behavior" etc...all symptoms of - BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.

Cops have a very high rate of domestic violence and sexual abuse in their own pasts...and also as the abusers to their families. Give a long term victim a lot of power and no 'help' for their 'issues' and you get a dangerous person. A tyrant with a badge (a license to abuse the public, and a shield from legal persecution both at home and from the public).

The job of "cop" itself sucks. You see people at their worst every day. You must enforce very bad laws, most of which are really bad ideas, drafted by selfish politicians seeking only to get votes. Only a very well balanced person, or an utter loon could ever do it.

Until we stop hiring crazy people to do the job with serious unresolved childhood trauma issues, and train them in SCIENCE as a method of investigation...and no longer let them lie to suspects (they can tell you they have your DNA, your face on video, your mother in the next room with a confession, your finger prints...ANYTHING AT ALL...to get you to "cop to a plea" out of fear of a long prison sentence.

Until we stop all this, there will be no justice at all.

Mar. 28 2012 03:18 PM
Paul from LA

I am not in or from NY. If I were a NY citizen, I would take a page from history.
When 'founding father' Benjamin Franklin was in London, England; he had his pocket picked by a local criminal. Franklin had 'fish hooks' sewn into his jacket pockets and several days later 'snagged' a pick-pocket in the act; try as he may to remove his hand the criminal was very painfully caught and handed over to the police. I would do the same thing in NY if I were there. Any cop in his right mind, wearing rubber gloves or not, would never risk a painful injury by thrusting their hands into anyones pockets. And, if the cop asked you if you had anything in your pockets before searching you. you could truthfully tell them you had 'fish hooks' in them. Also tell them the hooks 'may' be infected with some kind of 'bacteria', for an added fear factor. What are they going to do? If it happened a couple of the cops sustained injuries, you can bet their union would instruct them not to conduct searches and go to war with the machinery that puts them in such occupational jeopardy. That's what I would do.

Dec. 02 2011 10:54 PM
Citizen X from Lauderhill, FL

This behavior is not germane to NYC. Cops all over the US engage in this unethical behavior. Nobody seems to notice the gestapo tactics used to disarm the black community. As citizens of the United States, people of color should also have the right to bear arms.

May. 01 2011 08:24 PM
Shadeed Ahmad from New York City

The matrix of evil that is rampant in New York City is often personified ironically by the police. When the police want to make rank, get their quotas and whatever of their often ill gotten gains, they victimize the routinely socially oppressed.

Police are more often than not willing dupes in the ambitions of the corporate state's greed for money at at the expense of common citizens (particularly minorities).

What would be the future of the prison industrial complex without the feeding grounds of urban America? It would starve.

The insatiable greed for money amongst the frequently morally bankrupt of government agencies and their overseers (the corporations) is the real root of much evil and corruption.

Any common person walking the streets is subject to have their world being turned upside down by false accusations generated by the police state in order to feed the prison industrial complex.

Stress is increasing to quantum levels because government is no longer "for the people and by the people." Government is corporate sponsored and controlled.

When you are falsely searched, arrested and put through the system it is an advertisement in support of the police state and prison industrial complex.

Most Americans who feel they are beyond reproach don't care, until their time comes. Their number is already being processed, as witnessed by higher taxes, cost of living excesses, and the boundaries of quality of life rapidly dwindling.

Only the naive and/or foolish believe in their imaginary sanctity and invulnerable status in escaping global web of " the new world order." The Social Contract (The United States Constitution) is virtually rendered powerless in upholding citizens rights. In this cannibalistic era where fellow citizens who we entrust with offices to uphold our rights feast on Americans with blood thirsty joy, we must pray for GOD'S Mercy to allow us to be in the right places at the right times.

May. 01 2011 09:40 AM

its not just the cops and cash colar or w/e its also the prosecutors, they are allowing it to happen and even change charges and bump up violations to misdemeanors it happened to me in the past

May. 01 2011 12:44 AM
A420Nation from USA

This is not just a New York problem! It's happening in major cities throughout our country. And the sad fact is that these actions are praised by the organized crime family known as the DEA. An organization that needs to be disbanded and it's employees retrained to clean the toilets in our prisons.

Apr. 29 2011 10:23 AM
Patriot from Bushwick

I think that we should force policeman to wear red clown noses and flower patterned uniforms. If we aren't civilized enough to live without police, we can at least dress them up to be pretty. Also, I think it is well established that New York is a police state and that the police are not your friend. I offer a more shocking example to NPR... the alternate side parking rules... these rules exist for the sole reason of collecting taxes and it forces people to burn tons of gas per year. Wanna save the planet? Wanna reduce gas prices and demand? Remove the alternate side parking rule... take that middle east!

Apr. 28 2011 02:28 PM
David Formanek from Arlington, MA

Prisoners are slaves of the state. Conviction for trivial offenses is a mechanism for enslaving them. It benefits the state, its agents the police, the prison industry profiteers, and citizens who are not on the arrest list.

Apr. 27 2011 11:32 PM
GrimaceNYC from East Village, NYC

2) Police "collars for dollars" policy - a little known policy that a previous commenter mentioned that monetarily incentivizes police for violating citizens constitutional rights and making false arrests. Many cops are looking to maxamize their already low pay, and the easiest way of doing this is by getting *overtime pay*. If a cop is getting ready to go off duty soon, they can make an arrest (aka a collar) and then get to work overtime and get paid for 8 hours overtime even if a) they don't work nearly this long and b) the arrest was illegal or wrongful and gets thrown out in court. With this huge increase in pay for essentially pushing the envelope to make false arrests to achieve overtime, it's natural that cops are "working the system".

Apr. 27 2011 06:29 PM
Harvey Wachtel from Kew Gardens

Landless says "it is frightening to walk past groups of young men lounging around, talking trash, and smoking weed". Agreed, which is why the law is supposed to punish "*public* display or consumption". I think there are laws against drinking alcohol on public streets as well. The problem is that the police are trumping up "public display" charges against people carrying marijuana for private consumption.

Apr. 27 2011 12:06 PM
Linda Tafapolsky from Garrison, NY

Superb journalism on a very important issue.
Thank you, Ailsa Chang.

Apr. 27 2011 08:51 AM
Larry King

I heard this on the way to work this morning and I was very happy that you are reporting on this travesty of justice.

Apr. 26 2011 11:41 PM
Danb from Bronx

Too bad that policies like stop and frisk that are an affront to a free society are not subject to a referendum by citizens. The growing police state is just flexing its muscles on the minority community at this point and left unopposed will expand its control for the sake of order to the wider society. People need to speak up now and resist the creeping police state feeding the prison industrial complex it is creating.

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Apr. 26 2011 10:46 PM
landless from Brooklyn

I support Garry's post. These young men know that they are targets for police harassment, but they carry weed. Instead of smoking dope, march in front of City Hall for jobs. Also, anyone who has a criminal record and carries dope is an idiot. I so want public life and the claim on my sympathies to be about young men with better attitudes and higher aspirations.
Also, I don't like neighborhoods with dope traffic. It is frightening to walk past groups of young men lounging around, talking trash, and smoking weed.

Apr. 26 2011 09:50 PM
Paul from Brooklyn

The article was interesting and no surprise. However it never said how any of these cases fared by going to trial. Don't judges or juries see what is going on?

Apr. 26 2011 09:43 PM
nyc4sanity from Brooklyn, NY

Congratulations Alisa on this terrific report. We need more reportage on this and it helps that you have a legal background to be able to report on this story accurately.

This is the kind of journalism we need more of. Bravo and bravo to WNYC for putting this story on the air.

Apr. 26 2011 06:43 PM
Daly from chelsea

I very happy that this topic is being discussed. Thank you for covering this story. I have friends who send their sons to boarding schools when they reach high school to order to keep them away from the police. We tell our sons to stay quiet and answer questions politely in order to prevent a possible beating from a police officer. My son says he tries to hide in large crowds so not to be noticed by the police who always stop him to ask questions or to frisk him. He has not been arrested but feels unsafe in the presence of the police. He told me he will no longer tell me each time he is stopped because I report it to 311 each time. It's very upsetting each time the police stop him for no reason. They stated on one occasion he resembled a gang member, another because they were looking for a rapist. He makes him feel horrible.They opened his book bag and looked through his notebook. Once they called his school. The school told them he is a good student. The police are sending a horrible message to our youth.

Apr. 26 2011 06:39 PM
anonymoose from manhattan

come down to the west village on any warm weekend night and the air is heavy with marijuana smoke (which I like) and never ever have I seen any police doing anything, let alone looking in people's pockets!
totally a racist thing, this

Apr. 26 2011 05:43 PM

Garry from Manhattan I think you missed the point. They weren't breaking the law, the cops were.

Apr. 26 2011 05:40 PM

This is not new- is anyone old enough to remember Serpico- the 1970's true story of deep corruption in the NYPD.

Just yesterday one of NY's finest pleaded guilty to shaking down drug dealers- taking over 500lbs of cocaine and $1 million! and how about the two others on trial for rape!

Sad. There are a few decent cops- but the overall band of thugs and criminals give them a bad name and tougher job to do. The out of touch mayor and commissioner allow egregious illegal activity of cops, with hardly a word, while young men of color are harassed and violated over little or nothing.

Shame.

Apr. 26 2011 02:24 PM
owlwriter16 from Harlem

It's racism pure and simple by one of the largest organized criminal groups in the nation, second only to the mafia! It is time to legalize marijuana to remove the incentive to violate people's civil rights. But of course that would reduce crime statistics so drastically, it would create a lot of unemployment in the crimal justice industry. That's the real issue.

Apr. 26 2011 01:36 PM
Steven

A police officer who is brave enough to fondle the crotch of a convicted criminal at night on the corner of 183rd Street and Creston Avenue in order to keep the law-abiding folks there safe is their hero, and they owe him a debt of gratitude.

Apr. 26 2011 01:33 PM
Eric Arezzo

It's disturbing because the horrific policy on marijuana leads to a complete hatred of the police. Imagine how much anti-police violence would be reduced if they stopped actually deserving it.

Apr. 26 2011 01:01 PM
Jeff Of Jersey from New Jersey

On Leonard Lopate's show, I was struck by the former police officer's use of the word "yuppie" (with a pejorative tone in his voice.) and that no one commented on it.

There is bias by the essentially "blue collar" types who are attracted to law enforcement against the generally more educated and wealthy "white collar" types.

Also, from historic point of view, it seems that law enforcement is never on the side of civil liberties or civil rights. Witness Ray Kelly's cavalier remark, that if you don’t like to law get the legislature to change it. A more enlightened leader would have acknowledged the controversy; promised to look in to it; and recommended internal and legislative changes. But that unfortunately is not what the commissioner is.

Apr. 26 2011 12:52 PM
RBC from FiDi

Daniel Steinberg: FYI - Blacks with resources leave predominantly Black urban neighborhoods because there are no amenities & services that keep affluent blacks in those areas. This is a failure of the black leadership class that only focuses on poor/low income because these "leaders" can only keep a job by pimping the poor.

BJK - I think the city's social and economic system is much more dynamic than it was in the 1990s, but there is a definite undercurrent of problems that are recurring that is very reminiscent of that time period: high unemployment, reduction in services due to budget cuts, homeless people sleeping in the subway, abandoned buildings/lots, crime increasing, public schools in disarray (and don't let the Charters fool you!).

Apr. 26 2011 12:46 PM
jonny goldstein from pittsburgh, pa

Well, one thing that Kelly is right about: the legislature should repeal marijuana prohibition. Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, so why do we create an illegal black market by making it illegal?

Luckily more and more people in this country are recognizing common sense--46% in a recent Pew poll supported legalization for this relatively innocuous plant.

Meanwhile, the mayor and police chief should have police officers respect our constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. The current policy is nothing but a jobs program for the police, incarceration, and legal systems and will be looked back on with shame.

Apr. 26 2011 12:33 PM
RBC from FiDi

Here's the question that is never asked:

If these police stops really bring down crime, and nearly everyone is being stopped and frisked in these communities, why do these minority neighborhoods still suffer from high crime rates?? It seems to me that this police tactic isn't working. If you flood these high crime areas with police and use stop-and-frisk on a regular basis, these should be some of the safest areas in the city. But they're not. The NYPD needs a new strategy.

Apr. 26 2011 12:16 PM
Daniel Steinberg from Brooklyn

When authorities enforce laws, you will always going to find some people trying to make it too draconian let it be immigration or drugs.
This is why when they talk about cutting funding for Public Radio, i understand.
Why we have become so delusional. Hispanics and African Americans who have resources doesn't like to live in neighborhoods mentioned in the report.

If you have marijuana hidden in your underpants how can you expect police officers to find it without checking you.

And to all those who never left Manhattan or never experienced delights of living in one of these gang-run neighborhoods, i suggest a program where you work along a Police Petrol Car for entire shift for a day and then come back and criticize them.

Apr. 26 2011 11:36 AM
BJK from Queens

Some variant of this story has been heard here every few months for the last ~ 10 yrs. It seems that there is no longer any memory of what NYC was like 20 yrs ago.
Over 3000 murders per year, crack still raging across all of the neighborhoods cited in this article, the 'quality of life' there deplorable. A 'no-tolerance' to dealing and use was applied by the NYPD. The policy worked: neighborhoods that were formerly 'no-go', where violent crime was the norm, have become liveable, desireable places to live. The murder rate in this city is one of the lowest for any urban area in the nation. To say, over and over, that 'blacks and hispanics' are disproportionally stopped by the NYPD than whites' is meaningless. What is the percentage of violent crime in these neighborhoods, predominantly black and hispanic, vs areas where more whites, asians live? Does it make more sense to deploy police in areas where there is much more crime? What percentage of these 'illegal' stops yield dope? What percentage are people 'with long rap sheets', as was admitted in the report?
The claim that there is 'no relationship' between marijuana use/possession and how 'at risk' a neighborhood is for other crime is ludicrous: it defies common sense. If people carry/use more dope there are buying it from people whose business is selling narcotics. Ms Chang might want to seek out the older people in these neighborhoods and ask them whether they'd prefer 'the good old days' of the early 1990's.

Apr. 26 2011 11:14 AM
mro

Just move to San Francisco, they are much more relaxed about this out there.

Apr. 26 2011 11:08 AM
Steven Walcott from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

I was very surprised at Brian Lehrer's response to my call in to the program. Just because I was arrested for biking on the sidewalk doesn't mean that cops in Brooklyn aren't shaking down weed dealers for money and their iPods.

I lived in Brooklyn for 20 years, I'm a father of two and I ride on the sidewalk partly because the NYPD does not enforce the bike lanes and there are cars in those lanes all the time.

It would be nice to have a local radio show that listens to callers instead of discrediting them. Are we so spineless to even consider the possibility that certain NYPD officers are shaking down weed dealers in the hood?

Apr. 26 2011 10:40 AM
h l from brooklyn

@Gregory, so what should we do? Like Roger points out, this has always been the case, AND we know about the corruption. How do we end it? Are there enough attorneys out there helping these people get out of their situation...maybe even pro bono for the sake of our rights?

Apr. 26 2011 10:32 AM
Gregory Thomson from New York

Declaring MARTIAL LAW would be one other way to reduce crime. We don't do it because we don't agree to have our entire society under lockdown. This stop-frisk-arrest policy is a way of declaring martial law mainly on one portion of the population: Black and Hispanic men. Add to that that whites actually use illegal drugs in higher PER CAPITA numbers than Blacks or Hispanics, and these already illegal and unconstitutional arrests are even more egregious.

Gregory A. Thomson, Esq.

Apr. 26 2011 10:26 AM
roger

Why do people always talk about the NYPD like it is a huge surprise that they are corrupt, that they profile and that they abuse their power? Its a fact that these things happen and that if you are a minority it happens with frequency. There is case after case that demonstrates this and we always act like its news that these things are happening.

Apr. 26 2011 10:22 AM
danb from Bronx

Collars for Dollars is what the cops call this kind of arrest. It would be interesting to see the a correlation in the kind of overtime earned by the officers due to this type of illegal search activity. There should be legal penalties If the police officers are drumming up $Overtime$ by violating citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights. Allowing this kind of thing to go on unpunished is mismanagement of Police resources of the highest order and when a workforce like the Police are mismanaged, then the management has proven themselves unfit to continue and should be replaced. Many of these marijuana crimes are called "Quality of Life " offenses. Don't you think that an overstaffed occupying army of Police stopping citizens without any probable cause to keep themselves enriched in overtime pay is a much more serious "Quality of Life" issue than someone with a joint hidden in their sock?

Apr. 26 2011 10:18 AM
Anonymous

I was arrested on Halloween for criminal possession of marijuana (smoking marijuana in public.) For months leading up to my court date I was under the impression that I'd be facing at least a large fine and possible probation. To my surprise I was notified that my case was dropped a day after the arrest occurred. The scare was enough to learn my lesson, and I think the officer who arrested me was aware of that.

Apr. 26 2011 10:16 AM
h l from brooklyn

Here's an example of the problem (ya gotta watch to the end) NYPD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxjNVSCs_Lg

Apr. 26 2011 10:10 AM
NYorker from Brooklyn

it is unfortunate that you would spend so much of my morning on a story about people doing something illegal and getting arrested for it? How come you did not portray anyone in the story that was arrested for possessing crack? Heroin? PCP? And the reason most of these arrests occur in neighborhoods where there are more cops is because there is more crime in those neighborhoods and more cops are required. When crime drops and less cops are needed in that neighborhood - leading to less arrests - I am sure you will run a story about the evils of rising rents and gentrification.

Apr. 26 2011 09:02 AM
Garry from Manhattan

As a young (I think I still count) African-American man this issue hits close to home for me. I've been illegally searched in public and despite the fact that nothing illegal was found on me, being stripped of your dignity on public display is something you don't easily forgive or forget. The fact that the white friend that I was with was sent on his way while I was subjected to a search was even more vexing.

All that said, I don't feel much sympathy for the young men profiled in this story. They are all fully aware that they did break the law (the legitimacy of that law is another argument altogether, but these are not civil disobedience cases). They may feel slighted by the way they were caught breaking the law but the truth is they do all of us law-abiding young men of color a disservice. It is this fringe group whose images and stories dominate our culture making it harder for those who do follow the straight and narrow, the real majority of young men of color, to live our lives in peace without disturbance from "activist" police officers and other petty tyrants.

Apr. 26 2011 09:01 AM
Gary from Brooklyn

The legislature decriminalized possession of small amounts of Marijuana. Cops are now conducting illegal searches and claiming the drugs they found were in plain view so minority young men are charged with misdemeanors rather than violations. This is crazy. Ray Kelly must be replaced.

Apr. 26 2011 08:56 AM

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