Lanier Disputes ACLU Report On D.C. Police Arrests of Blacks for Pot


Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier disputes the American Civil Liberties Union’s report contending that her officers make too many arrerts for marijuana possession and arrest blacks disproportionately, Writing in the Washington Post, Lanier notes the ACLU’s claims that in 2010 “nearly all of the individuals arrested for possession of marijuana — 87 percent — were not charged with any other crime, which indicates that the stops that led to these marijuana arrests were not related to other illegal behavior, such as a property crime or an assault.” The correct figure is 54 percent, and the percentage has fallen in subsequent years to 50 percent in 2012 and 47 percent so far for 2013, Lanier says.

Marijuana users are simply not being targeted in the manner suggested by the report, Lanier says. She says that the ACLU focused on arrests in two relatively small “police service areas.” In one of them, there were 518 calls for service in 2010 for drug complaints; in the other, only 12. “Although the data do not include the specific drug mentioned in the call, this is a pretty fair illustration that the difference in marijuana arrest rates in these two PSAs has nothing to do with police targeting blacks for marijuana possession, but rather police being responsive to reports generated in the community itself, Lanier says, pointing out that 59 percent of the capital’s officers are black, a higher proportion than the city as a whole.

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