A study by civil rights lawyers says black people in Washington, D.C., are disproportionately arrested for minor drug offenses and other petty crimes, which the group's director says has “criminalized a large portion of the African American community.” The Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs says arrest statistics from 2009 through 2011 should be a “wake-up call” and feature prominently in the debate over decriminalizing drugs, forming strategies for reducing crime and devising arrest policies.
The report found that eight of 10 adults arrested in Washington are black; the racial breakdown of residents is 47 percent black and 43 percent white. Nine of 10 people arrested on the charge of simple drug possession are black. Eight of 10 charged with disorderly conduct are black. Said the committee’s Roderic Boggs: “Police are spending an enormous amount of time resolving behavior that is not life-threatening.” In 2010, the equivalent of 30 percent of the adult male population was arrested, compared with 2 percent of the white residents. Police Chief Cathy Lanier warned that the drug issue needs to include a discussion of the risk to children, the health impact of “increasingly potent plants” and conflict with federal laws.