Some In Justice System Question New NYC Pot-Arrest Policy


Explaining the policy change that people found with small amounts of marijuana in New York City typically will be given a ticket and cited for a violation instead of being charged with a crime, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was not advocating the decriminalization of marijuana but was concerned about the impact of low-level marijuana arrests, the New York Times reports. “When an individual is arrested,” he said, “even for the smallest possession of marijuana, it hurts their chances to get a good job; it hurts their chances to get housing; it hurts their chances to qualify for a student loan. It can literally follow them for the rest of their lives and saddle young people with challenges that, for many, are very difficult to overcome.”

For a police department that has devoted enormous resources to tens of thousands of marijuana arrests a year, the shift in strategy should allow officers to focus on more serious types of crime by freeing up people who would otherwise be occupied by the administrative tasks lashed to minor marijuana arrests, de Blasio said. The change raised questions and concerns in many corners of the criminal justice system. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said that by routinely issuing summonses, the police would be undercutting the role of prosecutors in assessing arrests and charges. That, Thompson said, left him “concerned about the due process rights of those who are given marijuana summonses.” Some police union leaders said the changes seemed to run counter to the “broken windows” strategy of policing, long championed by Police Commissioner William Bratton as a way to prevent serious crime by cracking down on low-level offenses. “I just see it as another step in giving the streets back to the criminals,” said Michael Palladino, head of the city's Detectives' Endowment Association, the union representing police detectives. “And we keep inching closer and closer to

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