DPA Statement: Drug War Corrupts Police, Ruins Lives, Destroys Trust Between Law Enforcement and Community
October 13, 2011
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 mari¬juana 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.
Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Anthony Papa 646-420-7290