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New Yorkers don't know their rights, investigation finds

Posted on May 9th, 2011 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

New York CityAn investigation by WNYC Radio into the New York Police Department's often illegal and racially discriminatory wave of arrests for misdemeanor cannabis possession finds that the police exploit citizens' ignorance of their rights. Out of the more than 50,000 arrests for possession in New York City last year, almost no one challenged the legality of the manner they were searched. And when the cases were thrown out—as many as 10 to 15 times every day in the Bronx alone—it was usually because police accidentally admitted they violated the rights of the person they searched.

Cannabis possession is a crime in New York—as opposed to a violation—only if the drugs are in "public view." However, more than a dozen men in WNYC's report claim their herb was found only when police pulled it out of concealment during a "stop and frisk"—an NYPD action ostensibly aimed at finding illegal firearms. A prosecutor at the Bronx District Attorney's Office says the cases that are thrown out are "because the police paperwork states the marijuana was actually not in public view." But if an officer lies, then it's up to the arrested to know their rights and pursue "a further investigation."

Last year, 1,142 people told the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) they were improperly searched during a stop-and-frisk. The CCRB is an independent agency that oversees police misconduct. The police department disciplined three percent of the officers involved in those 1,142 cases. According to the CCRB, the punishment most of those officers got was "instructions" on how to perform a proper search. The most severe discipline - doled out to eight officers - was docked vacation days.

As for the soaring number of cannabis busts in the Big Apple, police sources told WNYC that "supervisors like to see arrests—it's a sign of productivity." (Village Voice Runnin' Scared blog, April 27)


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