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Koch

Koch

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Published by madelineryan

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Published by: madelineryan on Jun 28, 2012
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06/28/2012

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Ed Koch CommentaryJune 25, 2012Stop-And-Frisk and The Marijuana Misdemeanor ArrestsOutrage. Good Luck to the Legal Aid Society Lawsuit.A great injustice is being perpetrated by members of theNew York City Police Department on the people of this city. Theinjustice is not the program known as stop-and-frisk, which isemployed by the NYPD primarily to arrest those carrying illegalweapons and to deter by having the program even largernumbers of predators from carrying such weapons. Lawenforcement authorities believe the program of deterrence andarrests is in large part responsible for the continued drop incrime, particularly murders, over the last near 12 years.The stop-and-frisk program has been denounced by itsopponents as racial profiling and unfair to minorities, and someof the opponents have demanded that the program beabolished. Others demand there be changes. In a recent rallyagainst the program, all of the announced New York Citymayoral candidates planning to run in 2013 were present andvoiced their criticisms.I support stop-and-frisk, believing it to be helpful inmaking neighborhoods safer, but have also protested an aspectof the program that came to light as the result of a New YorkTimes investigation, followed by an editorial and news articles.An editorial of April 2nd pointed out that there have been alarge number of misdemeanor arrests for marijuana possessionduring stop and frisk operations.In 1977, the state of New York decriminalized the personalpossession and use of marijuana. The Times of June 23rdpointed out, “Under state law, possession of marijuana is a
 
misdemeanor offense when the drug is being smoked or "opento public view. Possession of less than 25 grams of marijuanaout of public view - for example, inside an individual's pocket orbackpack - is a violation, warranting only a ticket.” As a result of earlier complaints to Police CommissionerRay Kelly that cops were turning violations into misdemeanors,the Commissioner issued an order, according to The Times of June 23rd, “Nine months ago, Police Commissioner Raymond W.Kelly issued a memorandum directing police officers not tomake misdemeanor arrests for possession of small quantities of marijuana discovered when suspects are ordered to empty theirpockets in stop, question and frisk encounters. But policeofficers have continued to charge New Yorkers withmisdemeanor crimes - rather than issuing them tickets forviolations - for possession of small amounts of marijuanadespite Mr. Kelly's directive, according to a lawsuit filed onFriday by the Legal Aid Society.” As a result of the earlier Times article reporting thesearrests, as well as a Times editorial and the protests of citizens,an effort was made by the governor of the state of New York,Andrew Cuomo, to reach an agreement which had the supportof the five district attorneys of New York City to get the stateAssembly and Senate to change the law to allow the publiccarrying of small amounts of marijuana for personal use subjectto a violation and a fine of $100.The response of the Assembly led by Speaker SheldonSilver was to pass the legislation. The response of the MajorityLeader of the Senate, Dean Skelos, Republican, was to first say,as reported in The Times of June 6th, “I think we can work onthat…That is wrong. It should be a violation. You’re followingthe policeman’s order.” But then he refused to support theGovernor’s bill passed by the Assembly.
 
In stating “you’re following the policeman’s order,” Ibelieve the Majority Leader was conveying his assent toaddressing the demand of the cop to “empty your pockets” andthe Governor’s proposal to allow the marijuana to be displayedpublicly upon such a demand. If I am correct, the MajorityLeader would agree, if asked by the Governor, to support lessfar-reaching language that would keep the offense a violation,even when the marijuana was publicly displayed as a result of following the police officer’s order.I urge the Governor to immediately ask the MajorityLeader if he would agree to new language and if he would, toimmediately bring the legislature back from its recess to passthe legislation. In addition, I urge all five district attorneys topublicly state that they will not prosecute anyone charged withmarijuana possession for personal use – other than for aviolation. The hideous part of all of this is that studies show thatwhites are the greater users of marijuana, not blacks orHispanics. It is black and Hispanic youths who are beingarrested and end up with criminal records, destroying many of their already limited opportunities for getting jobs and achievinga better life. This is unacceptable in a society that believes it isdevoted to justice and fairness.I want to congratulate the Legal Aid Society’s efforts ledby Stephen Banks for bringing a lawsuit to end the arrests andpunish the individual cops who have failed and are failing tocarry out the order of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Thoseyoung men and women who have received misdemeanorsentences unfairly when violations would have been appropriateshould be given the opportunity to have their records cleared of the erroneous charge.

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