Memo from Brooklyn DA: Stop Prosecuting Low-Level Pot Arrests

By Paul Gaita 04/28/14

Kenneth P. Thompson has made proposals designed to cut down man hours while also trying to close the disparity between blacks and whites being arrested for possession.

brooklyn da.jpg
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads
activists in supporting Thompson's stance on pot

According to a confidential policy proposal, Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth P. Thompson states that his office will no longer prosecute individuals arrested on charges of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The policy, though still in draft form, outlined Thompson’s broader “smart-on-crime” initiative for not only reducing the vast amount of man hours and personnel required to process these cases, which have been the top arraignment charges in New York for several years, but also to help close a vast disparity in the number of arrests for marijuana possession between blacks and whites.

A 2013 report from the New York Civil Liberties Union showed that black individuals in New York counties are up to nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, which is defined as possessing marijuana in public view.

Thompson’s proposal suggested that in these cases, if the individual has either no criminal record or a minor list of previous offenses, “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed” and police “will be directed to destroy the defendant’s fingerprints.” The proposed directive has won the support of Brooklyn borough president Eric L. Adams, but it has created fault lines with the Police Department and Commissioner William J. Bratton.

When asked about the proposal, Bratton, who is opposed to decriminalizing marijuana, stated, that he would not “respond to something that I have not basically reviewed in great depth or had discussions with the district attorney about.” Bratton added that the NYPD would continue to make marijuana arrests, albeit with a “lot more discretion.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.