May 15, 2018
New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill today announced the formation of a 30-day Working Group to review NYPD marijuana enforcement. The working group will be comprised of a diverse cross-section of NYPD executive leadership to review department policies and procedures regarding arrests and summonses for marijuana-related offenses. The working group will also be charged with seeking outside expert opinion from academics, advocacy organizations, prosecution and defense bar, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and other non-profits.
Commissioner O'Neill issued the following statement regarding the working group:
"Since 2014, the NYPD has worked to reduce arrests for marijuana possession in cases where that is the most serious charge a person faces, and instead issue summonses for possession that create no criminal record unless they go unanswered. The overall numbers reflect this new approach. Over the past four years, top charge marijuana arrests citywide are down 32%, while issuance of summonses is up 57%. This comes at a time when overall calls for service from the public about marijuana are up 26%. The NYPD does not target people based on race or other demographics. Among the reasons for enforcement are officer observations, and community complaints received from 911 and 311 calls, and from meetings like tenant associations, community councils, and Build The Block sector meetings with neighborhood police officers.
"But there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist, and balance it in the context of the public safety needs of all communities. The NYPD will review our practices to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust at the root of Neighborhood Policing. The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety. The working group will review possession and public smoking of marijuana to address public concerns in the fairest way possible, while also promoting public safety and quality of life for all New Yorkers.
"I am confident we will achieve this in a manner that best serves our communities, and equip the women and men of the Police Department to do their jobs effectively and safely."