A new study reports that a criminal arrest for drug possession might have just as much to do with one’s race as it does with potential illegal activity. According to a report by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, black and Hispanic citizens are more likely to be pulled over for suspicion of illegal drugs by the New York Police Department than white or Asian citizens. An ongoing federal lawsuit was filed in 2008 by the Center for Constitutional Rights after it analyzed six years of the NYPD’s data and found that almost 150,000 stops were made without reported justification.
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Fagan analyzed the NYPD’s stop and frisk data and found that race is the strongest way of predicting NYPD activity. According to Darius Charney, a staff attorney at CCR, the NYPD’s attorneys are currently motioning for the case to be dismissed. “Plaintiffs are very confident that we will survive this summary judgment motion, after which the case will move towards trial,” he said. David Greenberg, a sociology professor in NYU’s College of Arts and Science, said racial profiling reports may be misleading. “You have to think when they stop someone, they would usually have no way of knowing if that person has marijuana in his or her possession,” he said. “If virtually all of the people who are found with marijuana on them are going to be arrested and charged, there’s probably no room for the race of the individual for it to make a difference.” One Torrance Criminal Attorney reports that many of the defendant’s he sees are minorities, although this evidence is largely anecdotal.
At NYU, the university attempts to keep its drug policy clear. The university’s policy on drugs, according to NYU’s Office of Public Safety, is that in any case of “finding evidence of the unlawful possession, use or distribution of drugs on its premises by any student, the University will take appropriate disciplinary action, including, but not limited to probation, suspension or expulsion.” “Since I’ve been at NYU, I’ve known two people who have been caught with weed by the NYPD, both of whom were arrested,” said one Gallatin freshman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I also know someone who was caught with marijuana in a dorm; they were put on housing probation and had to attend a three-hour marijuana class.” Other students have shared similar experiences with the study.