NEW YORK, Jun 4, CMC – New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo Monday said that he plans to ask state legislators to change the law that would significantly decrease the number of people, including Caribbean nationals, who could be arrested for marijuana possession because of police stops.
“This proposal will bring long overdue consistency and fairness to New York State’s penal law and save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution,” Cuomo said in a statement.
He said the proposal would also save law enforcement “countless man-hours wasted” on arrests and prosecutions “for what is clearly only a minor offense”.
In New York, marijuana remains a misdemeanour if it is in public view or is being smoked in public.
Legislators and drug-reform advocates have long argued that the charge is often “unfairly applied” to suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets.
The governor’s announcement comes as Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke plans this week to hold a conference with leading New York legislators on Capitol Hill in examining the negative effects of New York Police Department’s (NYPD) “stop and frisk” policies.
Critics say the policies disproportionately discriminate against Blacks and Hispanics, including Caribbean nationals.
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said she would also meet with members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus in examining the implications of the practices.
“In a briefing on Capitol Hill, we will discuss concerns regarding discriminatory policing practices surrounding stop-and- frisk’s affects on urban communities nationwide,” Clarke, who represents the largely Caribbean 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
She said the groups and legislators will also be joined in the discussions by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Communities United for Police Reform, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Coalition and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“A press conference (on Thursday) will be held to highlight the negative affects ‘stop-and-frisk has had on New York City residents and how it is being used as racial profiling,” Clarke said.
Last month, Grenadian American New York City Councilman, Jumaane Williams, who was wrongfully arrested during the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade last Labour Day, said he saw a “glimmer of hope” on the prospects for true reform of the controversial policies.
Williams’ comments came after a United States federal judge in Brooklyn granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s tactics.
“There is a glimmer of hope that (Police) Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly may finally get serious about true reform to the NYPD’s misuse and overuse of stop, question and frisk,” said Williams, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn.