Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Cuomo calls for halt to city's pot scam

There is movement, at long last, against the outrageous NYPD practice of stopping young black and Hispanic kids and busting them for pot through subterfuge and lies. Governor Cuomo set a fire under the city burgers’ comfy behinds by calling on the state to make pot arrests equivalent to a traffic fine rather than a criminal misdemeanor.

This decade-long and blatantly racist pot campaign is an excellent illustration of how neo-liberal management techniques dovetail neatly with more sinister social engineering. One need not be a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist to perceive the nefarious outcomes, which are the same whether or not a giant Evil Brain is behind the whole scheme.

New York’s crime statistics are a highly contested matter, the maker and breaker of political careers, most notoriously that of Rudy Giuliani whose triumph over Broken Windows is now the stuff of legend. Cop bosses and mayors just love to get their major crime stats down, and one ongoing scandal here is how they manipulate victims of serious offenses to get the incidents downgraded and make the top guys look good. At the same time, the management geniuses want to show ‘productivity’, which entails exactly the opposite—lots of arrests.

What’s the solution? Well, New York led the way back in 1977 in the trend to decriminalize marijuana as society came to realize that pot is a relatively benign substance and quite a nice one, too. But after several years in which the city ignored reefer, Bloomberg became mayor and promptly decided that he could extend the Broken Windows concept and at the same time criminalize virtually any minority male in town. The tool was a massive rediscovery of Reefer Madness.

While small amounts for personal consumption were not grounds for arrest under the 1980s reform, you couldn’t go around smoking weed in public. So cops suddenly began using their stop and frisk powers (800,000 stops expected this year alone) to cajole hundreds of thousands of black and brown kids into showing any Mary Jane they had on them with false promises that they’d then be let go. Once the kid brought out the stash, he was popped for having it in ‘public view’. After averaging no more than a thousand pot arrests a year in the 1980s, the city now busts 40,000 to 50,000 people annually. Last year saw an all-time high of 55,000. All these kids immediately get saddled with a record and are thus crippled in the increasingly rigged race for employment and survival. Gazillionaire Bloomberg’s term in office has meant criminal records for pot possession for 400,000 mostly young people, only 15% of whom are white.

Commissioner Ray Kelly supposedly told the NYPD officers to stop doing harassment pot busts last fall, but so far they’ve either ignored him or understood that he didn’t mean it. So enter Cuomo who has a good nose for popular issues that are ripe for harvest.

Bloomberg and even Kelly are supporting the change, which must mean that the old scam has outlived its usefulness. They are probably giving ground on pot so that they can split it off from the stop-and-frisk policy itself, which they eagerly want to preserve. New York magazine points out this week in its Approval Matrix that cops stopped and patted down 120,000 Latino and black adolescents last year—out of a total of only 170,000 in that age group citywide. A majority of the white minority in liberal old New York consistently tells pollsters that they think that policy is just fine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly put, as always. I am furiously sharing your words of wisdom, as is my wont. Wiffs