Elected officials and advocates gathered in Manhattan on Tuesday to applaud the New York City Police Department's move to stop arresting people for possession of small amount of marijuana, but many still said the NYPD needs to address its "stop and frisk" policies. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Last year, 27-year old Alfredo Carrasquillo was walking on the street near his apartment in Harlem when he ran into two police officers.
"A police officer runs up on me and asks where I am going, what I am doing. And before I could respond, he throws me up against the wall and frisks me, without any kind of reason or explanation," said Carrasquillo.
The officer said police had been searching for a robbery suspect, but he then found a $5 bag of marijuana in Carrasquillo's pockets.
"When he realized I wasn't that person, he said, 'I'm sorry, but we are still going to have to arrest you for the bag of marijuana we found on you,'" said Carrasquillo.
After getting arrested, Carrasquillo spent 28 hours in central booking and was issued a summons for the offense.
It is a scenario that has been repeated many times. In 2010, over 50,000 people, mostly blacks and Latinos, were arrested for marijuana possession. Advocates who would like to see this changed say it was the most frequent kind of arrest citywide.
"Over the last several years the explosion of marijuana arrests in New York City has been unjust, unfair and unconscionable," said Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.
Last week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order changing the policy. Now officers will no longer arrest people for marijuana that is discovered during a "stop and frisk" operation.
Marijuana possession has been decriminalized since 1977, punishable by only a fine.
"The intent of the law is that if you have small quantities of marijuana, it is to be treated as a violation. You get a fine and you walk away," said Manhattan-Bronx Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.
"It is very good that they are making sure people do not get arrested for marijuana, and that's definitely a step in the right direction. But we also need to address the cause of why people were getting arrested for marijuana in the first place, which is stop and frisk," said Carrasquillo.
Advocates said before the change, marijuana arrests were costing the city $75 million per year in overtime and processing costs.