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Minneapolis Police Abruptly End Marijuana Stings After Racial Disparity Revealed

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis police abruptly ended the practice of targeting small-scale marijuana sellers downtown after revelations that nearly everyone arrested was black, reported StarTribune.

In a series of rushed announcements Thursday, authorities said that police would no longer conduct sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales. Moreover, charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 would be dismissed.

The alternate course occurred after Hennepin County’s chief public defender contacted Mayor Jacob Frey to complain. The defense counsel said it looked like blatant racial profiling. Frey then directed Chief Medaria Arradondo to discontinue the stings.

“I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level,” Frey said in a statement Thursday.

“The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.”

Thursday’s announcement by the chief signals a shift toward a more lenient approach pursued in other major U.S. cities. Drug-related arrests by Minneapolis police have already fallen nearly two thirds from 2007 to 2016, police records show.

But in recent years, Minneapolis police have stepped up their presence on Hennepin Avenue in response to concerns about safety downtown. Using undercover officers posing as buyers, they arrested 47 people for selling marijuana on Hennepin between 5th and 6th streets.

Minneapolis police abruptly

So what happens to the safety concerns of citizens now that the chief has made the shift? There are always residual effects to low level drug dealing that have detrimental consequences in neighborhoods. These include thefts from opportunists, the attraction of unwanted and unsavory characters to the area, and the occasional violent crime. Once police pullback on quality of life issues, you can be sure the mentioned problems will invade.

The Hennepin County Public Defender’s office determined that 46 of those arrested were black. All were charged as felonies. Some were put in diversion programs, some were convicted and at least one man went to prison.

“Almost all of those cases involve a sale of 1-2 grams of marijuana for a total of $10-$20,” assistant county public defender Jess Braverman wrote in a May 31 court document.

Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty said she called Frey last week about the racial disparities, and she said the mayor pledged to have them halted, according to the StarTribune.

“Approaching black men and women who are low income and homeless and then having the county attorney charge them with felony drug sales makes me very angry and disappointed,” Moriarty said in an interview Thursday.

Arradondo announced Thursday in a 12:30 p.m. news conference that he had discontinued stings targeting low-level marijuana sales at the request of Frey.

“While the intention was good, it had an unintended consequence,” he claimed.

He said that during the downtown police effort, officers arrested other people who were in possession of illegal guns and other drugs such as opioids, although that was separate from the marijuana arrests.

Minneapolis Police Abruptly

The chief defended his officers. He said they acted professionally and were not targeting black people because of their race. A police spokesman said that while the undercover stings were being stopped, police would still make arrests for marijuana sales.

At 3 p.m., Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman issued a news release that said he had informed Chief Arradondo that he would not charge any more people arrested in the stings and that he was reviewing the remaining cases.

And apparently after quick consideration, an hour later his office notified Moriarty that all the cases were being dismissed.

“These undercover drug stings by the Minneapolis Police Department occurred without our knowledge,” Freeman said in a statement. “Because they occurred over a period of months and were distributed to about a half-dozen of our attorneys for prosecution, we did not detect any pattern.”

Though his office was alerted about the problem earlier, Freeman said he only learned about the situation Tuesday and “took immediate steps.” He said he told Arradondo he “would not be charging these types of cases” and began an immediate review of the remaining cases brought to his office’s attention.

Besides getting the cases dismissed, Moriarty pressed Freeman’s office to free one person who had been imprisoned, whom she did not identify, and asked the county attorney’s office to join her office in a motion to expunge the arrests from her clients’ records.

Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for Freeman, said the county attorney’s office was focused on dismissing the cases and had not considered the issue of expungement. Since there are likely several factors present for imprisonment, he said the case of the person imprisoned as a result of the sting is being reviewed.

In a court document, Braverman wrote that the arrests “have resulted in felony convictions for numerous black defendants who had been targeted, and all the devastating collateral consequences that go along with such convictions: jail time, prison time, and even deportation proceedings.”

The department’s First Precinct in conjunction with other precincts and the Metro Transit police sent undercover officers to specific trouble spots on Jan. 24, Feb. 13, Feb. 28, March 15, April 11 and May 24. Their efforts culminated in 47 arrests.

“On the dates of the stings, officers are approaching people of color, individuals and groups, and asking to buy drugs,” Braverman wrote. “Officers have directly asked black men to facilitate drug deals with other black men, and have then requested that the facilitator be charged with sale. They are submitting the cases for felony charges.”

Moriarty said that police did not approach the only white person arrested, but had himself approached an undercover officer about selling some marijuana.

In a letter to Arradondo on May 29, Moriarty wrote, “A review of the cases received by our office strongly suggests a trend of racial profiling under the guise of a ‘livability’ detail.”

As a council member, Frey championed an ordinance that brought city penalties for small-scale marijuana possession in line with state law, reducing the crime from a misdemeanor to petty misdemeanor, according to the StarTribune.

Frey said in his statement that while he supports the legalization of marijuana, it “does not negate the need for our officers to make the necessary arrests to get guns off our streets and end the sale of life-threatening narcotic drugs like heroin.”

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LET Staff

The staff of Law Enforcement Today is compiled of career cops. Cumulatively we possess nearly a century of experience in the business of police work. Our backgrounds derive from the East Coast, West Cost, South and Upper Midwest. Moreover, we connect with our readers through social media everyday. As a result, we have our finger on the pulse of American law enforcement.

2 Comments

The controversary is that too many blacks got caught…well, don’t you HAVE to obey the laws untill at some time when they are changed…selling drugs US more relevant to the Black population, they find it quick, easy income…perhaps the ppl doing the complaining should see why they can’t get employment in other ways…as for legalising pot, I don’t see how that will help keep ppl safer…a lot want it legalized for medical use, but then should these who use it be behind the wheel of a car? New strives have been made to yse hemp oil made in such a way like distilled water, the high factor removed, it would then help ppl medically for pain with out the side effects if that high, so it can be used safer…but ppl who WANT that high won’t go away just by making it not an issue, ppl that need that high are not going to strictly stay with pot, the opioid crisis was caused by doctors legally dolling out these opioid laced drugs without telling the patient it was in the drugs, thus addicting a lot of ppl who need pain relief…so legalize it…if they do there must be tools ava.to help police keep this new drunkenstate off the roads, making the result even higher in arrests, you know ppl drive with all kinds if drugs in their systems…so to me the issue is not the pot, it’s the ppl dealing it…bringing us back to mostly blacks deal drugs more that whites, not sure what the ratio would come down to, but seems to me it’s just being made to appear as if our LEO’S are racial profiling when if you check the prison statistics more criminals just happen to be non-white…it’s due to years of racism in the workplace for blacks, their situations come from YEARS ago, not much has changed because it comes down to WHAT OR WHO ppl want to be…I know a lit of lazy white ppl too who try to make a fast buck instead of holding a job… ALL THIS makes our LEO’S appear what they aren’t…and seems like they are just getting their hands tied even further on bringing in CRIMINALS!!! They are sworn to uphold the law, so if they don’t want our cops arresting druggies they should first CHANGE the law, not just free the guilty as if they are within their rights to break the law!!!!
No, it doesn’t need legalized, but till the laws get changed you can’t just say only this is that is now considered a crime…is it any wonder our brave cops are the ones who have to take the heat for everything vilifying them even further…it’s not common sense that person is using saying no more going after the pot pushers, then what? Don’t arrest the next drug they will feel they can push because it is being made racial??? Just seems like a DEMOCRAT DESIGNED ISSUE, and I don’t know what party that person belongs to but it’s more destruction towards our loyal cops, and that plain STINKS!!!

Well put. If there are 50 criminals on the streets and 40 are white and 10 are black, the arrests will show a disparity between the number of whites and blacks arrested. The reverse is also true. People are arrested for their actions, not the color of their skin. It sounds like Minneapolis would be fine with it being against the law for whites to sell marijuana, but OK for everyone else. It does seem as though the Democrats will allow anything to stay in power even if it is ruining communities and the country.

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