After Finding 97 Percent Of People Caught In Its Marijuana Stings Were Black, Minneapolis Ends Sting Program
A chief public defender called out the disparity to the city's mayor, revealing that 46 out of the 47 arrested in the first five months of 2018 were black.
The Minneapolis Police Department has abruptly discontinued its practice of undercover drug operations targeting low-level marijuana sales in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Data from the arrests following the stings have revealed a significant racial disparity.
According to The StarTribune, 46 out of 47 people arrested in the program in the first five months of 2018 were black.
Police officers operated the stings in the downtown section of the city on Hennepin Avenue. Chief Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty called attention to the alarming racial disparity and the racial profiling it suggested in a meeting with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. The mayor then contacted Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to put an end to the undercover operation.
"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. "The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization."
The Hennepin County Public Defender's office revealed that all of the arrested were charged with felonies. Some were put in diversion programs, some were convicted and one person even went to prison.
"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.
Jess Braverman, an assistant county public defender, reported in a May court document that almost all of the cases involved sales of no more than two grams of marijuana, each purchase totaling $10 to $20.
In addition to the announcement that the police department will end the undercover operations, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the remaining cases would be dismissed.
It isn't clear if the person who is serving time due to the stings will be freed as their case remains under review.
Arradondo defended his officers, arguing they were not targeting black people, but in a written court document, Braverman described a different perspective:
"On the dates of the stings, officers are approaching people of color, individuals and groups, and asking to buy drugs," Braverman wrote according to The StarTribune. "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."