Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson has renewed with the new police chief his effort to de-emphasize arrests for personal use of marijuana.
Richardson tried to establish the policy by ordinance last year, but was defeated on a 6-2 vote after then-Chief Kenton Buckner opposed the ordinance. Though Buckner said enforcement against personal use of marijuana already was a low priority, Richardson presented information that marijuana arrests were rising and disproportionately affecting black men.
Little Rock has a new chief, Keith Humphrey. Richardson has written him and included a copy of the ordinance that failed last year. He wrote:
Please find attached a proposed ordinance I presented last year that would establish the investigation of adult personal use of marijuana as the City’s lowest law enforcement priority. I believe this policy would be a better use of our man/woman power and lessen the need for more police officers. I worked with OmaVi Shukur Esq to develop the conceptual framework for this proposed ordinance based on a similar ordinance in Fayetteville , Ark. that was approved in 2008. Eureka Springs, Ark. also has a similar policy in place.
Our current approach has a disproportionate adverse impact on the City’s black population with respect to housing and education. Marijuana arrests have resulted in the loss of Pell grants for college students. Research has shown that marijuana use is roughly the same between white and black people but enforcement has a disproportionate emphasis on the black population. Your predecessor stated that this was already an operating principle of the LRPD, which made it more difficult to understand his opposition. If it’s not codified, then enforcement of this principle can be very very selective to the point of allowing officers to employ their discretion in a discriminatory manner!
This policy should be addressed at an administrative level like what’s being done by the new police chief in Jacksonville, Ark. and the police chief in Oklahoma City, Ok. In fact, the Mayor of New York City has instructed his police chief to do the same. Our city should not continue to spend resources on arrests based on illegal search and seizures under the false pretense of marijuana odor as the justification for the arrests. I have support letters from Senator Joyce Elliot and certified treatment programs. This policy should be supported and adopted post haste. Please let me know your position on this proposed ordinance within the next week.