Minneapolis police will no longer conduct sting operations targeting small-scale marijuana sellers since a gaping racial disparity has been uncovered in the practice.
Basically, they realized that everyone being arrested was black—as in, literally, 46 out of the 47 people arrested this year in these stings have been black—and they actually decided to do something about it.
According to the Star Tribune, in a series of announcements Thursday, law enforcement officials made it clear that the targeting of low-level sales will end. To add icing to the cake, the charges against all 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 will be dismissed.
The complete 180 came about after Hennepin County’s chief public defender contacted Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and complained about what appeared to be blatant racial profiling. Frey took it up with Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, ordering that the stings be stopped.
“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.”
The 47 people who were arrested so far in 2018 were approached by undercover officers posing as buyers. They were all charged with felonies. Some were put in diversion programs, according to the news site, while some were convicted. At least one man went to prison. And the amount they were selling can only be described as minuscule at best.
“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.
“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,” Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty said in an interview Thursday.
Nonetheless, Arradondo defended his officers, saying that they were not targeting black people because of their race. According to a police spokesperson, while the undercover stings have been put to an end, the police would still be making arrests for marijuana sales.
That being said, in court documents, Braverman insisted 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.”
“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 pointed out that the only white person who was arrested in the stings was not approached by cops, but had instead initiated contact with the undercover officer to sell some weed.