SFPD Dispute Claim Blacks Are Arrested for Pot Possession More Than Whites

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San Francisco police Wednesday disputed a report issued by the  American Civil Liberties Union earlier this week that said that police in the  city arrested black people for marijuana possession at a much higher rate  than white people.

The ACLU report released Tuesday found that black people in San  Francisco were 4.3 times more likely than white people to be arrested for pot  possession in 2010, the year the civil rights organization looked at  statewide crime and census data.

There were 192 arrests of black people for marijuana offenses  versus 44 for whites that year, according to the ACLU report, among the  highest in California and nearly twice the state average.

The city's Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying  the department "does not racially profile," adding that "no one is arrested  in sufficient numbers for marijuana possession here in San Francisco to  substantiate such a claim."

The department's statement cited arrest numbers for 2011, when  only 11 people were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in San  Francisco. That year was also police Chief Greg Suhr's first as the city's  top cop.

The statement said Suhr Wednesday reviewed all 11 cases and found  that in all of them, the marijuana charges were secondary to other charges  such as outstanding warrants, possession of illegal weapons or being drunk in  public.

Of the arrestees, five were black, five were white and one was  Hispanic, according to police.

"It is evident that the misdemeanor marijuana arrests ... were  made using sound police procedure pertaining to criminal activity and not by  racial profiling," the statement said.

The ACLU report looked at arrest rates county-by-county across all  50 U.S. states and criticized law enforcement for wasting too many resources  on marijuana while failing to diminish its use or availability.

The report said a focus on marijuana, now legal in multiple states  but still illegal under federal law, "has needlessly ensnared hundreds of  thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly  disproportionate impact on African-Americans, and comes at a tremendous human  and financial cost."

The ACLU report recommended law enforcement agencies deprioritize  enforcement of marijuana possession laws and that the drug be legalized  throughout the country.

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