FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aliya Khan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 812-230-4241 (cell)
St. Paul, Minn –Today, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department announced plans to halt stings targeting low-level marijuana sales. A report released by the Hennepin Public Defender’s office revealed gross racial disparities in arrests, with black individuals accounting for 46 of the 47 arrests for the sale of small amounts of marijuana between Jan. 24 and May 24. Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, issued the following statement:
We are hopeful that this is one of many steps that Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo undertake to reduce issues of over-policing and the criminalization of communities of color by the Minneapolis Police Department.
The data released by the Hennepin Public Defender’s office is, unfortunately, unsurprising. The ACLU of Minnesota released a report on policing in Minneapolis in 2015 that exposed racial disparities in low-level offenses. Black and Native people in Minneapolis are more than eight times more likely than white people to be arrested for low-level offenses. This problem is not new, but we are pleased that the Minneapolis Police Department is paying attention.
This is an example of how communities, when empowered with information and support from allies, can push public officials to make systemic change. We applaud the Hennepin County Public Defender’s office for using the information gathered to leverage changes in policing. Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty has also called on the Hennepin County Attorney to join in a motion to expunge the records of those arrested. We join her in urging the Hennepin County Attorney’s office to demonstrate its commitment to criminal justice reform and racial justice.
While we applaud these changes, there are many other low-level arrests that contribute to disparities in our criminal justice system. We will continue to examine disparities in policing and work with all levels of government to address racial bias.