One of the tenants of the American legal system is that everyone is equal before the law. This not only means that rich Minnesotans are treated the same as those in lower-income brackets, but also that no one will be prejudiced because of his or her skin color. While the United States and Minnesota have gone far to protect against racial bias, there are still some traces of it, and a new study indicates that African-Americans in Minnesota are subject to seriously higher rates of arrest for marijuana possession than whites.
It now seems that African-Americans are eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite the fact that marijuana use between the two groups is relatively equal. One of the reasons may be because federal programs use the number of people arrested as a measure of performance when it evaluates local law enforcement grants.
These kinds of programs, it seems, pushes Minnesota police departments to go after and arrest individuals for drug crimes in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Police may believe that these crimes and these areas are much easier to target. What this actually does, however, is makes it much more likely that an African-American will be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, which is fundamentally unfair.
It is unfortunate that police officers, in an effort to get more money, are willing to shed some of America’s fundamental truths about the criminal defense system. If they are going to focus so heavily on fighting marijuana in the state, they should at least be treating everyone equally.
Source: The New York Times, “Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests,” Ian Urbina, June 3, 2013