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Surest Way to Face Marijuana Charges in New York: Be Black or Hispanic

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They sit in courtroom pews, almost all of them young black men, waiting their turn before a New York City judge to face a charge that no longer exists in some states: possessing marijuana. They tell of smoking in a housing project hallway, or of being in a car with a friend who was smoking, or of lighting up a Black & Mild cigar the police mistake for a blunt.

There are many ways to be arrested on marijuana charges, but one pattern has remained true through years of piecemeal policy changes in New York: The primary targets are black and Hispanic people.

Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years, The New York Times found. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.

With crime dropping and the Police Department under pressure to justify the number of low-level arrests it makes, a senior police official recently testified to lawmakers that there was a simple reason for the racial imbalance: More residents in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods were calling to complain about marijuana.
An analysis by The Times found that fact did not fully explain the racial disparity. Instead, among neighborhoods where people called about marijuana at the same rate, the police almost always made arrests at a higher rate in the area with more black residents, The Times found.

In Brooklyn, officers in the precinct covering Canarsie arrested people on marijuana possession charges at a rate more than four times as high as in the precinct that includes Greenpoint, despite residents calling 311, the city’s help line, and 911 to complain about marijuana at the same rate, police data show. The Canarsie precinct is 85 percent black. The Greenpoint precinct is 4 percent black.

In Queens, the marijuana arrest rate is more than 10 times as high in the precinct covering Queens Village as it is in precinct that serves Forest Hills. Both got marijuana complaints at the same rate, but the Queens Village precinct is just over half black, while the one covering Forest Hills has a tiny portion of black residents.

And in Manhattan, officers in a precinct covering a stretch of western Harlem make marijuana arrests at double the rate of their counterparts in a precinct covering the northern part of the Upper West Side. Both received complaints at the same rate, but the precinct covering western Harlem has double the percentage of black residents as the one that serves the Upper West Side.

The Times’s analysis, combined with interviews with defendants facing marijuana charges, lawyers and police officers, paints a picture of uneven enforcement. In some neighborhoods, officers expected by their commanders to be assertive on the streets seize on the smell of marijuana and stop people who are smoking. In others, people smoke in public without fear of an officer passing by or stopping them.

 

Black neighborhoods often contend with more violent crime, and the police often deploy extra officers there, which can lead to residents being exposed more to the police.

“More cops in neighborhoods means they’re more likely to encounter somebody smoking,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia Law School professor who also advised The Times on its marijuana-arrest analysis.

But more officers are historically assigned to black neighborhoods than would be expected based on crime rates, according to a study by Professor Fagan. And research has found “there is no good evidence” that marijuana arrests in New York City are associated with reductions in serious crime.

Officers who catch someone smoking marijuana are legally able to stop and search that person and check for open warrants. Some defense lawyers and criminologists say those searches and warrant checks are the real impetus for enforcing marijuana laws more heavily in some neighborhoods.

The analysis by The Times shows that at least some quality-of-life arrests have more to do with the Police Department’s strategies than with residents who call for help, undermining one of the arguments the police have used to defend mass enforcement of minor offenses in an era of declining serious crime.

The analysis examined how marijuana arrests were related to the marijuana-complaint rate, race, violent-crime levels, the poverty rate and homeownership data in each precinct. It also considered the borough where an arrest took place to account for different policing practices across the city. The arrests represent cases in which the most serious charge against someone was low-level marijuana possession.

Government surveys have shown that black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate. Marijuana smoke wafts down streets all over the city, from the brownstones in upper-middle-class areas of Manhattan to apartment buildings in working-class neighborhoods in other boroughs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in late 2014 that the police would largely give summonses instead of making arrests for carrying personal marijuana, and reserve arrests mainly for smoking in public. Since then, the police have arrested 17,500 people for marijuana possession on average a year, down from about 26,000 people in 2014, and issued thousands of additional summonses. Overall, arrests have dropped sharply from their recent peak of more than 50,000 during some years under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

About 87 percent of those arrested in recent years have been black or Hispanic, a proportion that has remained roughly the same for decades, according to research led by Harry G. Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College.

“What you have is people smoking weed in the same places in any neighborhood in the city,” said Scott Levy, a special counsel to the criminal defense practice at the Bronx Defenders, who has studied marijuana arrests. “It’s just those neighborhoods are patrolled very, very differently. And the people in those neighborhoods are seen very differently by the police.”

Responding to The Times’s analysis, the Police Department said pockets of violent crime — and the heavier deployments that result — push up marijuana arrests in some neighborhoods. J. Peter Donald, an assistant commissioner in the department’s public information office, also said more people smoke in public in some neighborhoods than others, driving up arrests. He said 911 and 311 complaints about marijuana had increased in recent years.

 

Appearing before the City Council in February, Chief Dermot F. Shea said, “The remaining arrests that we make now are overlaid exactly in the parts of the city where we are receiving complaints from the public.” He asked, “What would you have the police do when people are calling?”

Police data do show that neighborhoods with many black and Hispanic residents tend to generate more 311 and 911 complaints about marijuana. Criminal justice reform advocates said that is not because more people are smoking marijuana in those areas. Rather, people in poor neighborhoods call the police because they are less likely to have a responsive landlord, building superintendent or co-op board member who can field their complaints.

Rory Lancman, a councilman from Queens who pressed police officials for the marijuana data at the February hearing, said with the police still arresting thousands of people for smoking amid a widespread push for reform, the police “blame it on the communities themselves because they’re the ones calling on us.”

The city’s 77 precincts, led by commanders with their own enforcement priorities, show erratic arrest patterns. In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for example, the police made more than twice as many marijuana arrests last year as in 2016, despite receiving roughly the same number of annual complaints. And in a precinct covering a section of northwestern Harlem, arrests dropped to 90 last year from almost 700 a year earlier, even though complaints fell only slightly from one year to the next.

Criticism of marijuana arrests provided fuel for Mr. de Blasio’s campaign for mayor in 2013, when he won promising to “reverse the racial impact of low-level marijuana arrests.” The next year the new Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, defied the Police Department and said his office would stop prosecuting many low-level marijuana arrests.

Yet the disparities remain. Black and Hispanic people are the main targets of arrests even in mostly white neighborhoods. In the precinct covering the southern part of the Upper West Side, for example, white residents outnumber their black and Hispanic neighbors by six to one, yet seven out of every 10 people charged with marijuana possession in the last three years are black or Hispanic, state data show. In the precinct covering Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a fifth of the residents are black or Hispanic, three-quarters of those arrested on marijuana charges are black or Hispanic.

The question of how to address those disparities has divided Democratic politicians in New York. Cynthia Nixon, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for governor against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has vowed to legalize marijuana and clear people’s arrest records. Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo have been reluctant to support the same measures.

In Criminal Court in Brooklyn on a recent Monday, the people waiting in the crowded pews to be arraigned on marijuana charges were almost all black men. In interviews, some declined to give their full names for fear of compounding the consequences of their arrests.

They had missed work or school, sometimes losing hundreds of dollars in wages, to show up in court — often twice, because paperwork was not ready the first time. Their cases were all dismissed so long as they stayed out of trouble for a stretch, an indication of what Scott Hechinger, a senior staff lawyer and director of policy at Brooklyn Defender Services, said was the low value the court system places on such cases.

Eli, 18, said he had been smoking in a housing project hallway because his parents preferred him to keep it out of the apartment. Greg, 39, said he had not even been smoking himself, but was sitting in his car next to his wife, who he said smokes marijuana to relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

“They do it because that’s the easiest way to arrest you,” Greg said.

Rashawn Nicol, 27, said officers found his female friend holding a lit blunt on a third-floor stairwell landing in a Brooklyn housing project. They backed off arresting her once she started crying, he said, but said they needed to bring their supervisor an arrest because he had radioed over a noise complaint. “Somebody’s got to go down for this,” Mr. Nicol said an officer told him. So they let her go, but arrested him.

Several people asked why the police hound residents for small-time infractions like marijuana in more violent neighborhoods, but are slow to follow up about serious crimes. “The resources they waste for this are ridiculous,” Mr. Nicol said.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/nyregion/marijuana-arrests-nyc-race.html action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: the movie’s 2 post-credits scenes, explained

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This post contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Do not read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony’s animated Spider-Man feature film, has two post-credits scenes. The first is a tribute to Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man who died in November, and a thank-you to Lee’s Spider-Man co-creator, Steve Ditko. The second is a jokey callback to the dimension-jumping aspect of the movie.

Over the past several years, mid- and post-credits scenes have become a superhero movie tradition. Though Marvel is most famous for them, they’re something that fans look forward to every time a major movie studio — Marvel, Fox, Sony, Warner Bros. — puts out a superhero-centric release. Sometimes, they contain huge reveals that hint at future films (see: Thanos intercepting Thor’s Asgardian spaceship at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, which nodded toward Avengers: Infinity War).

But with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, things are a little different. The movie isn’t currently connected to Sony’s Spider-Man and Venom superhero properties or cinematic universe (though Sony could certainly change this in the future). So its two post-credits scenes are a bit more specific to the movie and to the history of Spider-Man than usual.

1) The first scene is a tribute to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
The first Into the Spider-Verse credits scene is actually more of a title card. It contains a quote from Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man who died on November 12 after a long and legendary career in the comics industry.

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed, without a doubt, a real superhero,” the quote reads.

The meaning of the quote — which comes from an interview Lee once gave about heroism — is self-explanatory. But in light of his death, it’s a touching reminder of how this man who was responsible for changing so many people’s lives saw goodness in the world. The scene ends with a thank-you addressed to both Lee and his Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.

2) The second scene introduces us to Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099
The main plot of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is about the existence of multiple universes that are parallel to the one the movie is primarily set in, but which all differ from one another to varying degrees.

For example, in Miles Morales’s universe, Morales gets bitten by a special spider that somehow gives him powers, and then watches Peter Parker, a.k.a., Spider-Man die — a shift from what happens in Spider-Gwen’s universe, where she gets bitten by a distinctly radioactive spider, ends up with powers, and then watches Peter Parker die. The differences are primarily in who gets to be a Spider-Person and how their powers came to be.

But one thing remains constant throughout every universe the film reveals: There are heroic spider-people in each one, hence the title of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And in the second credits scene, we are introduced to another version of Spider-Man who didn’t appear in the movie.

After an introductory caption that reads, “Meanwhile, in Nueva York…” we see a woman explaining the dimension-jumping events of the movie we just watched to a mysterious figure. The figure is ultimately revealed to be a character from the Spider-Man comic books known as Miguel O’Hara, a.k.a. Spider-Man 2099. Voiced here by Oscar Isaac (Star Wars), Miguel is an established spider-person who has had adventures in the 2D world of comic books, but not in any of Spider-Man’s cinematic, live-action adaptations.

Miguel reveals that he’s going on his own dimension-jumping adventure to “the beginning”; it’s then we learn that Miguel means the 1967 Spider-Man animated TV series, specifically an episode called “Double Identity,” the origin of the “Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man” meme:
We see Miguel insert himself into the scene, and hijinks ensue. It’s a playful nod to Spider-Man’s pop culture dominance and a clever, self-aware joke that pays off for an audience that is familiar with the history of Spider-Man and Miguel, while also appealing to anyone who’s seen the meme or who might laugh at two Spider-Men fighting over which of them is the real Spider-Man.

Isaac is a well-known actor, and while his presence as the voice of Miguel could indicate that Sony has bigger plans for the character, nothing has been announced yet. With that said, perhaps Miguel will join the rest of the Spider-Gang for the Into the Spider-Verse sequel that’s already in development.

Source: https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/12/13/18138006/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-end-credits-scenes-explained

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Nancy Wilson, Grammy-winning jazz singer, dies at 81

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Nancy Wilson, the Grammy-winning “song stylist” and torch singer whose polished pop-jazz vocals made her a platinum artist and top concert performer, has died.

Wilson, who retired from touring in 2011, died after a long illness at her home in Pioneertown, a California desert community near Joshua Tree National Park, her manager and publicist Devra Hall Levy told The Associated Press late Thursday night. She was 81.

Influenced by Dinah Washington, Nat “King” Cole and other stars, Wilson covered everything from jazz standards to “Little Green Apples” and in the 1960s alone released eight albums that reached the top 20 on Billboard’s pop charts. Sometimes elegant and understated, or quick and conversational and a little naughty, she was best known for such songs as her breakthrough “Guess Who I Saw Today” and the 1964 hit ”(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” which drew upon Broadway, pop and jazz.

She resisted being identified with a single category, especially jazz, and referred to herself as a “song stylist.”

“The music that I sing today was the pop music of the 1960s,” she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2010. “I just never considered myself a jazz singer. I do not do runs and — you know. I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric.”

Wilson’s dozens of albums included a celebrated collaboration with Cannonball Adderley, “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley,” a small group setting which understandably could be called jazz; “Broadway — My Way”; “Lush Life”; and “The Nancy Wilson Show!” a best-selling concert recording. “How Glad I Am” brought her a Grammy in 1965 for best R&B performance, and she later won Grammys for best jazz vocal album in 2005 for the intimate “R.S.V.P (Rare Songs, Very Personal)” and in 2007 for “Turned to Blue,” a showcase for the relaxed, confident swing she mastered later in life. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a “Jazz Masters Fellowship” in 2004 for lifetime achievement.

Wilson also had a busy career on television, film and radio, her credits including “Hawaii Five-O,” ″Police Story,” the Robert Townshend spoof “Meteor Man” and years hosting NPR’s “Jazz Profiles” series. Active in the civil rights movement, including the Selma march of 1965, she received an NAACP Image Award in 1998.

Wilson was married twice — to drummer Kenny Dennis, whom she divorced in 1970; and to Wiley Burton, who died in 2008. She had three children.

Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the eldest of six children of an iron foundry worker and a maid, Wilson sang in church as a girl and by age 4 had decided on her profession. She was in high school when she won a talent contest sponsored by a local TV station and was given her own program. After briefly attending Central State College, she toured Ohio with the Rusty Bryant’s Carolyn Club Big Band and met such jazz artists as Adderley, who encouraged her to move to New York.

She soon had a regular gig at The Blue Morocco, and got in touch with Adderley’s manager, John Levy.
“He set up a session to record a demo,” Wilson later observed during an interview for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. “Ray Bryant and I went in and recorded ‘Guess Who I Saw Today,’ ‘Sometimes I’m Happy,’ and two other songs. We sent them to Capitol and within five days the phone rang. Within six weeks I had all the things I wanted.”

Her first album, “Like in Love!”, came out in 1959, and she had her greatest commercial success over the following decade despite contending at times with the latest sounds. Gamely, she covered Beatles songs (“And I Love Her” became “And I Love Him”), Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “Son of a Preacher Man,” on which she strained to mimic Aretha Franklin’s fiery gospel style. She was so outside the contemporary music scene an interviewer once stumped her by asking about Cream, the million-selling rock trio featuring Eric Clapton.

“It took me years to know what that question was about. Remember, I was constantly working or I was traveling to perform. The ’60s for me were about work,” she told JazzWax in 2010.

In the 1970s and after, she continued to record regularly and perform worldwide, at home in nightclubs, concert halls and open-air settings, singing at jazz festivals from Newport to Tokyo. She officially stopped touring with a show at Ohio University in September 2011, but had been thinking of stepping back for years. When she turned 70, in 2007, she was guest of honor at a Carnegie Hall gala. The show ended with Wilson performing such favorites as “Never, Never Will I Marry,” ″I Can’t Make You Love Me” and the Gershwin classic “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

“After 55 years of doing what I do professionally, I have a right to ask how long? I’m trying to retire, people,” she said with a laugh before leaving the stage to a standing ovation.

In accordance with Wilson’s wishes, there will be no funeral service, a family statement said. A celebration of her life will be held most likely in February, the month of her birth.

She is survived by her son, Kacy Dennis; daughters Samantha Burton and Sheryl Burton; sisters Karen Davis and Brenda Vann and five grandchildren.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2018/12/13/nancy-wilson-grammy-winning-jazz-singer-dies-81/2308468002/

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Miss USA Under Fire for Mocking Miss Cambodia and Miss Vietnam During Miss Universe Competition

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Sarah Rose Summers, Miss USA 2018, apologized via her Instagram account on Thursday after a video went viral of her making controversial comments about Nat Rern, Miss Cambodia and H’Hen Nie, Miss Vietnam for not speaking English during the Miss Universe competition.

Summers was called out online for mocking the two other contestants on Instagram Live; of Miss Vietnam, she commented: “She’s so cute and she pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes…” before going on to mime nodding and smiling. Of Rern, she said, “Poor Cambodia” while talking about her not speaking English.

The backlash was swift, and included the popular Instagram account Diet Prada.
In her caption, Summers said that she had spoken about the issue with both Rern and Nie and apologized for her comments.

“@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another,” Summers wrote. “In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize. My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.”

The Miss Universe pageant airs on Dec. 16 from Thailand.

Source: http://time.com/5479470/miss-usa-backlash/

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