Minneapolis, MN – The Minneapolis police chief announced that the department would no longer conduct sting operations to arrest dealers who sell felonious “small amounts” of marijuana, after allegations were raised that officers had unfairly targeted economically disadvantaged black men and women.
Undercover officers arrested over 100 people between January and May as part of a crackdown aimed at shutting down open drug dealing, WCCO reported.
Forty-seven of those arrests were felony marijuana sales.
Hennepin County chief public defender Mary Moriarty noticed that 46 of the 47 individuals charged were black, and quickly complained to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the Star Tribune reported.
The lone white suspect had initiated contact with the officers, trying to sell them drugs.
“If you sell one gram of marijuana, it’s a felony drug sale,” Moriarty told WCCO. “Do they deserve to get felony drug charges simply because they are less fortunate than say kids on college campuses?”
“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,” Moriarty told the Star Tribune.
During a Thursday press conference, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that Frey directed him to put an end to the undercover operations.
“I agree with the mayor’s decision,” Chief Arradondo said. “I never want the MPD to contribute to a sense of hopelessness to our community.”
“The number of particularly African American males who feel at a time that their only choice to survive and provide for themselves by selling drugs is something that deeply concerns me as a chief and as a citizen,” the chief explained.
“The goal here is to keep our city safe, but the goal is we also want to contribute to the hope that so many in our community, and especially our African American males, are not experiencing at this time,” he said.
Frey said that he “strongly” believed that marijuana should be “fully legalized at the state level.”
“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 mayor added.
Chief Arradondo confirmed that the department would immediately “discontinue specific low-level marijuana enforcement,” and the Hennepin County Attorney’s office vowed that the charges against the 47 individuals charged since January would be dismissed.
“The MPD wishes to be a partner with our community stakeholders in these efforts that reduce the number of African American males entering our criminal justice system and seek other potential alternatives ranging from treatment, counseling, and diversion,” Chief Arradondo said.
In addition to the dismissals, Moriarty has demanded that the one individual who was sentenced to prison as a result his felony arrest be released, the Star Tribune reported.
She said she also planned to file a motion to expunge the arrests from her clients’ criminal histories, and urged the county attorney’s office to support her mission.
The police department says that they will continue arrest marijuana dealers, they will just halt the practice proactively conducting drug buys, which is how drug dealers get arrested.
Frey said that while enforcement against marijuana dealers may be taking a back seat, they will continue to make arrests against gun offenders and opiate dealers.