Bratton and de Blasio on Brooklyn’s new pot policy

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De Blasio and Bratton. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Police commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday that his office has "had no discussions” with the Brooklyn district attorney about a new policy that would no longer prosecute first-time offenders for small amounts of marijuana.

The proposal was outlined in a confidential memo sent by the Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, to the New York Police Department, according to the New York Times.

The memo says “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed” if a defendant has no prior criminal record and is arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana, and “the police will be directed to destroy the defendant’s fingerprints.”

Asked about the policy at a press conference outside City Hall, Bratton initially said he prefers to keep ongoing policy discussions “confidential.”

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When pressed, he said, “We’ve had no discussions with the district attorney’s office about new initiatives” related to marijuana.

The new policy seems to run counter to the Broken Windows theory, which argues that enforcement of smaller, low-level crimes can often deter larger, more violent crimes from taking place--an idea Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio have repeatedly endorsed.

“Do you view marijuana arrests as a valuable crime-fighting tool?” Bratton was asked today by a Times reporter.

Bratton responded, “The department continues to make marijuana arrests, although we’ve been reducing them in an attempt to use a lot more discretion in what we do. That effort began in the previous administration and is continuing during my administration. On the issue of marijuana, I’m a strong believer that it should not be decriminalized but the reality of our society today, there are different ways of addressing it from a law enforcement perspective, so, we will continue to work with the political leadership, work with various prosecutors offices on how to deal with that issue.”

De Blasio later told reporters in Albany that he hadn't seen the memo, but said he supports decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

"That's a common sense change we have to make," he said. "Certainly our focus has been, Commissioner Bratton's focus has been, going after serious crime, and we've moved away from some of the policies that I think were unfortunately creating a rift between police and community, but also taking a lot of time and energy away from addressing serious crime."

"I need to see the details," he added of Thompson's initiative. "I think the district attorney has some of the same concerns that I have and Commissioner Bratton have about the history here."

Thompson made reducing marijuana arrests a major theme of his campaign last year, and at his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony in February, he said, “we must change the policy regarding those who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.” 

According to the Daily News, there were 12,446 arrests in Brooklyn where the main charge was possession of small amounts of marijuana, a 27 percent decrease compared to the previous year.