The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Cops, courts and fires

June 20, 2013

Report shows racial disparities in marijuana arrests

(Continued)

While it found that the racial disparity in pot arrests in Indiana statewide is less than the national average, it also found that in about 30 counties in Indiana — including urban, suburban and rural counties — the racial disparity was higher than the national average.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, who is black, questioned the validity of the report, which found that Elkhart County had the highest racial disparity in marijuana arrests in the state.

“You can’t look at raw numbers and decide we’re targeting certain groups for arrests,” said Hill.

“We treat people the same here,” Hill added. “There’s plenty of crime out there. I don’t have to go out looking for it in a particular segment of the population. I’m going after criminals, not criminals of a certain race.”

Yet Hill also conceded there are factors at play that may contribute to the racial differences in arrest rates between blacks and whites on marijuana possession.

Police that concentrate their efforts in poorer neighborhoods with high minority populations and high crime rates are likely to have arrests that are both racially and economically skewed, he said.

“Sometimes they’re just slicker,” said Hill of white marijuana users in more affluent communities. “They’re not out on the street corner getting their drugs.”

Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report, said the report’s findings show that racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and in those with both large and small black populations.

Those disparities exist despite studies that show marijuana is used by blacks and whites at about roughly the same rate, he said.

“You can go to any college campus and find plenty of kids with marijuana,” Edwards said. “If we don’t think it’s a good use of our resources to be busting white college kids, then why is it a good use of our resources to be busting young black kids in poor neighborhoods?”

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