CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have released numbers that show that African Americans are arrested for simple marijuana possession at far higher rates than other groups.
"It's basically like stereotyping, because I don't have no felony," said Gerald Laney, who was arrested Thursday night for possession and he feels there is a bias.
Chief Kerr Putney takes issue with that argument.
"If people are dealing drugs out in the open, we're going to have to deal with it," he said.
Since 2010, arrests for simple possession of marijuana have declined for all groups, but it's still higher for African Americans. Back then there were 695 blacks, 73 whites and 46 Hispanics arrested; last year it was 336 blacks 29 whites and 13 Hispanics.
"Officers are making the right decisions, in my opinion," said the Chief.
He says it's not race but calls for service that are driving the arrest rate.
"The reason we're there is because we're going to where the call volume and the [where] work is-- the call volume is there because we have victims there.
Putney says that a map showing the heaviest concentration of violence also shows a direct correlation to marijuana arrests.
"Unfortunately, disproportionately the victim, and sometimes the suspects, are minorities. I don't like that; that's a bi-product of a lot of failings from a lot of intuitions that leads up to us making those encounters-- that's why we are trying to break the cycle," he said.
One of the ways the department accomplishes that is by its diversion program. First time offenders are given a second chance.
Last year 76 suspects took advantage of the program-- 46 of them are African American. Over the last three years, 111 African American teens participated.
Putney says first time offenders are usually issued citations, but repeat offenders end up in jail, and he does not believe race plays a part.
"I'm not saying racism doesn't exist and we should fight it everywhere we see it, but let's call it what it is-- sometimes we mis-perceive disparity with racism, we look at disproportionality and jump to the conclusion of racism when really it's a lot deeper than that."
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