Police, Nutter Open to Ending Pot Arrests

Top police and Nutter administration officials testified Monday before City Council that they were “open” to ending custodial arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, another step toward softening the city’s stance against pot.

Francis Healy, a special advisor to police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, said the department “supports the basic premise” that “custodial arrests should not be required” for pot possession. He said existing rules could be changed, but only with the police, the courts and the District Attorney being in agreement.

“It’s probably a good idea that we all sit down,” said Michael Resnick, the city’s Director of Public Safety. “We can discuss how to achieve these results.”

Their statements came at a hearing on a bill sponsored by Councilman James F. Kenney, who proposed ending mandatory arrests for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Instead, offenders would receive a court summons, requiring them to appear in a special marijuana program.

District Attorney Seth Williams started that program to sweep 3,000 low level marijuana cases out of the main court system.

On the street, however, nothing has changed.

“I don’t believe 4,200 people in the city should be arrested every year, taking 17,000 police hours off the street processing marijuana arrests,” Kenney said. “To me, it makes no sense.”

The bill, which was approved unanimously Monday in a committee hearing, is not necessary for police to end custodial arrests – the department has that discretion now, Kenney said. But, he said, “We need, as a Council, to make a comment or put our stamp of approval” on the idea.

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