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Black residents made up 97% of marijuana arrests in New York state capital

Albany, N.Y. — A year after Albany’s police chief vowed to examine racial disparities in marijuana arrests, 97% of people arrested or ticketed for pot offenses in the city since then have been Black, according to a review by the Times Union.

Only 30% of Albany residents are Black. Yet 97% of people arrested for cannabis last year were Black.

Only four white people were charged with marijuana crimes from July 9, 2019, to July 9, 2020, out of the 134 times city police made arrests or wrote tickets during that time period, the newspaper reported Sunday. About 30 percent of Albany’s population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Questions still exist,” said Debora Brown-Johnson, president of the Albany NAACP branch. “What’s going here, is this a targeted group?”

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Brown Johnson called on Mayor Kathy Sheehan to address the problem.

Sheehan said in a statement that city officials would examine the marijuana arrest data as part of a broader, state-mandated overhaul of the city’s police force.

“The city of Albany Police Reform Collaborative will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the Albany Police Department data associated with arrests by race, gender, and other demographics,” she said.

Police Chief Eric Hawkins said his vow to examine the racial disparities has been delayed by the police department’s focus on matters related to the coronavirus.

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