Was Bloomberg's Case of White Mayor's Burden the Straw That Broke Ray Kelly's Back?

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As we learned yesterday from the excellent reporting of WNYC's Ailsa Chang, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has ordered that cops stop arresting people for marijuana (or "marihuana," as the NYPD spells it) if the pot was never in public view.

The timing of this announcement is curious. Ever since Bloomberg announced his Young Men's Initiative last month, he's been getting pummeled for having the worst case of white man's burden since Rudyard Kipling. On Tuesday, we took him to task in this week's Voice feature "White Mayor's Burden" for trying to "help" young men of color after a decade of tossing them in jail at rates far outpacing Rudy Giuliani. Also this week, Queens College sociologist Harry Levine (the Nate Silver of marijuana statistics) launched marijuana-arrests.com, which points out in blistering detail how young men of color have been arrested for low-level pot possession by a gross disparity under Bloomberg.

And by Friday, it came out that the NYPD was being asked to actually follow the law which decriminalized low level pot possession back in 1977.

Was this timing mere coincidence? Or was it that the Mayor was feeling the heat after the Voice, WNYC's Chang, Levine, Michael Powell and other activists and journalists kept repeatedly pointing out the glaring, embarrasing omission of examining the problems of young men of color without dealing with stop-and-frisk? Was Bloomberg (who admitted having smoked weed himself) feeling humiliated after committing $127 million dollars (including $30 from his own pocket) to this initiative, only to have it laughed off for its failure to deal with his own aggressive, racist record of marijuana arrests?

We're going to circle back to some of our interview subjects from "White Mayor's Burden" and will share their thoughts here at Runnin' Scared through out the coming days.

We're also going to take a hard look at the language of Kelly's memo, which very cleverly is addressed to "uniformed members" of the NYPD. Does he intend for it to apply to plainclothes cops as well, or will narcotics squads be exempt?

sthrasher@villagevoice.com | @steven_thrasher

Previous:

The White Mayor's Burden
Ray Kelly Finally Does the Right Thing with Weed Arrests
Crime Higher in Neighborhoods Without Marijuana Dispensaries, RAND Corporation Finds
Michael Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative: the Full Report

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