by Brendan James
Harry Levine explains the incentives in law enforcement that produce so many marijuana arrests:
Police work can be dangerous. Ordinary patrol and narcotics police like the marijuana arrests because they are relatively safe and easy. If an officer stops and searches 10 or 15 young people, one or two of them will likely have a bit of marijuana. All police have arrest quotas and often they can earn much-desired overtime pay by making a marijuana arrest toward the end of a shift. In New York City, arresting people for petty offenses for overtime pay is called “collars for dollars.” Every cop in the city knows that expression. From the officers’ point of view, people possessing marijuana are highly desirable arrestees. As one veteran lieutenant said, people whose only crime is marijuana possession are “clean,” meaning physically clean. Unlike junkies or winos, people arrested for marijuana don’t have HIV, hepatitis, or even body lice. They are unlikely to throw up on the officer or in the police car or van. Frequently they are on the way to a party or a date, and if they have smoked a little, they may be relaxed and amiable. Marijuana arrests are a quality of life issue – for the police.
By the by, here in NYC under Mayor Bloomberg, the police round up more pot smokers every year than the total number of arrests under Koch and Dinkins combined.