Minneapolis Police halt stings targeting low level marijuana offenses

Susie Jones
June 07, 2018 - 3:06 pm

The Minneapolis Police department announced that officers will stop low-level marijuana arrests after a learning that almost all arrested during a recent undercover sting were black.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Aradondo made the announcement at a press conference Thursday after Mayor Jacob Frey made the request, "We will discontinue specific low-level marijuana enforcement," Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.

The decision follows a report done by the Hennepin County Public Defender's office that between January 24 and May 24, police in an undercover sting operation downtown arrested 47 people for the sale of small amounts of marijuana, 46 of them were black."They were all cases where undercover police officers approached them asking for marijuana," Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty said. She called the Mayor to report the the racial disparities in arrests."I was angered and saddened and disappointed. Not only that this was happening but that the county attorney had decided to charge these cases."

Mayor Jacob Frey recently said he supported legalizing marijuana in the city. After hearing the report, Frey reportedly asked the chief to make the change.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday that he is dismissing one-forth of the cases so far. In a statement he said the undercover drug stings by the Minneapolis Police Department occurred without their knowledge.

"Because they occurred over a period of months and were distributed to about a half-dozen of our attorneys for prosecution, we did not detect any pattern," Freeman said.  He went on to say that for several years they have been aggressively offering diversion in low-level drug cases,"In fact, in one-fourth of these 47 cases, we already had either dismissed the case, diverted the case or asked for a stay of adjudication, which would result in no sentence and the charge reduced to a misdemeanor."

Freeman said when they learned about this situation on Tuesday, we took immediate steps. "First, I spoke to Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and said I would not be charging these types of cases. And, we began an immediate review of the remaining cases brought to our attention. We started making new offers to the defendants and we are in the process of dismissing them."

Chief Aradondo defended the actions of his officers, and denied black people were being targeted.

He did say the light rail train station is a trouble spot for open-air drug sales. At that location, the young men this reporter spoke with said they fell targeted. "They try to catch us every time. They put cameras on every block," said one young man waiting for the light rain train.

Another man said change is needed. "It sounds like racial discrimination to me," he said.