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Cincinnati Police, city council plan to examine marijuana citation data

Posted at 5:59 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 19:59:27-05

CINCINNATI — On Monday, Cincinnati city council members met to hear the Cincinnati Police Department's explanations for marijuana arrest data that some felt showed bias against the African American community.

Three months worth of data showed that a large majority of people cited for having marijuana in Cincinnati were black. However, Cincinnati Police said they need more time and more data to truly sort out the root issues that, at first glance, had attendees of the meeting left with concerns.

"It's disgusting to see those numbers like that," said Rick Buckes, a community member in attendance at the meeting. "That means the city and its police department are being very harsh on black men."

Since Cincinnati's marijuana ordinance went into effect in 2019, possession of marijuana up to 100 grams has been considered decriminalized within the limits of the city of Cincinnati. The data coming in has shown that in November 2019, 74 citations were written for marijuana-related offenses; 67 of them were issued to African Americans. In December, police cited 67 people, with 64 of those citations going to African Americans. January statistics showed 80 citations, with 66 going to African Americans.

Assistant police chief Paul Neudigate said during the meeting that it's still too early to tell what these statistics may mean for the Cincinnati Police Department.

"The numbers are a little sporadic right now," said Neudigate. "We are aware of what they show, but we are early in this process and it's a little early for us to make any definitive conclusions."

Committee members on city council also warned against jumping to conclusions too soon.

"We're three months into it, so we don't, I don't believe we have yet a pattern," said council member Christopher Smitherman. "At least that's how I'm approaching it... I'd like to see six months at least to give the police department time. But remember, these are warnings."

According to police, unless those caught had a gun or more than 200 grams of marijuana in their possession, no one was fined, arrested or jailed -- only issued a warning. Council members said they do not yet know the circumstances of each citation, but that they plan to find out.

"We don't know why," said Jeff Pastor, Cincinnati council member. "I've always indicated we have to contextualize the numbers first. Is this where greater enforcement is located?"

Council member David Mann said the situation should be a question of concern, but also deserves continued study. Council member Smitherman also said he believes CPD deserves more time to do their jobs and reach the right conclusions.