View Single Post
Old 07-07-2019, 11:20 AM
campbell's Avatar
campbell campbell is offline
Mary Pat Campbell
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: NY
Studying for duolingo and coursera
Favorite beer: Murphy's Irish Stout
Posts: 91,298
Blog Entries: 6

NYCLU apologizes for misstating racial disparity in Schenectady pot arrests
Police chief: Mistake harms trust department has worked to build

ALBANY ⁠— The New York Civil Liberties Union is walking back parts of its recent report indicating an extreme racial disparity in marijuana enforcement in Schenectady County.

Released in April amid discussions in the state Legislature to legalize the drug in New York, the analysis erroneously indicated that black residents in Schenectady were 74 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people, despite making up just 12 percent of the population.

In fact, black Schenectady County residents are 10 times more likely to be arrested in the county than their white neighbors, a statistic more reflective of racial disparities in counties across the state, according to the corrected study issued Tuesday.
The error, which placed Schenectady atop a list of 10 counties with the worst racial gaps in cannabis arrests, was a result of a "misaligned spreadsheet" which improperly merged Saratoga County U.S. Census data with Schenectady arrest numbers from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, researchers said.

"Any researcher would have put a red flag there," NYCLU data strategist Michelle Shames said. "I redid the calculations multiple times and kept getting the same results."
The non-partisan civil rights organization apologized for the mistake, which was identified last week when Schenectady police officials met with the NYCLU researchers in New York City to raise questions about the findings.

Shames said she finally identified the problem when she used an online platform to confirm the population of Schenectady.

Schenectady police Chief Eric Clifford said he accepted the apology from NYCLU, but added the impact of the mistake on the Schenectady community and his department's reputation will be difficult to undo.

"The premature release of these figures and the reporting of this has hurt that trust that we work every day to build," Clifford said. "Not everyone who looks at that statistic is going to read the follow-up article."

The report's authors say they missed the error because they knew they could assume the accuracy of the DCJS data and census figures in the report. The numbers, while accurate, were imported incorrectly due to a spelling discrepancy.

The report also incorrectly stated that one in six black people in Schenectady had an arrest with a marijuana-related offense as their top charge. The actual statistic is one in 28, which removes it from the report's list of top 10 counties in New York.

"I'm hopeful that our continual interaction with the community in a positive way hasn't been eroded by the irresponsible information that was put out," Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic A. Dagostino said. "However, I am confident that the community we serve has faith in what our collaborative mission is: to provide a community where people are comfortable living and working and raising their families."

The glitch threw off arrest ratios for five other counties starting with the letter "s," researchers said. For example, the original report incorrectly stated that one in nine black people in Seneca had an arrest with a marijuana-related offense as their top charge, when the actual statistic is one in 95.

Monroe County, where black people are 16 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than their white neighbors, ranks worst in the state for disproportionate arrests of black people, according to the updated data.

Despite moves to scale back enforcement, the Capital Region has seen an uptick in marijuana arrests over the last few years, particularly in communities of color. But the number of arrests in Schenectady, particularly of low-level possession charges, is relatively small when compared to more urban counties like Albany, according to data from the DCJS obtained by the Times Union.

NYCLU lead policy counsel Michael Sisitzky said that while Schenectady is not an outlier in the state when it comes to arrests, it is still emblematic of the larger problem of racial bias in policing.

"It is reflective of many counties where black and brown people are disproportionately targeted," Sisitzky said. "We are disheartened that the trend of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against people of color is still evident in Schenectady and across the state."


LinkedIn Profile
Reply With Quote
Page generated in 0.08867 seconds with 9 queries