Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Thank you, Mr. President. Two items. First, yesterday there was a tragic day in Boston. The City of Boston and the Boston Fire Department lost two of its members fighting a nine-alarm blaze on Beacon Street in the City of Boston. I know I speak for you and for all here in the room and for the entire City as we send our love and condolences to the families of Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy. They certainly made the ultimate sacrifice for their citizens, as our folks put their lives on the lines every day both in the Police and Fire Department. So I wanted to just mention that. It was a very tragic day for the City of Boston.

Tuesday I had the privilege to meet with the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, and as you know, today I've held Bill No. 140001-A. Everyone I've talked to regarding the non-custodial arrests of small amounts of marijuana possession have all agreed with me. The Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Courts, everyone thinks that arresting 4,200 of our citizens, 83 percent of whom are African American, and with 76 percent of our pedestrian stops by the Police stopping African Americans in our city, that there is a large amount of inequity in how we enforce the law relative to the possession of marijuana. No one is suggesting that we're urging people to smoke marijuana, but I am simply saying that based on the loss of police services on our street of 17,000 hours a year to handcuff, photograph, fingerprint, lock up, and process 4,200 of our citizens for the de minimis action of having under an ounce of marijuana on their possession, everyone agrees that this is a dumb thing to do and it should be stopped.

The Mayor has the ability to issue an Executive Order to order the Police Department to cease mandatory custodial arrests of marijuana possession, to take the contraband off of the person, to take their information and pass it on to both the Court and the District Attorney so an appropriate summons process could be conducted.

I was going to run this bill today, but I decided based on the request from Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, who is the Chairperson of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board and the Supervising Judge of the Common Pleas Court, who I find to be an honorable, decent, intelligent, forthright individual, I decided not to run the bill. She asked for the opportunity to put together a subcommittee that would try to get this done administratively. And I respect her request and will follow that request.

But I want to make sure it's very clear for the record that I will not wait forever. This will not be drug out for three, four, six months, a year while young people in our city are disproportionately arrested, put through the traumatic process of an arrest, and then given an arrest record that they need to carry with them while they try to find employment and keep their lives on the straight and narrow. It's not fair, and it should stop. It has stopped in many cities in our country, and even in Pennsylvania, which is not exactly the most progressive state in the nation on many social issues and crime issues, Pittsburgh has not been arresting people for years. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has not been arresting people for quite some time. Why is it that Philadelphia finds itself in a position to make this obvious wrong a correctable issue when everyone in the criminal justice community agrees it's wrong.

So I'm holding this bill, as you know. I will see what kind of progress we make, but I intend to run the bill at some point in time if it's not resolved, and there's always the option of Federal Court to make sure that the Federal Court intervenes to stop this inequity from continuing. Our young people have enough difficulty as it is keeping straight, getting a job, raising families without having the burden of an additional arrest record for the simple de minimis action of carrying a small amount of marijuana.

So I thank my colleagues for their support and input. I thank the CJAB for their openness, and I thank Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper for her leadership, and I look forward to having some positive result.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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