Selective Policing: Racially Disparate Enforcement of Low-Level Offenses in New Jersey

December 21, 2015

This report examines disparities in police enforcement of four low-level offenses in New Jersey. The four offenses, chosen after speaking with civil rights advocates and defense attorneys, observing municipal court hearings, and studying publicly available federal government data, are: marijuana possession (possession of 50 grams or less, the lowest possession offense), disorderly conduct (public behavior thought to disrupt the public peace or cause annoyance), defiant trespass (being on property without permission, often a business, store, or neighbor’s property), and loitering (wandering or remaining in public with the “purpose” of obtaining a controlled substance). Previous studies have documented the differential treatment of Blacks and Whites by police in the context of low-level arrests in other jurisdictions, and this report documents the problem in New Jersey through the study of four cities chosen to reflect the State’s diversity in demographics, population size, and geographic location.