Pubdate: Sun, 15 Mar 2015
Source: Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
Copyright: 2015 Daily Freeman


SUNY New Paltz students and community activists, led by Students for 
a Sensible Drug Policy and New York Students Rising (NYSR), held a 
protest outside of a Police Benevolence Association (PBA) award 
ceremony recognizing the New Paltz University Police Department's 
drug arrests for 2013.

The ceremony, held Friday at the New Paltz campus, awarded the 
college's police department for having the most drug-related arrests. 
Protesting students and community activists were concerned that there 
may be over policing on the campus.

Brandon Missig of NYSR New Paltz Chapter said the protest was not 
just to address over-policing, but also, to address the celebration 
of something that resulted in the expulsion of students for non-violent crimes.

"We want UPD to recognize that this is not an honorable thing," said 
Missig. "It's not a drug arrest rate that they're getting awarded 
for; it's specifically a marijuana arrest rate. You look at the 
police log on campus and police are almost exclusively responding to 
calls about a smell of pot in a dorm or somewhere on campus and then 
they show up and it goes unwarranted. That's silly. If that's all the 
campus police are doing all day long, then it's clear that we have 
too many police on campus."

Daniel DeFedericis, the executive director and legal counsel for 
NYPBA, said the award was for overall drug arrests per capita on 
campus and included arrests for drugs other than marijuana. 
DeFedericis spoke to a NYSR representative and said they seemed to 
have some common ground on the issue when it came to drug arrests for 
substances other than marijuana but, he maintained that marijuana is 
still illegal in New York and believes it was important to recognize 
the dutiful police work of the university's police.

"The police enforce the laws on the books," said DeFedericis. "We're 
not in Colorado. In New York State it is still illegal to possess 
marijuana and with all the negative news about police departments in 
other areas of the country, I think it's fantastic that we are 
honoring a police department for doing such a diligent job."

Student protestors said that the marijuana policy at SUNY New Paltz 
has been an ongoing issue for years since it is one of the strictest 
in the state where two instances of marijuana possession will result 
in expulsion. Missig says that currently, NY Students Rise has had no 
feedback from university administrators on changing the policy but it 
does not mean that they are giving up.

"In contrast to many other private and public institutions, the 
College has its own police force, and officers patrol the campus and 
are readily available to respond quickly to reports of drug use," 
said college spokeswoman Melissa Kaczmarek. "Students arrested for 
marijuana use or possession on campus are subject to judicial 
proceedings, evaluated by counselors, and educated about drug use. As 
such, the disparity between first-violation and subsequent violations 
suggest our policies result in an extremely low rate of recidivism. 
None of us want to see arrests on our campus, but the safety of 
students will always be our top priority."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom