SHARE YOUR STORY
We are continually gathering stories from members of marginalized populations that illustrate injustice or unfair treatment specifically by the RCPD, including a hesitance to contact the police for protection. We also appreciate hearing about positive interactions with the RCPD. Every effort will be made to protect the identities of those providing stories. No names will be used and identifying information will be changed. We would invite you to share your story with us by emailing it to CEJnarratives@gmail.com. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Manhattan-Riley County Coalition for Equal Justice is a diverse group of local citizens working together to eliminate racial disparities in the enforcement of the law in Riley County and thus creating equality before the law for all Riley County residents. We are committed to justice, equity, transparency and equality, leading us to advocate for change in Riley County, to challenge the Riley County Police Department and Riley County Law Board to do what is right, to demand justice for those harmed, and work toward affecting the system of criminal justice in such a way that those causing harm are held accountable for their actions.
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
The research committee is committed to education, research and formulating viable public policy options to be presented within the next year to the appropriate local governing boards. They are interested in discovering what we need to be asking and understanding to effect change, what sources we need to use for our research and how we demonstrate objectivity and credibility.
The purpose of the storytelling committee is to collect local, anonymous stories, about both positive and negative interactions with local law enforcement officers, to be presented in ongoing meetings between CEJ and the Riley County Police Department. Stories are collected from friends, family members and other Riley County residents who are members of marginalized populations. The committee continues to reach out to request stories in person, as well as through churches, local service organizations and various forms of social media. Stories can be submitted both in writing or told orally while being transcribed by a committee member. Stories shared at meetings between CEJ and the RCPD will not include names, dates or specific details of interactions to ensure anonymity.
It is the responsibility of the communications committee to maintain correspondence between members of CEJ as well as keeping the general public up-to-date on the latest CEJ news. Committee members instigate interactions through discussion groups, on social media, and by way of email updates. This committee is also responsible for managing CEJ’s social media accounts and website, as well as coming up with innovative ideas to reach the residents of Riley County in order to build awareness of and establish trust in our organization.
***Even if a specific committee doesn’t resonate with you, but you are interested in affecting change within the criminal justice system, especially in Riley County, we still encourage you to join us!
DISPARITY IN MARIJUANA POSSESSION ARRESTS IN RILEY COUNTY
In the U.S. Black people use marijuana at roughly the same rate as white people, according to survey research covering the years 2001-2010.*
Why then in Riley County is a Black person, on average, 5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person?
With the help of a Kansas State University researcher, the Coalition has investigated the Riley County Police Department’s official arrests reports, submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice annually for the past ten years*.
Between 2010 and 2019 the number of RCPD arrests for possession of marijuana clearly fell disproportionately on African Americans. In that ten-year period the average rate of Black persons arrested for marijuana possession in Riley County was 5 times greater than the rate of arrests for white persons — and in 2019 more than eight times greater.
The racial disparities we have uncovered are not unique to Riley County. A comprehensive study of all fifty states found that in 2010 the racial inequality in arrest rates for marijuana possession was 3.7 to 1 across the country – and in Kansas 4.4 to 1.** It seems likely, therefore, that this racially unequal treatment by police in our community reflects a widespread anti-black stereotype in American society, associating African Americans with drug addiction and criminal behavior.
This is a serious matter. Currently in Kansas a person found guilty of a misdemeanor marijuana first possession offense is punishable with a fine of up to $1000 and six months in jail. Even with a light fine and no jail time, the consequences can be lasting and severe, as many employers reject job applicants with any drug conviction on their record.
*We thank Dr. Alayna Colburn, Ph. D. from the K-State’s Department of Sociology, for graphing our data. The U.S. Department of Justice Uniform Crime Reports is the source of data on white and black annual marijuana arrests. The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program was the source for determining the number of white and black residents in Riley County. ** American Civil Liberties Union, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White”, p. 48.
FAIR AND IMPARTIAL POLICING
Through ongoing meetings and discussions with the Riley County Police Department, CEJ hopes to achieve changes in policies around pretextual stops and profiling, to promote an increase in the diversity of the police force, to understand and affect the training aspects of policing as well as hiring protocols and oversight, to ensure leadership supervision and accountability by getting answers regarding the functionality and purpose of the Law Board as a source of “checks and balances,” to find out how crime hotspots get identified and thus bias the enforcement and the metrics over time, and to eliminate the unjustified disparity in arrests documented through our data (displayed above) on the disproportionate record of marijuana possession arrests.
As we continue to meet with the RCPD, we welcome question submissions by the general public in the hopes that these questions may help inform the topics discussed and the policies focused on during the meetings. To submit questions please email questions4RCPD@gmail.com.