Ramsey Promises Police Won’t Arrest Pot Users

But Chicago experience shows it's not that easy.

Newsworks reports that Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is promising that his officers will generally write tickets — and not make arrests — when Mayor Nutter signs a pot decriminalization bill later this fall.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Shifting enforcement strategies may not be that easy.

Newsworks looks to Chicago, which already underwent a similar decriminalization process.

Kathleen Kane-Willis, director of the Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University, looked at what happened when Chicago police officers were given the option of issuing tickets to those caught with small amounts of weed instead of making arrests. As in Pennsylvania, possession remains a criminal offense in the state of Illinois.

“We found that actually the ticket hadn’t been used very much. It had been used only in 7 percent of the cases,” she said. “Over 90 percent of people were still arrested for marijuana use.”

Kane-Willis said the Chicago Police Department failed to incentivize officers to write tickets.

“I don’t know that there was a way that police officers were getting credit for writing the tickets instead of making the arrest,” she said. “So if arrests are used in promotions or [other] decisions, there needs to be an incentive for the police to use the new thing.”

No word on the incentives used in the Philadelphia Police Department.