Friday, February 22, 2008

Dallas PD will use citations for B misdemeanors

After initially rejecting the idea, the Dallas Police Department has decided to use new discretion for police officers approved by the 80th Texas Legislature to give citations in lieu of arrest for certain low-level misdemeanors. Reported the Dallas News ("Dallas police program would allow tickets instead of jail for minor offenses," Feb. 22):

Police and prosecutors are working on a program that would allow the courts to handle misdemeanor citations under the new law, which took effect Sept. 1. But they don't yet have a timeline for its implementation.

"Our patrol officers want this," said Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, commander of the criminal investigations bureau. "They see it as a valuable tool that will allow them to stay on their beat more."

Police officials expect the program to improve response times because officers could write citations rather than spend time at the jail booking an offender on a minor criminal violation. ...

How much impact the program will have is unknown because it remains to be seen how many officers will choose to issue a ticket rather than take an offender to jail. But last year, Dallas police made nearly 3,400 arrests for the offenses for which officers would gain the authority to issue citations, according to police statistics.

Dallas PD won't be using the authority for marijuana possession, or it would account for a much larger portion of arrests.

I was particularly interested to learn that some jurisdictions have been doing this for many years.

Even before the law took effect, some jurisdictions were issuing citations for certain low-level misdemeanor offenses.

"There wasn't any law that was being broken. They were just doing something that wasn't contemplated by the law," said Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

Palo Pinto County, whose population numbers about 27,000, was among those jurisdictions, said County Attorney Phil Garrett. He said that for at least 10 years he's allowed law officers to issue citations for Class A and B misdemeanor marijuana possession.

"It's not that big of a deal," said Mr. Garrett, who's been in office for 17 years. "The fact that that had to be codified just kind of amazes me."

I'm glad to see another major city beginning to use this new authority, which results in f
ewer low-level offenders in the jail, and more officers spending more time on the street, seems like a win-win all the way around.

RELATED: Nuts and bolts of citations for low-level misdemeanors explained by Travis County Sheriff's Office


John D. McLauchlan said...

What's the rationale for excluding class B marijuana possession?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm sure it's just fear of political backlash. That would add in a LOT of additional arrests and jail days if they included just the Class Bs.

I guess the police in Dallas just aren't as progressive as they are in Mineral Wells!

John D. McLauchlan said...

Now there's an irony...

Anonymous said...

I think the idiots who made the exclusion rule have been smoking too much class B weed. Big Louie's, aka Lew Sterrett Jail, can't hold all the murderous thugs that are currently waiting trial in Dallas Co.