Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Fort Worth police pull rug out from under Tarrant DA on no-pot-arrest policy

What the hell is happening in Fort Worth over marijuana enforcement? Today brings two contradictory news reports on the topic from Cowtown.

First, the Dallas News reported on Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson's new program, announced Monday, for Class B pot cases. Wilson is offering to dismiss charges if someone passes a drug test for three months running.

But seemingly in response to the prosecutor's announcement, yesterday evening the local NBC affiliate ran a story announcing that:

Fort Worth police are no longer arresting or citing people caught with small amounts of marijuana, a department spokesman said Monday.

“We have only been seizing the marijuana,” said Fort Worth police Capt. Mark Barthen. “We are also not issuing citations in lieu of arrest like some jurisdictions.”

The change in policy was due to “issues with testing,” Barthen said.

More people were arrested for pot in Fort Worth in the last year (3,750 people) than for any other charge. That's more than ten people per day. If the FWPD follows through on this policy, DA Wilson before too long won't have any more pot smokers to drug test.

These stories evince a split in local law enforcement, with the DA wanting to keep cases alive without proving them, while the police are less inclined to spend a lot of time on cases they can't prove that have little public safety benefit. I betcha Fort Worth isn't the only jurisdiction where officials disagree on how much to prioritize pot arrests, even if it doesn't often come out this publicly.

RELATED: Hemp law radically reduced pot prosecutions in Texas: Don't go back.

UPDATE (12/2): FWPD has now flip flopped and says they're still arresting people for pot, according to a reporter from KERA. Since the DA can't prove charges w/o testing, I wonder how that works? Do they only "divert" people who don't have a lawyer to advise them?


Anonymous said...

Isn't it theft for the police to seize something they can't prove is illegal?

Anonymous said...

DA is elected; PD is not.

PD to DA: "We can't prove these pot cases. We'd just like to stop arresting on them."

DA to PD: "I can't agree to that! It'll make me look soft on crime in a very Republican county! How's about if we pretrial divert and dismiss with 3 months' clean tests?"

PD to DA: "We don't feel good about arresting on cases we already know we can't prove."

DA to PD: "I gotta get reelected. I can't sign off on not arresting. Do you think this is Dallas?"

PD: *goes away grumbling*

DA to Tarrant County: "I'm gonna pretrial divert pot cases and dismiss with 3 months' clean tests. These pot smokers gotta prove they're changing their ways."

PD to Tarrant County: "We're not gonna arrest for cases we know we can't prove."

Tarrant County: "Our DA is holding pot smokers accountable!! That lousy PD refuses to do their jobs..."