Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot has stolen some of the political oxygen in the city, and the state in general, with his new reform measures, even with all the national news going on. But that small theft wouldn't be prosecuted by his office these days: They don't do that anymore.
Creuzot, a Democrat, has angered local and state officials, and importantly police unions, with his decree that his office will no longer be prosecuting what he has non-technically referred to as "low-level" crimes. As a recent Dallas Morning News op-ed put it, "shook" the people tasked with law enforcement and government. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he has them "shook."
The new agenda for the new district attorney is, he says, aimed at ending "mass incarceration" and jail time for "technical" violations which aren't a threat to public safety. That includes a lot drug offenses, and although his letter informing the county residents of his overall plan was only published a week ago, he's already dismissed more than 1,000 drug possession cases since taking office this year.
"The changes that I promised will be a step forward in ending mass incarceration in Dallas County, and will make our community safer by ensuring that our limited resources are spent where they can do the most good," said Creuzot in the letter. He also specifically covered the drug offenses he has already dismissed.
First-Offense Marijuana Although African Americans and people of other races use marijuana at similar rates, in Dallas County African Americans are three times more likely to be prosecuted for misdemeanor marijuana possession than are people of other races. After arrest, African Americans are assessed money bond at a higher rate for marijuana possession, and are assessed higher bond amounts than other races. African Americans are more likely to be convicted of marijuana possession once charged and are more likely to serve a jail sentence.1
The District Attorney must take action to end that disparity. To that end, I have declined prosecution on misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases for first-time offenders whose offenses do not occur in a drug-free zone, involve the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon, or involve evidence of delivery. After the first offense, people will be offered a program that, if successfully completed, will keep their record clear. I am also in the process of dismissing all pending misdemeanor marijuana cases filed before I took office, according to the new policy stated above. To date, I have dismissed over a thousand misdemeanor marijuana cases.
They will likewise decline prosecution on "State Jail Felony and 3rd Degree Felony Possession of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)" in first-offender cases matching the above listed criteria.
Also on the no-prosecution docket are some petty theft cases of less than $750, except in cases where the object was financial gain.
Theft of Necessary Items Study after study shows that when we arrest, jail, and convict people for non-violent crimes committed out of necessity, we only prevent that person from gaining the stability necessary to lead a law-abiding life. Criminalizing poverty is counter-productive for our community's health and safety. For that reason, this office will not prosecute theft of personal items less than $750 unless the evidence shows that the alleged theft was for economic gain.
Other items include not prosecuting criminal trespass or driving with a suspended license, and no jail time for "technical" violations of probation.
His new regime has a lot fans on the Dallas Morning News editorial page, but many fewer in office. Not to mention law enforcement officers. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas union has issued a formal statement demanding Creuzot's resignation or removal. (included in full below.)
In it, the union calls Creuzot's plan "unacceptable," and say he "should be removed" as the DA. "When he was campaigning for the office we don't remember not prosecuting crime as part of his platform," it reads.
In addition to the letter from the union, six Dallas County police agencies held a joint press conference condemning the DA's policy. The current and former officers said the policy will harm small businesses suffering from small dollar theft, will put families in danger, and will encourage an escalation of crime in the county.
In that persser, Irving police officer and vice-president of the Texas Municipal Police Association Travis Hammond said that Creuzot is "singlehandedly creating his own version of social engineering."
Also at the joint press conference, Richardson Police Association Past President Jimmy Holley said Creuzot " should not be in the position of creating his own Penal Code that he is going to enforce."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the policy "problematic, and said that he told Creuzot he "probably should've taken this on a case-by-case basis rather than issue some broad policy that really impacts only a very small number of people." Amid the growing pushback on the plan, Rawlings assured his constiuents that police will continue to enforce the law regardless of the DA's preferences.
City of Dallas police officer and president of the Greater Dallas chapter of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization Sgt. George Aranda says the policy "has opened up many windows to allow the common criminal to feast on the business retail community."
Gov. Greg Abbott, too, has joined in the condemnation, telling Dallas NBC affiliate KXAS that the plan is "reckless and irresponsible."
"That is legalizing stealing for property less than $750. What kind of message does that send for one, but for another, listen if your district attorney wants to change the law he is in the wrong job. He needs to run for the legislature and come here to try and change the law," said the governor. "His job, his oath, is to enforce the law that exists and he should prosecute anybody for stealing anything."
In response to Abbot, Creuzot told WXAS that "it doesn't make sense to clog up our jails with people who are not a danger to society. We need to focus on criminals who are a threat to our communities and individuals who commit thefts for economic gain."
Not prosecuting crime may seem an odd plan for a District Attorney, but it is not without its fans. From a Dallas Morning News op-ed:
At last, Texas has an elected official with a comprehensive plan to bring more sensible, humane practices to our justice system. It is no secret that the determinative factor of a person's outcome in the criminal justice system is often the money in his or her pocket. Coupled with the fact that communities of color, which studies show bear the highest burden of poverty, are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, our justice system has become rife with inequities, from arrest to sentencing to supervision.
You can watch the press conference with police representatives condemning the plan, and Creuzot's own announcement outlining his polices, below. Further down, find the CLEAT demand for Creuzot's removal.
Watch District Attorney John Creuzot discussing his new policy to combat mass incarceration.
Dallas DA reveals plan for 'ending mass incarceration' for petty crimes, slashing probation and bail youtu.be
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas demand for Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to be removed:
For Immediate Release
April, 17, 2019
George Aranda, President, Dallas NLLEO-CLEAT;
Todd Harrison, President, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, CLEAT
DALLAS -The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, CLEAT is calling for the removal of Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot from his newly elected position after he announced he will not prosecute certain crimes.
"While he has announced the retrial of a police officer because he didn't like the result of a jury trial verdict DA John Creuzot has declared he will not follow the law and prosecute certain crimes," said Sgt Todd Harrison, President of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, "That's unacceptable and he should be removed from office."
"When he was campaigning for the office we don't remember not prosecuting crime as part of his platform," said Harrison.
"I don't think he understands that Dallas Police Officers are sworn to uphold the law. Officers are lawfully bound to answer the calls of citizens and business owners who have suffered a loss. The officers have no choice. Under this scenario we'd have officers risking their lives, enforcing the law, making arrests and protecting Dallas families and businesses only to have a giant double standard applied to their actions," said Harrison, an Austin Police Sergeant and 31 year law enforcement veteran.
"Will the Dallas Chief of Police issue a directive that her officers will no longer answer the calls of citizens who are reporting a theft of under $750? Will the officers no longer be responsible for writing these reports? Can a Dallas Police Officer be investigated because of an Internal Affairs complaint for refusal to take a statement of a theft of a certain dollar amount? Will the Chief refuse to discipline or terminate an officer who doesn't make the arrest on one of these cases?"
"It is with great disappointment that DA Creuzot has opened up many windows to allow the common criminal to feast on the business retail community not to mention your everyday stakeholder who will become victims of property theft. LEOs in Dallas County have taken an oath to uphold the law which includes to protect the property of those said citizens. This decision removes a basic crime fighting tool and handcuffs your everyday patrol officer," said Sgt. George Aranda, President of the local union Dallas NLLEO-CLEAT, a 27 year veteran of the Dallas Police Department.
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