Growing Criticism of Dallas County DA Reforms

State and Local leaders attack Dallas District Attorney reforms

Pressure from top state and police leaders against Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot's reform plan mounted Thursday, as Mayor Mike Rawlings said that Dallas Police will still enforce all laws, despite Creuzot's plan.

Representatives of six Dallas County police agencies at a press conference said Creuzot's plan to not prosecute some "thefts of necessity" puts families in danger and will escalate criminal activity in Dallas County.

Travis Hammond, vice president of the 28,000-member Texas Municipal Police Association, said the ramifications of Creuzot's decision not to prosecute those thefts cases and certain possession of marijuana cases were made without the input of law enforcement leadership and were "appalling."

"He was elected to protect us and he is failing at his job. Instead of enforcing the laws on the books, the District Attorney is singlehandedly creating his own version of social engineering," said Hammond, who is also an Irving Police Officer.

The police leaders asked Creuzot to hold off on his plan and make changes.

"The District Attorney should not be in the position of creating his own Penal Code that he is going to enforce," said Richardson Police Association Past President Jimmy Holley.

Friday, Creuzot detailed his decision to halt prosecution of certain cases, including food and personal health items with value less than $750. Creuzot said he wants to stop making poverty a crime and reduce the cost to taxpayers of prosecuting minor infractions. 

"I would hope that he would make good judgement on the small ones and not give the signal to the citizens of Dallas that somehow we’re going to change our policing, because we’re not," Mayor Mike Rawlings said Thursday. "I’ve talked to the Chief of Police on this, and we’re going to make sure that those laws are enforced in this town."

Rawlings said misdemeanor crimes the DA declines to prosecute could still be handled in Dallas Municipal Court.

Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called Creuzot's policy "reckless and irresponsible" and amounted to "legalized stealing."

Thursday, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a joint letter to Cruezot insisting on enforcement of the theft and drug cases, along with tresspassing crimes the DA also intends to drop.

“Reform is one thing. Actions that abandon the rule of law and that could promote lawlessness are altogether different,” the letter said. “We hope that you will reconsider your position and will take seriously your oath and your charge to uphold Texas law.”

Mayor Rawlings said some of Creuzot's reforms are worthwhile and Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata agreed.

Mata said he has a lot of respect for Creuzot and supports changes such as bail reform. But he asked the DA to meet with local law enforcement leaders to come up with some better solutions.

"I believe in some of the things he wants to do. The North Texas police chiefs need to sit around the table with this DA and find a better way," Mata said, adding that a reasonable compromise would keep the citizens of Dallas County safe and protect the businesses who do business in the county.

Creuzot issued a statement Wednesday night clarifying his position on "thefts of necessities" as one where someone commits a theft based on hunger or poverty and not for economic gain. The cap of $750, Creuzot said, was to cover crimes in the range of a Class B misdemeanor of theft where the property was valued between $100 and $750.

As evidence of the need for reform, Creuzot mentioned a woman jailed for two months after a theft of property worth $105. Creuzot said taxpayers should not have been burdened with paying $3,300 to keep the woman in jail for that duration.

Mata said the woman mentioned by Creuzot as having spent two months in jail wasn't kept there by police, he said she was kept there by a $150,000 bond put in place by the court.

"If there is something that needs to be changed legislatively, then DA Creuzot should run for a legislative office and change it in Austin for the whole greater good of the state of Texas. I think we get in a very, very slippery slope when we start to legislate from the bench. Who are we to choose whether this person is poor enough or not poor enough," Mata said.

Creuzot's statement said he has not directed any police department to stop making arrests for theft offenses, or any offense where there is probable cause.

Creuzot was not available for comment Thursday.

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