At his first Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Monday, new Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia put the brakes on a resolution to stop arrests for small amounts of marijuana.
His talk about getting tougher on crime came at the same session as the Dallas police monitor called for ending those same marijuana arrests and for eliminating some city ordinances entirely.
The City Council resolution against arrests for less than two ounces of marijuana has been under review for months since Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot began refusing to prosecute those cases.
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Hemp, which is legal, can be confused with marijuana. The city has also considered ending the arrests to do away with the expense of testing marijuana samples to determine whether they are in fact marijuana and to reduce the time police spend dealing with the cases.
Garcia came to the meeting with a two-ounce sample of marijuana divided into packets for individual sale by drug dealers. He said police should have the discretion to make arrests of dealers in such situations.
“The real victims were those businesses in that area that have to struggle with drug dealers posting up in front of their business and having a 24-hour weed sale in front of their businesses. That is something that certainly affects our city,” Garcia said.
He requested a month to devise an alternative enforcement plan that would discourage arrests of people merely in possession of marijuana for personal use.
Dallas Police Monitor Tonya McClary, who runs the Officer of Community Police Oversight, said 6,000 misdemeanor cases last year, including many for small amounts of marijuana, unfairly targeted African Americans.
She said the cases leave people with harmful criminal records.
“It’s primarily the African American community that really has been differently affected by all of these offenses,” McClary said.
She wants arrests for less than two ounces of marijuana to end and noise violations, sleeping in public and Jaywalking laws repealed by the city.
“What we’re saying is we’d like City Council to look at these issues and see if this is really making a difference in terms of crime in the city of Dallas. And if it’s not, then let’s just repeal these so we can work on other issues such as social justice and other things that are leading people to commit some of these offenses,” McClary said.
Chief Garcia said police can not arrest their way out of crime and agreed that Dallas should consider new ways to support people who feel hopeless.
“We have to give people hope because people that are hopeless will try to do things that are not congruent with what we are trying to accomplish,” he said.
As for enforcing the other laws, Garcia said neighbors may be calling police to help with those issues in their community.
And Garcia said he is working with experts he consulted at his previous chief post in San Jose, California on revisions to Dallas violent crime reduction plans.
“You’ve got to be sure that individuals know that we’re not going to tolerate violence. We’re not going to tolerate this type of crime in our city,” he said.
Garcia said he intends to have a new violent crime plan by April.
City Council Members said they will review McClary’s proposals at a future meeting.