Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Austin Public Safety Task Force Considers the Citation Option

Yesterday evening, instead of appearing before the Austin Public Safety Task Force in person, the Chief of police sent a person from his staff who had little, if any, background with the policy.  The officer explained that the police are still trying to set a meeting with the district attorney from Williamson County and the district attorney from Hays County so they can agree on a process for the citation option.  When asked why APD would be discussing this with the district attorney, and not the county attorney who handles misdemeanors, the officer had no idea.  (Most district attorneys only handle felonies, but those who follow criminal justice at the Texas legislature know that the Williamson County District Attorney will do everything he can to stop the citation option from going into effect.)

The good news is that the Austin Public Safety Task Force obtained an agreement that the police will return for their next meeting with concrete data, specifically:
- how many people are arrested and jailed each year in Austin when they could be given a citation,
- how much these optional arrests and incarcerations are costing the city  (Council Member Mike Martinez made it clear that he wants to see all costs, including all of the officer time which is lost, costs of arrest, costs of magistrate court and municipal judge time, costs of incarceration, etc.), and
- the racial breakdown of all of these optional arrests and incarcerations that the Austin police choose to make.

The police made it clear that they do NOT need to obtain permission from Hays or Williamson county to move forward with the citation option.  They say they are simply attempting to work it out in good faith and by consensus.  We don't know how much longer the Austin police will be willing to wait on the Williamson County DA, but the state law allowing the citation option has already been in place for 8 months.  How many tax dollars have already been wasted and how many lives have already been impacted?

Please stay tuned ~ we will update you as things develop!

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