SAPD looks to implement cite and release program by April

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio police on Wednesday provided City Council with an update on the department's plans to partake in a cite and release program, saying it plans on implementing the program by April.

Officials with the department met with newly-elected District Attorney Joe Gonzales in November and December 2018 and January 2019 to discuss issues related to cite and release, which was piloted through the Bexar County Sheriff's Office under former District Attorney Nico LaHood.

According to legislative text from the City Council agenda, the cite and release program to be implemented by police will include all eligible offenses under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure except graffiti.

Under the program, officers will be able to cite and release individuals found to be in violation of the following charges:

  • Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana
  • Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana
  • Class A possession of sub penalty group 2-A, 2 ounces or less
  • Class B possession of sub penalty group 2-A, 2 ounces or less
  • Class B theft/of service
  • Class B criminal mischief
  • Class B driving while license is invalid

Participation from the police department will expand the cite and release initiative to SAPD's jurisdiction.

Through the program, police will determine if the offense qualifies for cite and release, will determine whether to make a custodial arrest or issue a citation and if a citation is issued, the officer will instruct the offender to report to the Bexar Couty Re-Entry Center within a set time frame, according to a PowerPoint presentation shown to City Council on Monday.

If the offender is issued a citation, they will report to the Re-Entry Center and authorities will review the offenses committed. The offender will then be assigned to the appropriate program or service, enroll in the program and complete the program. 

Police said they will begin a public education campaign about the measure, including posting to social media and hosting community meetings.

"Implementation will significantly benefit the community by increasing officer availability and providing young offenders resources through diversion programs that will minimize the likelihood of the offender from engaging in further illegal activity," a summary of the policy states.

SAPD said it made 33,641 arrests eligible for the cite and release program in 2014, which accounted for 50,461 hours of officer time. The time estimate, police said, is the equivalent of seven officer positions annually.

Police cited a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which states that 87 percent of agencies have a cite and release policy. However there is not enough data nationally to measure the program's effectiveness.

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