In search of a serious public safety convo

Also, a look at a decade of pot arrests.

In search of a serious public safety convo
One of the many sidewalks to nowhere in front of new homes in my neighborhood. They're always required in front of new homes, but developers can in many cases choose to pay a fee-in-lieu. 

The back-and-forth over the infamous DPS interaction continues.

TL;DR: the incident wasn't as awful as initially alleged by the father and son. If you believe that modern policing is far too militaristic, then you will likely still believe the troopers overreacted and should never have drawn their guns at all. However, it's not clear that the troopers acted differently than most APD officers would have in similar circumstances.

I imagine more details will surface in the coming days and the rest of the media will continue to question Mayor Kirk Watson and the rest of Council about what they think of the incident. Meanwhile, DPS says it's not going anywhere.  

What a joke. I wonder how these DPS troopers feel receiving assignments that are based entirely on Greg Abbott owning the libs on Twitter.

Not to say the leadership in Austin has been much better...our City Council has largely surrendered its role on public safety policy to the mayor and city manager, both of whom are making their decisions based on headlines rather than data.

Pot arrests go up in smoke

There is one detail that is uncontested: the man was ultimately given a citation for marijuana. Whether it was legit weed or CBD, as he claimed, it was a substance that he would most likely would not have received a citation for if he had been stopped by APD officers.

Which leads me to some good news! A couple weeks ago I submitted a public information request for data on marijuana arrests made by the Austin Police Department over the past decade. Look at that decline! You love to see it.

In 2010, the police department made 3,041 arrests for marijuana possession, or 8.3 per day.

In some cases the charge was likely one among many that the person was being arrested for, but it was still clearly a non-issue to which our law enforcement apparatus, from cops to prosecutors, was devoting substantial time and resources. And thousands of people were, at the very least, being significantly inconvenienced as a result.

Since 2007 police officers across Texas have had the option of issuing citations, rather than making arrests, for a wide range of misdemeanors, including possession of under 4 oz of marijuana. It wasn't until two years later that APD finally started exercising the option to issue citations, but it continued to make many, many arrests.

Things didn't really change until 2018. In June of that year, City Council approved a "Freedom City" resolution, authored by Greg Casar, instructing APD to stop making arrests for all misdemeanor offenses that were eligible for "cite-and-release."

And then in 2019, the legislature passed a law legalizing hemp and its derivatives, such as CBD, which are often visibly indistinguishable from pot. Prosecutors around the state, not wanting to spend the money and time to run tests confirming that the substance was in fact illegal, began dropping charges left and right.

So it's not really clear whether it was the state or the city or both that caused the huge decline, but we should all be happy it happened regardless.

In 2020, City Council went a step further, passing a resolution telling APD to stop enforcing small marijuana offenses entirely –– to stop issuing citations. Chief Brian Manley initially ignored the direction, saying that APD would continue to enforce state law, but eventually acquiesced in the wake of the post-George Floyd uprising.  

Have a good weekend! I'll see you on Monday!