Coalition of 26 Local Advocacy Groups Demands Policies to Guide Officer Discretion
SAN ANTONIO —Three months after San Antonio police adopted a new policy designed to reduce arrests for low-level offenses like simple marijuana possession and theft, the first quarterly report with data regarding those arrests is available to the public for review.
The report reveals, among other things:
- Out of the total police contacts for citation-eligible offenses, 65% resulted in a custodial arrest and 35% resulted in a citation being issued. This suggests that there may be resistance from police officers to use citations as a default choice.
- 12% of arrests were listed as “unspecified,” meaning there was no clear reason listed for why the police officer chose to arrest the individual.
- Ethnicity breakdowns per type of offense are missing in this report, meaning there is no way for the public to know which ethnic groups are being cited more or less than others on each of the six eligible-offenses.
SA Stands, a coalition of 26 community organizations that advocated for the implementation of Cite and Release, said after reviewing the first report from the San Antonio Police Department:
“The data released today shows we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to stopping the unnecessary arrests of Black, Latino and immigrant members of our community,” said Jessica Azua of the Texas Organizing Project, a member of SA Stands. “And it shows that leaving cite and release completely up to the officers’ discretion doesn’t work. Officers are used to arresting people, and breaking them of that habit is going to require stricter instructions from the police chief and the city. Cite and release is a positive step in keeping our communities safe without unnecessarily destroying lives, but we will only see the effects if it is faithfully implemented. We’re not there yet.”
“Out of 1,509 arrests made during the first quarter of Cite and Release being in effect, 534 people cited for non-violent offenses is progress. At just 35% of cases, we can improve this policy dramatically to continue the trend of arrest reduction,” said Alex Birnel, MOVE Texas Advocacy Manager and member of SA Stands. “MOVE Texas recognizes that young San Antonians are disproportionately impacted by our carceral system. Eighty-three percent of the arrests in this quarter were 40 years of age or under. Unless we work to reduce arrests further, young people will continue to be negatively impacted by reduced employment opportunities, disruption of families, and strain on their education. We need real solutions, not more incarcerations.”
“This report is the first of its kind in San Antonio and our coalition made this data transparency possible,” said Carolina Canizales, Texas Campaigns Strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and member of SA Stands. “However, in order for us to truly track the efficacy and success of this program, the report must include a comparative breakdown between the type of offense, ethnicity of the person, and locality of each incident. This is the only way to shed light on the way officers are positively or negatively using their discretion.”
SA Stands is a strong collaborative in the city of San Antonio and Bexar County that is committed to the protection, safety, dignity, inclusion, and freedom of all immigrants, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or special ability. Through organized campaigns, advocacy efforts, community education, and direct action, SA Stands will mobilize against any laws and efforts that criminalize, incarcerate, deport and divide our communities. For more information, visit sastands.org