Dallas cite-and-release results have officials questioning effectiveness

DALLAS — Dallas’ cite-and-release program is less than a year old, but it’s got city officials on the fence over whether or not police should be doing it at all!

Back in December 2017, the cite-and-release program came to be where anyone caught with less than four ounces of pot will get a ticket. It’s not a “get out of jail free card,” but it does save the offender a trip to the slammer.

According to the Dallas Police Department, out of 1,544 cases of someone carrying marijuana, cite-and-release only applied to 65 of them. Mainly because the others were stopped with more than four ounces of marijuana on them and/or were suspected of committing another crime as well.

Get this, of those 65 people, over 90% of tickets were were given to people of color. A number that didn’t sit well with Council Member Philip Kingston.

“It still appears to be the case that marijuana is legal in Dallas County if you’re white but not if you’re Latino or Black?” Kingston asked. “That to me is just unacceptable.”

But Chief Renee Hall was adamant that the citations given were not racially motivated.

“A lot of these calls for service, that result in cite-and-release, come from the community who…stated that they couldn’t take their kids to the park because people were smoking weed,” Chief Hall said.

The results so far have some Dallas City Council members wondering about its effectiveness.

“If you’re spending time writing a citation for low-level marijuana possession, you’re probably not utilizing the public safety resources of the City of Dallas in the most efficient way,” Kingston said.

However, Chief Hall and several others disagree with that assessment, saying the cite-and-release program is good for the city.

“As a police department, we are doing everything that we can to ensure that we are not overlooking this,” Chief Hall said. “The one thing that we cannot…overlook is illegal activity.”

Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates agreed with Chief Hall, saying “I do not want you looking the other way and we need to enforce the laws that are in the books.”

Even though the program is still new, it seems there are a lot of kinks to weed out before everyone is on the same page.