City Council considers cite and release policy

One councilman says the cite and release policy isn’t turning a blind eye to drug use, but is designed to not overburden the justice system.
Cite and release program
Cite and release program(KGNS)
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 10:18 PM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The City of Laredo seems to be following in the footsteps of other Texas cities like Austin by considering a policy of release for non-violent offenses.

For weeks now, city council has been discussing the potential implementation of a cite and release policy here in the gateway city.

This would give Laredo police the discretion to cite and release anyone charged with a class B misdemeanor, like possession of marijuana.

Drug and alcohol prevention organizations and counselors have been very vocal through petitions and public comments about their disapproval of such measures, saying policies like these send the wrong message about drug use.

“I believe strongly that it would make the work of many dedicated drug prevention professionals working in our public and private schools and social service agencies much more difficult," said Noraida Negron. “I also think it would encourage more people to use marijuana, especially young people.”

Many public comments shared a concern over non-violent crimes like marijuana possession being considered okay, but District 7 councilman George Altgelt says this policy isn’t turning a blind eye to drug use, but is designed to not overburden the justice system.

“Why is that important? That is important because when you look at the level of man hours and paperwork and the time these officers are pulled off the streets to go and take someone who is arrested for a non-violent victimless crime. Instead of being out there and preventing crime. Instead of being out there investigating those domestic violence cases, or assault cases, or robbery or theft. Now they’re having to go and address these non-violent cases.”

Laredo police chief Claudio Trevino says other cities that have implemented this policy work together with county officials.

“Locally, we haven’t had those discussions with our sheriff or the DA’s office," said Trevino. "We do have the support of the DA’s office to be able to work with this but we’re in the first part. Discussion right now is the first part. We’re doing it kind of backwards. In cities like San Antonio, cities like Austin, and Houston and Dallas, this conversation starts between departments and county officials to be able to address the issue.”

Chief Trevino suggested bringing this topic to the public safety advisory committee to see what direction to go.

City council did agree with Chief Trevino’s recommendation to bring this topic up with the Public Safety Advisory Committee so they can fine tune the ordinance.

They hope to talk about this further at an upcoming council meeting in December.

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