Austin Police Restructure Cite-and-Release Standards

Redefining nonviolent arrestable offenses

Austin Police Assistant Chief Troy Gay (Photo by John Anderson)

Austin Police Assistant Chief Troy Gay spoke Wed­nesday about the department's implementation of a few updated policies in accordance with the Freedom Cities resolution that City Council passed in June. Essentially, the changes – effective today, Nov. 1 – curtail the discretion responding officers will have to decide whether to arrest someone for a nonviolent misdemeanor or simply cite them, erring on the side of said citations. Most notably, the new policy will expand eligibility for cite-and-release to class A and B misdemeanor possession of an illegal substance charges in penalty group 2 (which includes K2), class A graffiti offenses (ranging from $750-2,500 of damage), and class A offenses for driving with an invalid license. APD also whittled down the amount of cite-and-release disqualifiers from 11 circumstances to four; offenders must have either exposed themselves in a sexual manner, specifically requested to see a magistrate judge or refused to sign the citation, posed a threat to themselves or others, or been unable to positively identify themselves. (Gay said APD is expanding the tools officers have to identify offenders who can't otherwise do so themselves.) Gay said the changes are the result of conversations with a working group that will continue to meet monthly for the next year to iron out similar policy shortcomings, with a focus on Driving While License Invalid infractions. He said APD met with County Attorney David Escamilla last week to scheme up some "alternatives to being arrested" that the two offices hope to unveil soon.

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