Few may benefit from city's new 'cite and release' program

San Antonio and Bexar County law enforcement agencies are moving forward with plans to cite and release those caught in violation of some non-violent offenses.

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County and San Antonio are moving forward with cite and release programs.

Essentially, it will allow officers to write a ticket to anyone accused of a low-level, non-violent offense, like possession of marijuana under four ounces.

KENS 5 obtained a memo from SAPD Chief William McManus that was sent to City Manager Sheryl Sculley on Thursday. In the memo, Chief McManus recommends that SAPD follow Bexar County and implement a cite and release program.

Instead of a suspect being arrested, they would receive a misdemeanor citation and a notice to appear in court.

According to the memo, in 2016, SAPD arrested 2,290 people for Class B marijuana possession. SAPD has arrested 1,911 people for the same offense so far in 2017.

What the numbers don't show is how many of these arrests came with other charges. Historically, less than a dozen people are in the Bexar County Jail on any given day for just one non-violent offense.

Chief McManus sent KENS 5 the following statement:

I've had discussions with city council members, the City Manager's office and the DA regarding cite and release. This is an opportunity to be more efficient with officer's time. SAPD will work with the DA's office to iron out the details.

District Attorney Nico LaHood says that the Bexar County cite and release program has been in the works for two years. But at a press conference last week, he said that he didn't know how many people are in jail for a single offense.

KENS 5 requested the number of people booked into the Bexar County Jail who are being held solely for possession of marijuana under 4 ounces. Days went by with no response until Friday morning, when a representative e-mailed and said, "The problem is the word 'solely.' Most of the inmates have other charges."

At least two city council members say that they support cite and release, no matter how small the number of those affected may be.

"Let's assume it's less than 10 people, those are 10 people who forever and ever would have to check off a box on a job application or an application to obtain a license;  a teacher's license, a medical license, a license to be a pilot, a license to be a lawyer," DIstrict 8 Councilman Manny Paleaz said.

"Any action we can take to encourage youth to continue on with their education, with job opportunities, would be a benefit," District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said.

A date has not yet been set for the San Antonio or Bexar County cite and release programs to begin.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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