Texas Capital Passes Resolution Directing Police to Avoid Misdemeanor Arrests

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The city council of Austin, Texas, unanimously passed a resolution last week directing police to make fewer arrests for non-violent crimes.

The measure directs police to avoid arrests for misdemeanors, including those for "smoking marijuana, having drug paraphernalia, and taking part in petty theft," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Greg Casar, an Austin City Councilman, pushed for the resolution because he said the non-violent arrests targeted minorities.

"Poor people of color in our city are over-punished and over-incarcerated," Casar said. "If people are being arrested less, we can also prevent people from being put in the deportation pipeline."

"We found that black and Latino residents comprised 75 percent of discretionary arrests for driving with licenses invalid in the city even though they are 45 percent of the population of the city," he added. "Black residents are seven times more likely to be arrested for low-level marijuana violations despite having comparable rates of usage of marijuana to white residents."

Austin Police Association President Ken Casady said the union supported curtailing arrests but said the data cited by Casar was misleading.

"We do arrest more blacks and Hispanics but the problem we have is that people do not want to look at the reasons why," said Casady, adding he would not tolerate the police being called racist.

He said blacks and Latinos used marijuana at a higher rate than other demographics.

 The city also passed a resolution requiring police officers to inform immigrants being questioned about their status that they do not need to answer those questions, as part of an effort to resist Trump administration policy against "sanctuary cities." Austin declared itself the first "Freedom City" in Texas with the practice, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R.) signed a law last year allowing police officers to ask about the immigration status of anybody arrested or detained.

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