DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – From North Texas to the Texas Capitol, leaders are coming together in opposition of Dallas County district attorney John Creuzot’s plan for criminal justice reform that is aimed at ending mass incarcerations.
Creuzot’s sweeping changes affect how his office handles certain cases. During his campaign, the district attorney said he would overhaul the criminal justice system.
The changes his office is looking to implement include no longer prosecuting many first-time marijuana offenses.
One of the biggest changes that has caught the attention of many in North Texas is that the office will not prosecute certain criminal theft cases involving items deemed necessary — those motivated by hunger and poverty — unless evidence shows it was for economic gain.
Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Dallas Police Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association are pushing back against Creuzot’s decisions.
“Reform is one thing. Actions that abandon the rule of law and that could promote lawlessness are altogether different… [Texas law] grants no power to criminal district attorneys to categorically rewrite the law,” Abbott and Paxton said in a joint letter. “We hope that you reconsider your position and will take seriously your oath and your charge to enforce Texas law.”
At a press conference, the Dallas Police Association said it’s worried that the message the new reform plan gives is that “it’s okay to steal.”
“Remember, in some parts of this town, all they have is that neighborhood store. If that neighborhood store goes away, those citizens do not have a place to go get those diapers, to get that milk…” said Mike Mata of the DPA. “This is not a political statement. This is not a political agenda. This is public safety.”
The representatives from the police groups say the policy has nothing to do with criminalizing the poor, but that it’s violating the law by not enforcing the law.
“The North Texas police chiefs need to sit around a table with this DA and find a better way. If the DA wants to change, change it in Austin through legislation. You don’t legislate through the bench,” Mata said.
Kavish Singh’s east Dallas food store has plenty of paying customers, but theft comes with the job. He says accountability for a crime should come, as well.
“I get it. Times are tough, but it doesn’t give you the right to take something from me just because you need it,” Singh said. “There has to be more types of repercussion, otherwise it’s free for anyone.”