AUSTIN, Texas -- A push for what's called progressive prosecution is getting pushback from the Austin Police Association due to concern that district attorneys in other large cities are making lists of crimes they'll refuse to prosecute.
- Austin Police Association concerned by "extreme pressure" on prosecutors
- "Progressive Prosecution" relaxes penalties for low-level crimes
- District Attorney Margaret Moore decides on case-by-case basis
Union President Ken Casaday posted on the police association's page what he titled a "Community Alert," which said local prosecutors "are under extreme pressure from activist[s] to adopt some or all" of the reforms outlined by Boston's incoming district attorney.
On her campaign website, Rachael Rollins published a list of 15 offenses she will decline to prosecute.
"Instead of prosecuting, these cases should be (1) outright dismissed prior to arraignment or (2) where appropriate, diverted and treated as a civil infraction for which community service is satisfactory, restitution is satisfactory or engagement with appropriate community-based, no-cost programming, job training or schooling is satisfactory," Rollins's campaign website said.
The list of the incoming Suffolk County, Mass., district attorney includes:
- Larceny under $250
- Disorderly conduct
- Disturbing the peace
- Receiving stolen property
- Minor driving offenses (operating with a suspend or revoked license)
- Breaking and entering (vacant property or where it is for the purpose of sleeping or seeking refuge from the cold and there is no actual damage to property)
- Wanton or malicious destruction of property
- Threats (excluding domestic violence)
- Minor in possession of alcohol
- Drug possession
- Drug possession with intent to distribute
- Resisting arrest
Casaday said some of the offenses Rollins included go too far.
"No way would we ever get to a lack of prosecution for burglary of a habitation, trespassing on somebody's home," he said. "Our officers don't need to be out there endangering their lives every day enforcing laws that our county prosecutors would refuse to charge or indict."
Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition said some of the proposed actions have been in practice Travis County for years.
"It's kind of weird that what's going on in Boston would bother [the police union] so much because it's already happening here," he said.
District Attorney Margaret Moore says jail diversion programs date back to her time as Travis County attorney overseeing misdemeanor crimes in the early 1980s.
"We do not want to incarcerate people who have mental problems or drug problems," she said. "We are working very hard to divert those people out of our system. I believe we here in Travis County are finding better ways to reach the same goals [as prosecutors in other cities]."
Moore said she handles each offense on a case-by-case basis, and she encourages other prosecutors to do what's best for their communities.