SAN ANTONIO -- Bexar County District Attorney-Elect Joe Gonzales takes office January 1.
- Program may include possession of marijuana
- Originally implemented by DA LaHood
- Plans to speak with LaHood's staff
On Wednesday, he expressed that he plans to review how to revive a seldom-used cite-and-release program. The program allows individuals suspected of certain low-level misdemeanors to take a class and pay a fine rather than have an arrest on their record.
It is one of the district attorney-elect’s first priorities for his first few days in office, he said, a day after he soundly defeated Republican Tylden Shaeffer in the election.
“That has been a pet project of mine,” Gonzales said of the program, which would likely include possession of small amounts of marijuana. “I want to know how to do it on a larger scale.”
Gonzales’ detailed plan to implement cite-and-release in Bexar County comes almost a year after District Attorney Nico LaHood, whom Gonzales defeated in the Democratic primary, announced a plan of his own.
LaHood’s program was marred by problems from the beginning. Officials with his office were working to finalize the policy two days before LaHood announced it was available for use, according to records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.
The pilot program was rolled out in partnership with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office first, and within 60 days, the district attorney’s office said it intended to provide guidelines to the dozens of other law enforcement agencies in Bexar County so they could use the program, too, if they so choose.
At the end of 60 days, many department heads said they still had not received any guidance regarding the program. In total, 31 citations were issued during the pilot program.
Gonzales said Wednesday he needs to speak with LaHood’s staff to determine what exactly went wrong, but he suspects it has to do with a lack of guidance from the district attorney’s office.
He said he has already spoken to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar about reviving the cite-and-release program, which they support.
Gonzales also intends to reach out to officials with other police agencies in Bexar County to discuss the program with them, too.
“I want to go back in there and say ‘Look, we’re going to start from scratch. We’re going to start anew. Let’s work together,’” Gonzales said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.