Retired police chief speaks at City Hall on arrest alternative


Michael Garcia

Retired Police Chief Brendan Cox speaks to City Council on LEAD on Oct. 7.

Michael Garcia, News Reporter

Former New York police chief discusses the negatives of an officer making arrests as an only resort to the San Marcos community.

Retired Police Chief Brendan Cox from Albany, NY held a presentation at City Hall on the benefits of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, also known as L.E.A.D. and the logistics on implementing the program into San Marcos on Monday afternoon.

According to L.E.A.D. National Support Bureau, incarceration for non-violent drug offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 in 1997. The present-day numbers stay similar to 1997.

The presentation was a reaction to a statistical report from 2018 showing racial disparities in arrests made and those who were eligible for cite-and-release, a program that allows individuals to avoid being arrested for classes A, B and C misdemeanors.

“When we look at the jail population, not only do we have those racial disparities, but we also have those with mental disorders,” Cox said.

The crimes that are considered for diversion include drug possession, which does not include marijuana, drug sales or sex work. Crimes that are driven by addiction, mental illness, poverty, or homelessness can be diverted according to LEAD National Bureau. Seattle was the first to implement L.E.A.D. into their justice system in the mid 2000’s and saw a 93 percent success rate.

Assistant Chief Brandon Winkenwerder spoke about how the San Marcos Police Department has a diversion program for mental illness but lacks any drug diversion. In 2011, Police Chief Chase Stapp had implemented this program, which now three officers operate from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. to handle mental illness related calls. The individual who is reported is then sent to a mental health center in Kerrville to receive the attention they need.

“Seven hundred people or more were diverted a year in that program,” Winkenwerder adds.

SMPD has also begun charging marijuana possession as a class C misdemeanor. Instead of charging for the amount, police charge for the container that it is in. Winkenwerder said that he sees these lower crimes being diverted about 40-50%.

“Anything that helps these individuals to get back on track is better for everybody,” Criminal District Attorney Wes Mau said.

There were roughly 40 attendees at the presentation including members from Mano Amiga, MOVE Texas and Texas Rising.

City Council is asked to vote for this implementation by Nov. 4.

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