SA Stands’s Cite & Release Demands
Over the last three years, the SA Stands coalition has been demanding for San Antonio leaders to introduce and pass a strong cite and release ordinance that will reduce thousands of arrests for citation-eligible offenses, keep families together, and reduce the devastating consequences of having a record. It is time for a new city council to codify and make cite and release into an ordinance that will eliminate discretionary arrests for citation-eligible offenses, increase data transparency from COSA, and most importantly, keep thousands of families together!
We are asking for new San Antonio City Council leaders to commit to the following:
- Introduce and pass a community-driven cite and release ordinance within your first 100 days that will incorporate the following community demands:
- Receive input from directly impacted people: As with any city ordinance that directly impacts the community, the city council must consider input from those most affected. This input should come from local community organizations and advocates, but more importantly, from the voices of the people who have been most impacted by the system directly. Further, all cite and release contacts should be equally enforced so that people with previous system involvement are not automatically alienated from this policy’s purpose and benefits.
- Include limitations on police officer discretion: Even when we act with good intentions, all of our actions incorporate the explicit and implicit biases that permeate our society. The only way to ensure cite and release benefits all San Antonians equally is to guide officer discretion through an ordinance. An ordinance adopted by the city council mandating citations for eligible offenses will limit unnecessary arrests to only be applicable within certain exceptions.
- Expand forms of acceptable IDs: Many of our community’s most vulnerable members currently cannot meet the ID requirements of cite and release. We need an ordinance that includes additional forms of ID, such as library cards, student IDs, and church membership cards. This approach will ensure that our most vulnerable populations will benefit from a program that could save them from the life-long consequences of an arrest record.
- Produce robust and timely data collection: Public data that is comprehensive and timely is crucial to ensuring accountability in implementing this ordinance. It is necessary that this data expressly illustrates trends and all other relevant data on the enforcement of this policy and reports information regarding the outcomes for those who have received citations and who are then assigned to a particular diversion program. Reporting from the San Antonio Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office has been limited, and commitments to making these reports public have been extremely minimal. An ordinance would ensure that the data necessary for the efficacy, transparency, and accountability needed for such a policy would remain relevant and predictable.
- Include additional citation-eligible offenses: Many community members are still being arrested for certain misdemeanors designated by the State of Texas as eligible under cite and release. Although crimes that involve theft or destruction of property elicit strong reactions, a policy that does not emphasize alternatives to arrest and incarceration fails to truly address the root causes that often play a significant role in the commission of these offenses. Offenses such as graffiti, driving without a license, and most other Class C misdemeanors should not automatically result in a devastating arrest record.
- Commit to work with SA Stands community leaders and directly impacted community members throughout the language implementation and execution process.
- A strong cite and release ordinance will stop arrest for citation-eligible offenses such as Class C, and certain Class A and B misdemeanors. Saving community members from the harmful, life-long consequences of having an arrest record.
- A community-driven cite and release ordinance would prevent an average of 11,000 arrests per year in our communities. That means 11,000 families not being harshly impacted by the criminal legal system and millions of tax dollars saved that could be put into real community needs (like housing, healthcare, social services, etc.)
- The current cite and release administrative policy implemented by law enforcement and city leaders, has fallen short of its intended goals and has proven insufficient at protecting Black people and communities of color. In one year of implementing a cite and release administrative policy, SAPD prioritized arrests over citations, with 4,143 people being arrested, and only 2,304 receiving citations. Meaning, more than 4K families were harshly impacted by this action. Additionally, after a year of implementing a cite and release policy, people of color in San Antonio are still being arrested at higher rates than white people. Even though Black people are 6.9% of the overall population, and whites are 24.8%, they are both arrested 15% of the time.
- A cite and release ordinance is one tool for our communities to fight back against systems of policing, criminalization and incarceration. An ordinance will make non-carceral alternatives, such as citations, tickets and verbal warnings the default action for police officers, rather than a choice. Additionally, it would mandate data transparency and regular reporting to the public.