Dallas PD Chief Hall defends continued low-level crime arrests during pandemic

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price sparred Thursday over whether fewer people should be arrested for lower level crimes like misdemeanor theft cases and marijuana possession.

The discussion comes about seven weeks after the Dallas County Sheriff's Office request that agencies avoid certain arrests during the pandemic. Hall defended her officer's arrests.

“We are being good stewards,” Hall said. “There are some misdemeanor subjects who are prolific repeat offenders.”

Price confronted that policy, showing stats that Dallas police are arresting more people for marijuana and misdemeanor vehicle burglaries than other county police agencies and minorities are still far more likely to have contact with police.

“And African Americans three times more likely to be arrested,” Price said.

Price’s push for fewer arrests come as the Dallas County Sheriff is trying to keep the jail population down, due to the spread of COVID-19.

Hall said a map of narcotics arrests showed them in areas plagued most by crime.

“Goes directly to residents looking to police to make sure their vehicles aren’t burglarized four times over and over, that businesses can operate without criminal trespass,” Hall said.

The chief said that cracking down on low-level drug cases is a way to prevent bigger crimes.

“Marijuana is 35 percent of my murders, 75 percent of my agg assaults and 70 percent of my robberies,” Hall said.

But Price noted that the district attorney has rejected 80 percent of marijuana possession cases submitted to his office.

“They are going to be released right back into community. You spent four hours officers have, cost for processing,” Price said.

Hall did say that since the sheriff's letter went out, DPD has reduced arrests for low-level crimes by 50 percent.