A Second Look: An Analysis of Persisting Disparities in Dallas Misdemeanor Arrests
“A Second Look: An Analysis of Persisting Disparities in Dallas Misdemeanor Arrests” is a project of the Office of Community Police Oversight in Dallas, Texas, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and organizer Tamara Neal. The authors and the supporters of this report urge the Dallas City Council to implement the recommendations in this report immediately. We thank the following organizations for their support:
- American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
- Dallas Action
- Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition
- Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square
- Faith in Texas
- ICE Out of Tarrant County
- In Defense of Black Lives
- MEASURE Austin
- Mi Familia Vota
- Mothers Against Police Brutality
- Next Generation Action Network
- North Texas Immigration Coalition
- Texas Organizing Project
- Workers Defense Project
Background and Objectives
In 2021, The Leadership Conference Education Fund (The Education Fund), in partnership with the City of Dallas Office of Community Police Oversight (OCPO), released a report on misdemeanor arrests by the Dallas Police Department (DPD) titled “Public Safety in Dallas: An Analysis of Racial Disparities in Low-Level Arrests.” That report highlighted the disproportionate enforcement of misdemeanor offenses on Black and Brown residents.
Since the publication of that report, there have been encouraging steps taken by DPD to decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession based on the report’s recommendation on low-level misdemeanor enforcement. As of April 2021, DPD introduced a change to their internal General Orders, 313.05, which states that given the right conditions (which include no intent to distribute, no companion charges besides a warrant hold, or there is a companion felony drug charge) DPD should no longer arrest or cite an individual with possession of marijuana indicative of personal use, which is considered 2 ounces or less.
As a follow-up to the initial report, The Education Fund has once again partnered with a group of engaged advocates in Dallas to develop this report.
This new publication reviews arrest data from 2018 through 2022 and provides an analysis of the impact of DPD’s instituted general order, which discontinues most arrests of marijuana possession of 2 ounces or less. Like the first report, this one also provides an analysis of other misdemeanor arrests to identify opportunities to minimize police interaction for misdemeanor non-violent offenses, continue decriminalization of misdemeanor offenses, and eliminate disproportionate police arrests of residents of color by the Dallas Police Department. These insights are useful in order to adjust laws, practices, and procedures to align with a more fair and equitable public safety system in Dallas.
- Finding #1: Overall arrests and misdemeanor arrests by the Dallas Police Department continue to decrease.
- Finding #2: Arrests for possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana have significantly decreased.
- Finding #3: Overall racial disparities persist in low-level misdemeanor arrests. Racial disparities are particularly stark in marijuana possession and criminal trespass arrests.
- Finding #4: Drug paraphernalia and public intoxication arrests show that there is more work to be done to reduce the footprint of DPD in the day-to-day lives of Dallas residents.
- Finding #5: The City of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department’s data policies and practices continue to create challenges for transparency, accountability, and analysis.
In accordance with the findings and challenges in this report, there are five policy recommendations for the Dallas City Council, the DPD, and the city manager to consider. If implemented, these recommendations could lessen the impact of misdemeanor laws on the communities the police are supposed to serve, especially those communities who are disproportionately targeted; focus police efforts on crimes that have a higher impact on public safety; and improve transparency, access, and accountability around police data in the City of Dallas.
- DPD should expand the marijuana possession de-enforcement policy from 2 to 4 ounces to align with the Dallas district attorney policy.
- DPD should amend its policies to de-prioritize arrests for other misdemeanors to decrease police interaction with the public around low-level offenses.
- Dallas City Council should, while operating in the bounds of their legal authority, codify DPD’s marijuana possession policy — making it an ordinance not subject to change by leadership transitions within DPD.
- Dallas City Council should create a task force that includes public safety, elected, and community stakeholders to explore how to minimize police interactions and arrests for misdemeanors, low-level arrests including traffic stops, and marijuana possession.
- Dallas City Council should mandate that the Office of Community Police Oversight (OCPO) receive free and unfettered access to police data to help monitor DPD’s data transparency and collection practices and provide the support necessary to ensure that access can be utilized meaningfully.