Dallas police may soon take advantage of a new state law that allows officers to write tickets for nonviolent offenses like criminal mischief rather than taking scofflaws to jail, reports the Dallas Morning News. Police and prosecutors are working on a program that would allow the courts to handle misdemeanor citations under the new law. “Our patrol officers want this,” said Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop. “They see it as a valuable tool that will allow them to stay on their beat more.”
Police officials expect the program to improve response times because officers could write citations rather than spend time at the jail booking an offender on a minor criminal violation. Dallas County Jail officials hope the new process eases overcrowding in the troubled lockup, which has repeatedly failed inspections. The jail’s population stands at about 6,000 inmates, down from a high last year of nearly 7,000. How much impact the program will have is unknown because it remains to be seen how many officers will choose to issue a ticket rather than take an offender to jail. Last year police made nearly 3,400 arrests for the offenses for which officers would gain the authority to issue citations, according to police statistics. The potential for cost savings could be dramatic. It costs more than $41 a day to house an inmate.