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Report: Black And Latino Residents In Dallas Are More Likely To Be Arrested For Low-Level Crimes

Elizabeth Myong

Dallas’ Office of Community Police Oversight unveiled a new study looking at arrest data for misdemeanor crimes. The report shows racial disparities in low-level arrests and indicates that inequalities are damaging interactions between police and civilians.

A new report shows African American and Latino residents in Dallas appear to be disproportionately affected by the Dallas Police Department’s (DPD) approach to low-level crime enforcement.

The “Public Safety in Dallas” report was authored by the Office of Community Police Oversight and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. The report, which analyzes arrest data, reveals several eye-opening findings, including that DPD's misdemeanor enforcement seems to be concentrated in 10 of the city’s 105 zip codes. Those 10 zip codes are located in historically Black and Brown neighborhoods.

The report also shows that Blacks and Latinos make up about 73% of the nearly 6,000 misdemeanor crime arrests each year.

The chairman of the Dallas Police Oversight Board, Jesuorobo Enobakhare, said those numbers are sobering and that they prove that there’s an element of racial bias in policing. As an example, Enobakhare points to arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Look, we know that marijuana use is equal across all races. Studies have proven this. Yet, you see a larger number of people of color arrested for possession,” he said.

Enobakhare also said that the number of arrests made for public intoxication is staggering.

“How is it that so many public intoxication arrests can happen in South Dallas?’ he asked rhetorically. “There were so many people on Lower Greenville on Saturday that I am quite sure were intoxicated. There were a lot of police officers out there. I counted 10 squad cars. I didn’t see anyone arrested.”

“Black people in Dallas disproportionately bear the brunt of the enforcement and arrests,” said Director of the Office of Community Police Oversight Tonya McClary. “Changes to city ordinances and DPD’s General Orders can aid in Dallas’ efforts to decriminalize people of color and other marginalized communities for low-level offenses.”

McClary said she hopes this report can open dialogue among police, community members and city leadership about policing priorities.

"The last thing we want is an officer being killed or a civilian being killed because they got pulled over in a traffic stop. So, we have to grapple with these issues,” she said. “Also, I think people have to realize that these issues really are impacting you.”

Among the report’s recommendations: Reducing unnecessary enforcement interactions between police and residents.

In a statement, the DPD said it’s a proponent of police reform and that “any type of inequity is concerning.” DPD says it will review the report and determine if it needs to change policies, procedures or training.

The Study's Findings

The Dallas Police Department Makes Nearly 6,000 Arrests For Low-Level Offenses Every Year.

  • Residents who identify as Black or African American make up 24.3% of Dallas's population, but they represent 44% of the low-level custodial arrests.

Arrests For Low-Level Offenses Are Concentrated In Downtown And Southern Dallas.

  • Ten of the city's 105 zip codes account for 53% of low-level arrests.

Public Intoxication Is The Most Common Low-Level Arrest And Black People Are Overrepresented.

  • Public intoxication accounted for 75.9% of the 17,240 low-level offense arrests. The Black community in Dallas makes up 24.3% of the population and 37.5% of the public intoxication arrests.

Black People Are Significantly Overrepresented In Low-Level, Drug-Related Arrests.

  • Several studies have shown that drug use is common for all races and ethnicities. But Black people in Dallas make up 57.3% of arrests for drug-related low-level offenses.

Around 85% Of Low-Level Drug Arrests Are For Possession Of Less Than Two Ounces Of Marijuana.

  • 90.6% of custodial arrests for marijuana are of Black and Latino individuals in Dallas.

Black People Are Overrepresented In Arrests For Disorderly Conduct And Criminal Trespass.

  • Black residents as a group represent 71.9% of criminal trespass arrests and 55.17% of disorderly conduct arrests.

Dallas Is Wasting Money and Personnel Resources Arresting and Jailing People For Low-Level Marijuana Offenses.

  • According to data provided by the City of Dallas, Dallas police officers spend two-and-a-half to three hours processing low-level arrests. Conversely, the report estimates that cite-and-release practices only take up to one-and-a-half hours of an officer's time.
  • The report also concludes that low-level marijuana offenses pose an exorbitant cost to police departments and the city as a whole. Because of a 2019 bill legalizing the cultivation of hemp, all marijuana enforcement includes testing. Tests can cost $217 for the testing kits alone.
Hady Mawajdeh has been a reporter, producer, and digital editor at KERA since 2016. He is the creator and the co-host of KERA's first narrative podcast, Gun Play. And prior to his work in engagement, he also reported on arts and culture, social justice, and gun rights for the newsroom.