Pot citations possible instead of booking, top Chicago cop says


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Jun 21, 2007
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In a potential shift in attitude, Chicago police may begin issuing citations to people caught with small amounts of marijuana instead of locking them up and booking them, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said today.

The superintendent’s remarks came after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle highlighted last week how offenders arrested for possessing small quantities of drugs often clog up the system, only to have their cases later dismissed by judges.

McCarthy said he talked about the issue with Mayor Rahm Emanuel as far back as May. He insisted police will keep on arresting people for marijuana offenses, but said the arrestees may get a citation or a summons to appear in court, rather than being booked.

“We will continue to make arrests for illegal behavior, whether it’s public urination or whether it’s carrying a firearm. It’s really that simple,” McCarthy said after joining Emanuel and Ald. Deborah Graham, 29th, at an anti-violence march in the Austin neighborhood. “We’re looking at different arrest processing, not not making the arrests.”

Police officials are at this point only considering changing the marijuana policy, according to McCarthy. “It’s not cooked yet,” he said, but added “I think that people are going to see some changes down the road.”

In any case, people caught with marijuana who police find to be guilty of more serious infractions or who have outstanding arrest warrants will continue to be processed, McCarthy said.

“If somebody’s not properly identified, they can’t receive a summons, and if they have a warrant, they can’t receive a summons,” the superintendent said. “So we want to make sure we’re getting the right people. You don’t want to get the wrong people and put them in the system.”

McCarthy said he can’t concern himself with whether judges tend to dismiss petty drug cases. But he wants officers to be able to handle such infractions as quickly as possible so they can get back out on patrol.

"My problem is figuring out the best way to get those things prosecuted in an efficient manner so that I can turn my cops back around and get them back on the street quickly,” he said.


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