HOUSTON (FOX 26) - They had all been sworn in already, so the swearing in ceremony at NRG Park was just ceremonial. But it was a real opportunity to see how the winds of political change have blown through the halls of Harris County power. Criminal justice reform was a major gust in the storm that brought a new DA and new Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to power.
“At the end of the day we need to keep our community safe. This is a smart way to do it, save money and also come up with more effective results that leads to less recidivism,” said Gonzalez.
He's talking about the impact new DA Kim Ogg's policy of ticketing but not arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Ogg says that will mean fewer people in the Harris County Jail. Which means more resources for the new sheriff. Gonzalez says he's going to focus more on investigations.
FOX 26 political analyst Mustafa Tameez agrees the policy shift could work.
“When you think that half the county budget goes into public safety, if you can divert people from going into the system by just writing a citation, the amount of money we would save could go into hard crime,” Tameez said.
Ogg made that policy the centerpiece of her campaign in this election and during her previous bid. Gonzalez says he an Ogg are on the same page on this issue, and like the new DA, he insists they will still enforce the law.
“It's not about giving anyone a free pass," Gonzalez said. "They will be held accountable through the court system or a treatment or diversion program. It's not a free pass. We just have to be smarter about how we do it. We're not succeeding with a revolving door”