Plano Police to halt low level cannabis arrests


On March 29, Plano Chief of Police Ed Drain sent a memo to all personnel, announcing that the department would no longer make custodial arrests for low level cannabis possession in the largest city in Collin County. This announcement came a few weeks after Marvin Scott III died in police custody in the Collin County Detention Center after being arrested by Allen police for the possession of a single joint. Seven officers involved with Scott’s death have since been fired following an internal investigation. Further details regarding the ongoing investigation by Texas Rangers have yet to be released.

The memo states that while custodial arrests will be halted for Class B misdemeanor possession — less than two ounces of cannabis — officers will continue to seize cannabis and can continue to use its presence as probable cause for “further inquiries as may be indicated.” Officers may continue to make arrests for Class A misdemeanor possession and Felony offenses involving cannabis.

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According to a press release from Plano Police Department, instead of custodial arrests for Class B misdemeanors, officers may issue citations for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, which is a class C misdemeanor. 

The release also indicated that this change was initially considered after a detailed review of arrest costs and trends in November 2020, which indicated a racial disparity in arrests.

“Like many jurisdictions across the nation, there is a disparity in African Americans’ arrests for possession of minor amounts of marijuana compared to Whites, even though national drug use surveys show Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics use marijuana at similar rates. This disparity in arrest data also contributed to the change in policy,” the statement read. 

Minister Dominique Alexander of the Next Generation Action Network in Dallas says that his organization conducted outreach to various police departments across Collin County, urging them all to halt arrests for low level cannabis possession following the death of Marvin Scott III.

“We sent a proposal to multiple police departments and were able to have an audience with Chief Drain,” Alexander told the Dallas Weekly.

When contacted for further comment, Public Information Officer David Tilley said that the timing of the announcement “happened to be coincidental” with the death of Marvin Scott III. 

“Due to that, Chief does not want any further comment from our department beyond the news release as to not influence or create any issues with their investigation,” Tilley continued.

Alexander was pleased to see the release of the memo, but hopes that further reforms will come. 

“I think that it’s a good start to get the largest police department in Collin County to do this. I think this helps us with neighboring police departments, like Allen,” Alexander says. “And I believe we can go a step further, just like in Dallas. I think we can start having a conversation with [the] Plano City Council to get full decriminalization.”

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