Travis County’s top attorneys address criticism during virtual panel

Travis County’s top attorneys addressed criticism Monday during a virtual panel discussion on crime in downtown Austin.

For months police unions have accused Travis County Attorney Delia Garza and District Attorney Jose Garza of acting out of bounds — enabling a loop of catch and release involving dangerous criminals.

"We can only hold people accountable when we have sufficient evidence to do that. And I just want to take this opportunity to let people know that there is a much higher legal burden to convict someone of a crime than there is to arrest someone or to accuse them of a crime," said District Attorney Garza.

County Attorney Garza offered clarification on her office’s new early review process. Stating there is a lot of "misinformation" surrounding the policy.

"Instead of doing it after somebody has gone through the magistrate's process, we've been able to do it earlier. The only cases that are ripe for this early case review are nonviolent cases — are cases that we determine do not pose a threat to public safety," she said.

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told FOX 7 Austin "The way law reads is that affidavit is supposed to go from the officer to the judge to let him or her make that decision."

Critics have also accused the district and county attorney of lax prosecution policies tying the hands of law enforcement.

"The District Attorney’s Office has enacted no policies that would prevent any law enforcement from investigating or making arrests in any type of offense drug deals," said District Attorney Garza. A summary of his office’s policies can be read here.

County Attorney Garza also disputed the accusation explaining "We are still prosecuting criminal trespass cases."

Casaday said the remarks were "partially true but they're not prosecuting cases like they used to."

Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon participated in the virtual panel discussion Monday but did not respond to the District and County Attorney’s remarks. Monday the City announced Chacon is one of seven finalists in its search for a new chief of police

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