The Creuzot Crucible: Critic raves over entire cast's performance in media-driven melodrama

2019-04-20

The kerfuffle over Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot's rather modest decarceration proposals, discussed in this Grits post upon their announcement, has taken on rather telling and delicious overtones I had not expected.

What a delight! The DA's law enforcement critics came off like a Greek chorus of scalded cats. And I loved Governor Abbott in his new role as Inspector Javert!

The howls of recrimination from the usual tuff-on-crime crowd, using every nasty tactic in their rhetorical arsenal, could be heard from orbit. But the public hasn't sided with the lock-em-up hard-liners as reflexively as in the past, and so far, Creuzot hasn't backed down.

Best of all, at least for those of us who view all this weeping and gnashing of teeth as essentially performance art and judge it based on its entertainment value: Because Creuzot's policies are actually entirely modest and reasonable - not remotely as aggressive as other recently elected "progressive prosecutors" like Larry Krasner or Rachel Rollins - his critics look like buffoons, making outlandish claims that everyone can see on their face overstate and over-dramatize the issue.

The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas immediately went to their go-to move: they called for Creuzot to straight-up resign, the equivalent of their frequent "no confidence" votes staged whenever a police chief disagrees with their affiliates locally. Notably, this tactic was promulgated in books and lectures by CLEAT founder Ron DeLord for two decades, most prominently in a police-union leadership textbook titled, "Police Association Power, Politics, and Confrontation."

However, DeLord, who is a self-branded acolyte of the Saul-Alinsky school of organizing, has more recently walked back his call for confrontation tactics by police unions, suggesting police had gained so much power that they now face an inevitable backlash. And this appears to Grits to be an example where the union has overreached.

A CLEAT spokesman declared, "When he was campaigning for the office, we don't remember not prosecuting crime as part of his platform." But that just shows they weren't paying attention during the campaign. The group I work with, Just Liberty, co-hosted a DA candidate forum in Dallas where Creuzot discussed non-prosecution of petty offenses and promised to produce this memo with the details within a few months in office. He wasn't specific about up-to-$750 theft, but he was about criminal trespass, and in general he ran on a platform of reducing incarceration, de-emphasizing low-level offenses, services instead of prosecution for the homeless, and using prosecutorial discretion to stop punishing the poor. No one who heard his campaign pitch would be surprised at this recent news.

Here's the absurd part: Dallas PD isn't arresting in these low-level shoplifting cases, anyway, precisely because they're too small-time to bother. Reported the Morning News, "the Dallas Police Department, shorthanded as it is, can't respond quickly to low-priority crimes like shoplifting." So there's some blame shifting going on here: Cops aren't arresting in these cases anyway, and have found an opportunity to shift responsibility to the the District Attorney. Even if they get what they want, though, the storekeepers aren't better off.
Creuzot is trying to make the best of a bad situation; the union is taking politicized pot shots.

Some of the local municipal police chiefs joined in the fun, even going to far as declaring they'd begin to prosecute these thefts in municipal courts as Class C misdemeanors. Those offenses do not carry jail time as a possible punishment, only a fine up to $500. But we're only talking about cases in which poor people are stealing basic necessities. How is fining them going to help? Who imagines they can or would pay?

Like I said, delicious! The unexamined assumptions and muddled thinking are just splayed out for everyone to see.

Creuzot's memo turned out to be a Rorschach test that tells us more about whomever is interpreting it than it does about the practical effects of his policies.

The most brilliant, glorious example of that had to be Governor Greg Abbott's pair of tweets. They were amazing, a magnificent fusion of Inspector Javert, Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, and Scrooge McDuck!

Opined the Governor, "If someone is hungry they can just steal some food. If cold, steal a coat. Where does it end? It's wealth redistribution by theft." The responses were perfect. I can't do them justice, go read them for yourself.

Then, after pausing for a bit to construct a tweet declaring all property taxes are theft (!), Abbott weighed back in, responding to a constituent who suggested that the problem of hungry people stealing food or people stealing a coat in the winter to keep warm might be resolved by other means.
TX provides for the hungry and needy through TANF and other programs. You proved my point. You & others reveal that STEALING is ok when people want things: cell phone, tire, lawn mower, almost any item you see in a store or in the open. That's socialism.
So let's be clear: Government programs that help the poor? Those are not "socialism." Instead, socialism is direct theft of private property by criminals, says the governor. (Like property taxes, apparently.) In his mind, police aren't arresting criminals, they're arresting socialists!
Again, utterly delicious!

Grits predicts this will all blow over soon because nobody has the authority to oust Creuzot over it, he's perfectly within his rights to exercise his discretion this way, and in fact if a Republican DA had done it, Abbott likely would never have said a word.
Again, to my mind, this should all be viewed as performance art. Everyone had a role to play in the media-driven melodrama, and the entire cast hammed it up admirably.
I'm already looking forward to the sequel.
Pat Monks