When he ran for DA in 2018, Creuzot viewed it as a way to continue the work he had already been doing: keeping people who were not dangerous criminals out of jail and prison. The philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros supported Creuzot along with the Texas Organizing Project, which had volunteers knock on some 250,000 doors on his behalf, according to Villalobos. They felt that this particular DA race was “pivotal in contributing to our mission of ending mass incarceration,” Villalobos said. Creuzot won 60 percent of the vote.
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Amid the early backlash over his petty-theft policy change, Creuzot worked to control the narrative as best he could. He has framed his theft policy, as well as a more recent reduction in charges for low-level drug offenses, in a practical, numbers-focused way that has served him well in the past: It is cheaper and allows for a better allocation of resources. But Creuzot, who is African American, also shares a philosophical stance with many reformer DAs in more liberal states. “There’s no question that people of color are targeted by law-enforcement strategies,” he said. “The way I look at it is, if that’s going to happen, I have no control over it, but I can exercise my discretion and put balance back in the system.”
In June, in response to a spike in violent crime, the governor sent troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to Dallas to assist with policing. Creuzot, preferring to address the problem through community-police partnerships, publicly opposed the decision. Over the summer DPS issued more than 11,000 warnings. “Eleven thousand citations means you have pulled over at least 11,000 people,” Creuzot said. “What’s the cause and effect between citations and tickets and arresting people for traffic violations, and the murder rate?” By August, the warnings had reached nearly 12,000. The homicides had slowed, but not stopped, and were still on pace to set a 10-year record.
When I interviewed Creuzot, he most wanted to talk about how he might address social crises outside the usual realm of his office, such as mental-health issues and homelessness. For example, he has campaigned to increase the number of shelters in Dallas to keep up with a rising homeless population. “We’ll want to put up a homeless shelter in one councilman’s district, and the immediate response will result in the withdrawal of the plan and apologizing for the plan,” he said. He contrasted this with the experience of members of the African American community, whose concerns about aggressive policing are met with limited response. “There’s a stark contrast in who you are, and where you are, and how you are dealt with,” he said.
While some police feel alienated by Creuzot, critics of the police feel that he hasn’t gone far enough—perhaps because he doesn’t want to upset them more than he already has. In three recent high-profile incidents of police violence in Dallas County, Creuzot has dismissed charges, or declined to bring them in the first place. “These three cases to me would indicate that Creuzot is not going to be aggressive on police brutality,” says John Fullinwider, a co-founder of the organization Mothers Against Police Brutality. But Creuzot said his office couldn’t bring charges in these cases, because there simply wasn’t enough evidence.