DISTRICT H

Candidates responding: Cynthia Reyes Revilla, Isabel Longoria

Municipal Court Fines & Fees, Community Service

The Houston City Council and Mayor sets policy for the municipal courts in Houston. These courts hear only Class C Misdemeanors - including such common offenses as minor traffic offenses, public intoxication, and violating other municipal ordinances.


As a City Councilmember, would you eliminate the practice of jailing people just for failure to pay fines and fees to the municipal court, if they are indigent?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I don't think its right to continue the cycle of poverty by jailing people for failure to pay fines or fees.

Would you make one of the performance review issues for municipal judges their treatment of citizens who lack the ability to pay fines? For instance, the decision on whether to rehire municipal judges could include a review of whether they are jailing people for fines and fees related to Class C Misdemeanors or whether they are appropriately waiving fines or converting them into community service when people cannot afford to pay them.


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I think its right to have a means of holding judges accountable to ensure they are meeting community standards for fair treatment.


Would you end or reform the Omnibase program, which is a city contract that allows the municipal court to put a hold on people renewing their drivers’ licenses if they have not paid City of Houston Municipal Court fines or fees?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Reform would be considered

Isabel Longoria: Yes


More than 68,000 warrants for failure to appear and 23,000 warrants for failure to pay were issued by the Houston Municipal Court last year. Would you support reducing warrants for the arrest of people charged with Class C Misdemeanors who fail to appear in court or fail to pay a fine?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: I feel time or payment plan should be available. We don’t want people to disregard their fines and make them responsible.

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Decriminalizing Homelessness

Most Texas cities currently criminalize people for activities they cannot control when they are homeless. For instance, the City of Houston has a "No Camping" ordinance, but no provision of what people can do if they are homeless. Other such offenses include No Sitting or No Lying in a public walkway.

Would you vote to decriminalize the daily activities of people experiencing homelessness?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Arresting individuals experiencing homelessness for merely existing in the world further exacerbates the cycle of poverty and homelessness. If we want to help individuals experiencing homelessness we need to offer wrap around services in existing shelters, expand the number of low-barrier to entry shelter beds, and offer more robust healthcare services. I also support moving to a "housing first" model of care for the City and partners.


Cite and Release Policies

Texas state law allows local police departments to develop policies under which police may issue a citation instead of arresting someone for certain Class B and Class A Misdemeanors. Such "cite and release" eligible offenses include Driving with an Invalid License, Possession of Marijuana, and Theft (between $100 and $750). However, most city police departments lack policies that empower officers to use cite and release on a regular basis, and therefore, jails are filled with people who were booked in on these low-level, nonviolent offenses.


Will you ask the Houston Police Department to implement a broad cite and release policy?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: I understand the over crowding of jails and time and money spent on processing minimal crimes but if we disregard these type of laws then this MAY allow people to push the limits.

Isabel Longoria: Yes


De-Escalation and Use of Force by the Police Department

Other government agencies control many aspects of criminal justice, but the Houston City Council has the most direct control over policing by the Houston Police Department.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department make their “Use of Force” policies public?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to limit the use of choke holds and strangleholds to situations where deadly force is authorized?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using force, especially deadly force?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I support any policies that would incentivize, through training or otherwise, any defensive maneuvers before escalating to deadly use of force.


Will you advocate that HPD revise its use of force policies to restrict shooting at moving vehicles unless the occupants of the vehicle are using deadly force?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, The instances in which the assailants fleeing in a vehicle are stopped by use of deadly force is low. It is not worth risking injury to the officer or bystander to shoot at a moving vehicle.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require that officers exhaust all other means before shooting?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I support any policies that would incentivize, through training or otherwise, any defensive maneuvers before escalating to deadly use of force.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to intervene and stop another officer from using excessive force?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, The bystander effect in these instances can be very strong. We should empower police officers to help each other as teammates de-escalate a situation, not give in to peer pressure or other fears in the moments where a person's life may be in danger.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to report all uses of force including threatening a civilian with a firearm?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I support any policies that would incentivize, through training or otherwise, any defensive maneuvers before escalating to deadly use of force.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require de-escalation of potentially fraught situations?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, I support any policies that would incentivize, through training or otherwise, any defensive maneuvers before escalating to deadly use of force.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to provide specific guidelines for when certain levels of force are authorized?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Will you work with the Houston Police Department to implement training in de-escalation techniques for all officers?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Yes. I think it is important for all officers, regardless of their current position, to be trained on de-escalation techniques to set a priority department wide.


Will you commit to asking the Houston Police Department to develop a policy to release body worn camera video of critical incidents?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Informing people of their rights post-SB 4

SB 4 makes it illegal to instruct law enforcement not to cooperate with ICE.


Will you implement a policy so that before police ask about the immigration status of anyone they have lawfully detained, they inform such persons of their right to remain silent?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Yes. Without knowing if an individual is a citizen, we should take precaution to notify and interact with any individual as if they were a citizen. Therefore, we must protect their right to be informed in such situations of their rights and obligations under the law.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)

Several cities across the country have begun using LEAD programs to avoid arresting people for offenses including prostitution, drug possession, and mental health issues. LEAD programs allow law enforcement officers to connect people directly to the services they need instead of arresting them.


Will you work with the Houston Police Department to implement a LEAD program?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Absolutely. We have excellent data to show that diversion programs reduce recidivism rates, are more rehabilitative, and help close the cycle of poverty. It often costs more to process these individuals through the legal system than find them more appropriate help.


Police Accountability

The Houston Police union contract will be renegotiated in 2020.


Will you negotiate a new police union contract in 2020 that will end the mandatory waiting period before an interview begins in the instances of potential police misconduct?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will eliminate technical reasons for dismissing complaints, such as limited timeframes to report complaints and other issues like this?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Crime and suffering are not limited my technicalities, and neither should justice be.


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will eliminate the practice of giving officers unfair access to information about complaints? For instance, in Houston, the current police union contract entitles officers to see witness statements *before interrogation*, a benefit that no ordinary defendant gets.


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: I would need to look at this deeper this may be needed in order to properly prepare for a case.

Isabel Longoria: Yes, We need to ensure a level playing field in all interaction with law enforcement or the law.


Will you negotiate a new police union contract in 2020 that will ensure that there is full civilian oversight over the police department and disciplinary procedures?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: I will need to look st this deeper to make a decision.

Isabel Longoria: Yes, Transparency and accountability are key to legal justice system in a Democracy.


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will ensure that misconduct is not erased from police records?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Yes

Isabel Longoria: Yes, If we maintain a record for citizens and their criminal activity, then we need to follow those same standards with our own officers.


Tell us about your law enforcement and criminal justice priorities.

Of the issues listed above, what would be your top priority to work on? Why?


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: I would look to create a plan for those who can not pay fines instead of putting them in jail. This doesn’t benefit anyone and for the defendant this adds more issues and digs them deeper in trouble and debt.


Isabel Longoria: I believe the LEAD Diversion program and reforms to the municipal court systems are the most pressing. We currently have a criminalization, not criminal justice system, that requires a radical shift in how we approach infractions in this City. People make mistakes everyday for many complex reasons. Instead of ruining someones life because of simple mistakes, we need to offer holistic changes to our system that allow them to be redeemed, forgiven, and set to live their life with access to help if needed. As such, we should invest in the programs that divert people to help resources or rehabilitative programs, and don't penalize them with fines, in order to have a more compassionate and understanding legal system.


Are there any additional important issues of law enforcement and criminal justice that you want to push? Why? Please talk about specific policy changes you would seek.


Cynthia Reyes Revilla: Not at this time.

Isabel Longoria: I would be interested, if possible at the municipal level, to visit the instances in which court cases are conducted via video. To provide attorneys to defendants at every court, regardless of how big the alleged crime may be. I want defendants who speak other languages to have their case be tried in their preferred language, instead of defaulting to English with translation help. I want officers to receive mandatory bias training, and training related to LGBTQIA+ communities.

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