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City, State Attorney agree to pre-arrest deflection program

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Gainesville City Commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding a Pre-arrest Deflection Program at its June 17 meeting.

The MOU is between the City of Gainesville (Gainesville Police Department) and the Office of the State Attorney (SAO), Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida. The purpose of the MOU is to outline a partnership between the SAO pre-arrest Deflection Program and the GPD Pre-Arrest Initiative. The document states the goals of the program:

“In addition, this MOU is to acknowledge the goal of the Gainesville Pre-Arrest Adult Civil Initiative which is to better serve the neighbors of Gainesville and address minor criminal behavior and behavior patterns, as well as social/emotional, mental health, and substance abuse issues. Within this goal is to hold individuals accountable, meet the needs of the victims, and address underlying factors that contributed to the behavior and behavior patterns, while deflecting participants in the program from the Criminal Justice System.” 

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The agreement states that GPD agrees to refer individuals to the SAO Deflection Program by giving them a Gainesville Pre-Arrest (GPA) Form for all misdemeanors other than the following:

1. Domestic and/or Dating Violence
2. Domestic and/or Dating Violence Injunctions
3. Violations of Pre-Trial Release
4. Loitering and Prowling
5. Animal Abuse
6. DUI (and Other Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses) 
7. Stalking
8. Exposure of Sexual Organs 

After the GPA Form is completed, it goes to GPD’s Records Division, where the GPA Program Coordinator will make a recommendation and forward all the forms to the SAO within 3 business days. The recommendation will be based on “how often the individual has been referred for deflection, the success or not of the individual’s last deflection, and any factors not necessarily captured in the individual’s arrest history (if there is such history).”

The SAO, in turn, will “refrain from initiating a criminal case” but “will instead review the GPA” and the recommendation to determine whether the individual is qualified to participate in SAO’s Deflection Program. Once the individual completes the deflection requirements, all alleged charges against the individual will be closed “without court action or referral.”

During discussion of the MOU, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said, “I think this is a good step forward. I don’t think it’s as far as I would like to go, but I think this is a great step forward that will be beneficial for criminal justice reform in our community and helping to keep people from being arrested.”

Mayor Lauren Poe added, “You know, we laid out a challenge about five years ago to find a way to arrest fewer people. We made the challenge very simple. But of course, that’s not a simple task. So this is one piece of how we get there. Offering folks opportunities other than going to jail. And, you know, helping folks sort of build back better when they find themselves in a spot of trouble. But this is not going to solve all of our equity problems on its own. So we just need to continue to work towards changing our systems so they work better for everybody and so they recalibrate towards equity.”

The motion to adopt the MOU passed unanimously.

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