Crack policy puts Harris County DA at odds with police

By BRIAN ROGERS, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Updated 11:14 p.m., Monday, December 5, 2011

A man is stopped by a Houston police officer for riding his bicycle in the middle of the night without a headlight. He is patted down, and the officer finds a grungy glass pipe with the sooty residue of crack cocaine. The bicyclist does not have any other drugs and is not implicated in any other crimes.

Before Jan. 1, 2010, the tiny amount of crack in the pipe, comparable to a half grain of rice, meant the officer could charge the man with felony drug possession and lock him up.

After that day, the officer could only give him a misdemeanor ticket for drug paraphernalia and send him on his way - an administrative change at the Harris County District Attorney's Office that infuriates Houston police.

With election season in full swing, the two-year-old policy is pitting District Attorney Pat Lykos against six Harris County police groups that last week announced a vote of "no-confidence" in the sitting DA.

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