The Austin Police Department (APD) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) collaboration may resume operations soon, stated APD Assistant Police Chief James Mason at the Austin Public Safety Commission meeting on June 5. The collaboration faced controversy, resulting in its suspension when DPS sent troopers to the Texas-Mexico border last month.
Initially, DPS joined APD in March to combat rising crime rates during a staffing shortage. However, services in Austin halted when Title 42 ended, and DPS troopers were sent to the border. Mason gave an update at the meeting, stating that the partnership’s resumption depended on where DPS could lend support. Nonetheless, Mason received reports that the collaboration could start in two weeks.
Mason praised the partnership at the meeting, as it reduced response times, decreased crashes, and helped reduce violent crime in high-risk zones. With the absence of DPS troopers, crime rates surged. However, the partnership also had its detractors, with some activists testifying why it should end.
Bill Wallace of the Austin Justice Coalition retorted, stating that the partnership was not about safety. Chris Harris, the coalition’s policy director, cited data that showed 88% of DPS misdemeanor arrests were of black and brown people. These statistics raised concerns about racial profiling for the coalition.
However, Mason rebutted this claim by stating that warrant arrests accounted for 97 of the 88%. Offenders with warrants must be arrested immediately, leaving no room for discretion. While DPS’s presence could not solve APD’s long-term manpower shortages, they asked for recruitment funding from the city council to plug the over 300 vacancies.
Wallace asserted that DPS was not the answer, stating that trust and mutual respect were absent. Many advocates and critics alike agree that the partnership’s resumption should always consider ethical standards, highlighting its divisive nature among residents and authorities.
The June 19 Austin City Council’s Public Safety Committee will revisit the DPS and APD’s operations to resume the partnership.