Texas DPS and APD partnership may resume despite controversy.
The potential resumption of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) partnership with the Austin Police Department (APD) has caused mixed reactions among Austin residents, according to city leaders. Interim City Manager Jesus Garza stated that the city needs DPS troopers due to the police department’s staffing shortages. Garza expressed optimism that the partnership could resume within the next few weeks.
DPS first entered into a partnership with APD in March of this year. However, DPS recently halted its operations in Austin to redeploy their troopers to the southern border after Title 42 ended. While DPS’ presence in Austin was initially welcome, data revealed that nine out of ten DPS misdemeanor arrests were of people of color, many of whom lived in East Austin.
Social justice groups like PODER and the Austin Justice Coalition have opposed DPS’ return to Austin. Susana Almanza, director of PODER, stated that people have been living in fear due to DPS’ previous operations in Austin, and many neglected leaving their homes to avoid being stopped. On the other hand, District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly stated that DPS made changes and appreciated feedback from the city council on spreading the officers further across the city.
The Austin City Council’s Public Safety Committee has called a special meeting on May 22 to discuss the future of the DPS/APD partnership. Meanwhile, social justice groups advocate for alternative methods of addressing underlying issues such as housing, education, and poverty, believing that resources could be better allocated. Chris Harris, policy director for the Austin Justice Coalition, expressed little faith in the DPS’ responsiveness to the community’s values based on previous interactions. Despite the varied opinions regarding DPS’ potential return to Austin, city leaders remain optimistic about the possibility.