Evidence just keeps building that Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw is engaging in resume padding in hopes the Legislature will approve his request for 500 additional personnel to secure the Texas border with Mexico – well, that portion of the border in Hidalgo and Starr counties.
Julián Aguilar at the Texas Tribune has a story this morning about state Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, complaining that when he asked for specifics on what DPS is doing on the border, McCraw gave him figures that included the efforts of all law enforcement agencies, state and federal and not just DPS. The whole point of Texas taxpayers spending $12 million a month to secure the border supposedly is because the federal government is not doing the job. So why include federal arrest and drug seizure statistics in his case for more state spending because the feds aren’t doing their job?
On March 12, McCraw told Blanco that 77,130 apprehensions had been made from June to February. McCraw added that OSS is a “multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction law enforcement operation conducted primarily in Starr and Hidalgo Counties” and the figure included individuals observed and reported by all members of the operation, including the Texas military forces.
The individuals were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for processing and subsequent investigations. The DPS doesn’t keep track of the people it turns over to the federal agency, nor does it have any record of their immigration status, McCraw wrote.
As I’ve noted in the past, McCraw is like the hunter who shoots at everything that flies and claims everything that falls.
But Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw is asking the Legislature for 500 more troopers and Texas Rangers to secure the border, along with thousands of new cameras. But just how effective is the DPS effort? A close reading of DPS reports indicates McCraw is like the hunter who shoots at everything that flies and claims everything that falls. DPS statistics are filled with arrests and drug seizures that only a careful reading will tell you were made by other local and federal law enforcement agencies but give the appearance of having been made by DPS.
We also have to worry quite a bit about how the efforts to add 500 DPS Rangers and troopers on the border are going to turn local law enforcement agencies into training centers for the state police. That puts part of the expense of training officers on local taxpayers and then retasks officers from local crimes to drug and human trafficking interdiction.
In promoting his border security bill in the House, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen fended off questions from Rio Grande Valley lawmakers who were worried about the state “poaching” of officers by saying he wanted to be careful not to hurt local law enforcement. Then he quoted Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. Guerra as saying the best state trooper will be an officer “I trained.” Guerra said something completely different recently when interviewed by the McAllen Monitor:
However, Guerra said the Sheriff’s Office should resist being a “training ground for DPS.” He said he could envision a scenario where, every four years, his investigators leave for the state agency.
Also, some lawmakers seem to have a misconception of the function of DPS troopers, Guerra said. They enforce traffic laws and protect homeland security, but they don’t investigate robberies and murders, he said.
With DPS’s hiring surge, Guerra said he’s worried about the Sheriff’s Office ability to investigate major crimes.
The same story quoted McCraw as admitting he is having trouble moving troopers from other parts of Texas to the Valley.
“We have people who are already transferring out before they get there,” he said. “They already got their orders in, they’re waiting for the next opening back east and they’re out of there. You can’t become a part of the community with an idea like that, leave your family behind, you got a trailer home. It’s important to become part of that community.”
As the House takes up its version of the state budget today, both conservatives and liberals should be asking the hard question: What is the state really getting for its proposed $400 million in additional spending? Drug smuggling and human trafficking are major problems for the state, but can Steve McCraw prove he is effectively duplicating the services of federal law enforcement agencies? If he can, then give him the money. If he can’t, then it is not worth almost a half billion dollars of the Texas taxpayers’ money just so you can campaign next year on having done something to secure the border.