Nearly 90% of DPS misdemeanor arrests are people of color, data shows

Nine out of ten misdemeanor arrests made by DPS in Austin are people of color. This comes from newly released demographic data from the Travis County Attorney’s Office from the City of Austin and DPS partnership.

City and county officials are calling this data extremely concerning. It is a fear they have had from the start of this DPS partnership.

It has been a month since the City of Austin partnered with DPS. Demographic data obtained from County Attorney Delia Garza’s office reveals DPS has made 167 misdemeanor arrests in Austin within the last four weeks, March 30-April 22:

  • Latino: 108 arrests (64.7%)
  • Black: 38 arrests (22.75%)
  • White: 20 arrests (12%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 1 arrest (0.06%)

"Deeply troubling, but not surprising. This is exactly the concerns that communities like mine in Southeast Austin were raising from the moment that we learned of this deal of having DPS troopers within the City of Austin," said Council Member Vanessa Fuentes.

Census data shows Hispanic or Latino makeup for about 33% of the population in Austin. White is about 66%, Black is about 8%, and Asian is less than 1%.

"I do think that we need to make adjustments and that's what I'm committed to doing, is ensuring that we are deploying these troopers in a way that makes sense, in a way that does not have a disparate impact on our communities of color, and in a way that truly gets to the objective of the operation, which is to reduce violent crime given the staffing shortages that we have within the Austin Police Department," said Fuentes.

Fuentes is calling for communication and transparency from DPS. Something the Austin council has been calling for since their last work session.

"It is my hope that we can have the transparency that we are demanding at this point and I have called for it for four weeks now and will continue to call for it," she said.

County Attorney Delia Garza released a statement saying, "The demographic data we have complied from misdemeanor arrests referred to our office is extremely concerning. We have worked hard to build trust in communities of color and we risk eroding that trust if the operation between the City of Austin and DPS continues in its current iteration.  We all agree that we need to prioritize violent crime and true threats to public safety, and I am hopeful the City and DPS can find a way to accomplish this without disproportionally impacting communities of color."

Many local leaders have expressed concern.

U.S. Rep. Greg Casar tweeted, "This is unacceptable. Constituents told us that Austin’s new DPS operation is racial profiling. The data’s clear: they’re right. Austin remains one of the safest cities in the U.S. Americans deserve public safety AND civil rights. We don’t have to choose."

Austin City Council member José Velásquez tweeted, "We all want a safe Austin but the initial numbers are troubling and District 3 is being disproportionately affected. Today me & @VanessaForATX met w DPS, Chief Chacon, County Attorney Garza, DA Garza, & other county leadership to discuss our frustrations w this operation. We are working to ensure that minorities do not remain collateral damage of this DPS/APD partnership."

Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes tweeted, "We all want the same thing - public safety that works for ALL Austinites. Unfortunately, the numbers only confirm what we already suspected: the DPS operation is disproportionately harming communities of color. On Tuesday’s briefing, I’ll continue pushing for accountability and transparency. Our community deserves answers. Our community deserves better."

Austin City Council member Zo Qadri tweeted, "This was my fear along and now my fear, and the fear of so many of my colleagues, has been confirmed. DPS has disproportionately targeted black and brown Austinities." He added, "We as a dais must push back and protect our community. It is the responsibility of Austin City Council to stand up for Austinites."

Austin City Council member Chito Vela III tweeted, "DPS policing in Austin must align with our values of racial justice and equitable policing. These numbers clearly do not align with our values."

The City of Austin will discuss this partnership further at the next work session meeting on May 2.