Controversial Texas DPS, APD partnership could resume soon

Austin city leaders say Texas DPS could be resuming its partnership with Austin Police in the next few weeks—with Austinites split over whether troopers should return.

"I think we need them. Our staffing is way down in the police department," said Interim City Manager Jesus Garza.

Garza is optimistic DPS troopers will return sooner rather than later. 

"What we could expect is that they may, within the next few weeks, come back into Austin," said Garza.

The DPS/APD partnership began in late March, but this past weekend DPS halted its operations in Austin so troopers could be deployed at the southern border after Title 42 ended.

"Their being here in Austin was really welcome from our standpoint because they gave our officers a break. We were able to respond more quickly to emergencies that we weren't able to as quickly before," said Garza.

But three weeks ago, data revealed nine out of ten DPS misdemeanor arrests in Austin were of people of color, many of them in East Austin. 

"Well, it put a lot of people in fear. We had people who actually didn't want to go outside. They'd been stopped like three times," said Susana Almanza, director of PODER. 

"I was happy that they were leaving Austin, particularly because of how they've operated here," said Chris Harris, policy director for the Austin Justice Coalition. 

‘We've gotten some really good input from the community in terms of what their values are and the issues they want us to be sensitive to. DPS have been really responsive to what those issues are," said Garza. 

"Ultimately that's just not what we heard from DPS Director McCraw during the work session a couple of Tuesdays ago," said Harris. "So I have very little faith in that at this point."

But District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly says DPS did make changes. 

"They took the feedback that council provided and they actually spread the officers from DPS further across the city," said Kelly.

As for when they could return? 

"I have heard an estimate of two weeks," said Kelly. "I can only hope that the crisis at the border is managed and taken care of in a way that sends DPS back into the city of Austin."

But social justice groups like PODER and the Austin Justice Coalition would instead like to see resources go to underlying issues like housing, education and poverty. 

"We need to start looking at alternatives to this whole process with the DPS," said Almanza. 

The Austin City Council’s Public Safety Committee has called a special meeting for Monday, May 22, to discuss the future of the DPS/APD partnership.