AUSTIN — City officials announced that Austin will end its partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety, after a decision by the city council was approved by Mayor Kirk Watson.

However, DPS responded to the announcement, stating, “DPS will continue patrol operations in [Austin] as part of its responsibility to protect and serve Texas.”

Gov. Greg Abbott then emphasized that DPS jurisdiction covers “every square inch of Texas.”

He later said he would send 30 additional troopers to patrol the city.

Austin’s attempt to end DPS involvement in policing the city follows a recent traffic stop incident that garnered headlines.

“From the start of this partnership with DPS, I said I wanted Austinites to feel safe and be safe. Recent events demonstrate we need to suspend the partnership with DPS. The safety of our community is a primary function of City government, and we must keep trying to get it right,” Watson said in a statement.

Partnership Background 

The Texas Department of Public Safety initially partnered with the Austin Police Department in March to reduce dispatch times after the city reported severe understaffing. Despite DPS assistance, APD still reported having 300 vacancies in their department in April.

Initially, the duration of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s presence in Austin was uncertain. When Title 42 expired in mid-May, Abbott relocated DPS officers in Austin to the Texas-Mexico border.

In May, DPS reported more than 12,000 traffic stops within the first month of their partnership with APD.

Mayor Watson had previously bragged about the effectiveness of the DPS partnership, considering it a “practical and innovative” approach to repair the depleted APD police force.

The Incident  

According to Watson, the “recent event” that endangered Austinites’ safety was when a DPS officer allegedly pulled a gun on a 10-year old child.

“Well, in the last 48 hours, I have learned of an incident that’s very troubling involving a man and his young son,” Watson told KXAN.

On Monday, DPS stopped Carlos Meza near his residence in South Austin for expired plates on his vehicle. According to Meza, he and his son were on their way home from the pool.

However, things quickly escalated when Angel Meza, Carlos’ son, abruptly attempted to go inside his house to use the bathroom. Meza alleges that officers briefly pulled their guns on the 10-year-old before realizing it was only a boy.

DPS officers ticketed Meza for his lack of license plates and possession of CBD in his vehicle.

DPS later released the body cam footage, which doesn’t show the officers pointing a gun at the boy.

However, the Austin Public Safety Committee passed a nonbinding recommendation Monday, urging city council members to review the DPS partnership and consider either installing established guidelines to enhance community involvement or terminating the partnership altogether.

Austin’s Reaction 

Austin City Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly expressed her disappointment in the decision, calling it a setback.

“The partnership between [DPS] and [APD] has undeniably contributed to combating crime in our city,” Councilwoman Kelly said in an official statement on Wednesday. “The decision to suspend the partnership is a disheartening setback for the residents of Austin.”

Matt Mackowiak , co-founder of nonpartisan political activist group Save Austin Now, called the suspension “tragic” in an official statement.

This is a victory for police abolitionists and criminals and a major setback for law abiding citizens and families who only wish to live in a safe city. While the DPS partnership is suspended we will see crime increase and criminals feel emboldened. Public safety is about to get much worse in Austin.

Meanwhile, Austin Police Association President Thomas Villarreal expressed strong opposition to the city’s suspension, deeming it unconscionable.

“The decision by the Interim City Manager and Mayor to suspend the APD/DPS partnership is absolutely unconscionable,” Villarreal said in a press release by APA. “The City is safer when we have adequate police staffing. … The data presented to the city clearly and unequivocally showed that the presence of DPS made our city safer.”

With the suspension of the DPS partnership, the City of Austin will have only 1,400 officers.

Matthew DeLaCruz

Matthew DeLaCruz is a Cedar Park native and is a sophomore journalism and mass communications major at Abilene Christian University. Matthew is a summer writing fellow at Texas Scorecard and loves bringing relevant stories to citizens. When he is not writing, you can catch Matthew lifting weights, playing basketball and eating ice cream with his friends.

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