Between A Rock and A Hard Place

The City Council in Austin decided to defund the police department by cutting the budget by one third. Not to be outdone, Governor Abbott has decided to eliminate law enforcement entirely from Austin. He is reviewing a proposal for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to replace the Austin Police Department.

There is a problem with modern policing. Sir Robert Peel, who invented the concept of a police force, wouldn’t recognize police departments in their current incarnation. There is plenty of blame to go around. First, there are the politicians that faced with a problem dumped the it on the cops.

Back in the sixties, in the town I grew up in, the cops drove station wagons. This was because funeral homes ran the ambulance service. A quick response meant a loss of income for the primary business, funerals. So the cops drove station wagons with a stretcher in the back. It was called load and go. Funeral directors couldn’t mess with the cops. But they used their influence in Boston to slow the spread of paramedics and EMS units.

Second, police administrators weren’t blameless. Some saw an opportunity for empire building. They took on functions that law enforcement was not suited to perform. More functions, more people, and bigger budget what’s not to love? Unlike fire departments, police departments could not lock the doors and hunker down to watch prime time TV. Police were like sharks, they had to be constantly moving always available.

Back in the late 70’s early 80’s we taught some courses and invited the DPS helicopter section to participate. We later helped them to put together a slide presentation demonstrating the ability of the helicopters to deliver tactical officers via rappelling. The DPS aircrew had to use local cops, because DPS troopers weren’t allowed to rappel out of or off of anything. DPS aircraft were also not allowed to be used in traffic enforcement. The main value and reason for existence of the air wing was to fly to outlying district offices to pick up and deliver interoffice mail.

DPS is a vast bureaucracy with a relatively small pistol toting contingent. Look at an organizational chart for DPS OrgChart.pdf ( There are sixteen “divisions” only four of them are devoted to operational law enforcement. Less that half of those employed by DPS are actually licensed police officers. Law enforcement is relegated to a secondary mission. Question for all you wanna be bureaucrats out there. When the expenditures for paper outstrips those for gun toters, which is more important?

Having DPS take over day to day policing in Austin is akin to dispensing with law enforcement entirely. DPS doesn’t have the manpower, training or will to do day to day policing. One thing we can be sure of. If DPS takes over law enforcement in Austin at least the coffee shops that pop for free coffee, will be safe.

Think I’m down on DPS? Yup, I had to work with the lazy, stupid bastards. The narcotics task force I was assigned to was known as Alamo Area Narcotics Task Force. This was shortened to AANTF and then shortened further to ANTS. Somewhere along the way a charature of an ANT armed with a machine gun put in an appearance.

DPS took over nominal management and insisted on a name change. The logo was no longer acceptable. I proposed the following as a new logo and name.

Think I’m biased? Ask a city cop. You may be surprised to find out I’m being reasonable.