Some troopers concede they don't look for illegal drugs during a traffic stop or check to see if the motorist is a convicted sex offender violating his probation.I was unaware DPS' staffing woes had become so severe, though nearly every law enforcement agency in the state of any size is having trouble recruiting officers. To my mind, some of the shortfalls result from mission creep (e.g., the Border Star operation) that's diverted DPS troopers' attention away from the agency's historic law enforcement priorities.
“I'm not going to look for dope. ... I'm not going to look for anything else because if I do, I'm not going to get enough speeding tickets, I'm not going to get enough seat-belt tickets, and I'm not going to get DWI arrests,” said the North Texas trooper.
More complicated violations resulting in arrests means “you don't have the magic number of speeders and you get hammered (by superiors),” the trooper said.
The short-staffing means troopers are rotating through South Texas shifts to beef up border security as part of Operation Border Star. The rotations involve 13-hour days for 15 days, now expanding to 28 days, with no more than a single day off every five or six days, they said.
A Dallas-area DPS sergeant with nearly 20 years in the agency — who is counting the months and days before his exit — says morale is “the lowest it's ever been.”
“DPS brass doesn't have a clue what our needs are, for the most part. Most of them are so far removed, and we've become so bureaucratic. Stuff that I used to be able to just go out and do, I now have to write a memo that I'm thinking about doing this, and then I have to write another memo after I did it,” he said.
One of the agency's core problems, he said, is the layering of new responsibilities without funding to meet them.
The agency has 250 officer vacancies and cannot recruit enough candidates to fill them. Just over 100 graduates from the DPS training academy will join the agency this fall. But the hole will get bigger because of retirements — and nearly 25 percent of DPS graduates quit before their 10th anniversary, according to department statistics.
The story also revealed sources of internal DPS criticism over the Governor's border security initiative, which appears to be causing significant disruption for DPS officers with little tangible result:
Sounds like Colonel Davis' replacement will have quite a job on their hands to restore morale and refocus the agency on its core mission.
The state's Operation Border Star is a particular irritant because it requires troopers to temporarily move to the border region — away from their families — causing shortages in other areas.
A veteran trooper in West Texas the operation a huge waste of time and money.
“It is not productive. It is being used for political purposes,” the trooper said.
He recently worked a 13-hour night shift during which he stopped one motorist for speeding.
“Not another vehicle came down that highway the entire night. I sat in my vehicle and did nothing.” he said.