Monday, October 13, 2008

DPS' anticlimactic Sunset report

Of the several criminal justice agencies under Sunset Review this year, the Department of Public Safety is among the first for which the Sunset Advisory Commission has already issued their final report (pdf) with their official legislative recommendations. (See the agency's self-evaluation report-pdf released last year, and go here to view public comments received.)

Without having read the entire, massive document, from a quick overview the Sunset report appears most notable for the kennel-full of dogs that didn't bark. After Colonel Tommy Davis was hounded out of his post over often-irate criticisms at the Sunset review hearing, I'd expected the Sunset Commission to offer much more sweeping changes. Their big suggestions were to hire a management consultant to consider an agency re-org and to operate the driver's license division on a "civilian business management model" - whoop de do!

I half-expected a rash dismantlement of DPS as the buzzards circled over Col. Davis' political corpse. But this report possibly errs in the other direction, failing to recommend solutions for DPS' most notorious structural flaws and handing the task off to some consultant to be identified later. That's passing the buck on the job the Sunset Commission itself was tasked to perform.

(Correction/update: From our pal Don Dickson in the comments we learn that "The organizational assessment was conducted by Deloitte Consultants. They have submitted their final report and they will be presenting their findings to the Public Safety Commission at a meeting this Thursday." So we'll learn more about the management re-org endorsed by the Sunset Commission later this week.


Don Dickson said...

The organizational assessment was conducted by Deloitte Consultants. They have submitted their final report and they will be presenting their findings to the Public Safety Commission at a meeting this Thursday.

There was an interesting moment at the last PSC meeting when Chairman Polunsky revealed that he had received the first draft of the Deloitte report. Commissioner Anderson seemed startled that the draft had been issued to Polunsky but not shared with her. She resigned a few days later "to spend more time on her personal business interests." I have no idea whether there's any connection between the two dots, but it makes you go "hmm." Anderson was spearheading an outside assessment of the Department's convoluted and largely dysfunctional IT architecture. It's not clear to me if or how her resignation affects the results of that work.

I share some of your cynicism about paying expensive outside consultants to do what is essentially the work of legislators and agency staff -- discerning the best ways to build the best mousetraps. Jake Bernstein wrote months ago that he believed the Commission was trying to head the Lege and Sunset off at the pass. And they appear to have done that pretty well.

The Deloitte team met with large numbers of Troopers in the field, and with large numbers of supervisors, and the former gatherings lasted a lot longer than the latter.

There was an interesting moment during the 9/24 Sunset hearing as well, when Drivers License Division Chief Judy Brown told Sunset that she had not met with the Deloitte people. For cryin' out loud, -I- met with the Deloitte boggles my mind that they didn't meet with the Chief of the Drivers License Division that is a central focus of the Sunset Commission. It was suggested that we give more money to Deloitte and broaden their scope of work.

And the beat goes on.

I don't know what this cake is going to look like when it's baked...but we'll know more Thursday, and on Friday when the PSC convenes for a second day to discuss legislative priorities.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for that update, Don - excellent information.

Anonymous said...

Just like my mom used to tell me in High School and we would have an argument.. "Remember who pays the bills"... That would, I believe, answer the question about why the report did not light up the most needed of changes.

Don Dickson said...

One thing I find kinda interesting, is that the Commission acted with speed, if not haste, in commissioning the Deloitte study, but it has kinda dragged its heels putting out an RFP for an executive search firm to conduct the search for a new director. Stan Clark has probably brought in his favorite chair and started hanging stuff on the walls.

I think the issuance of that RFP is on their Thursday agenda. Again.

Colonel Clark and I have some bad history from many many moons ago -- (see, e.g., -- but I've always liked him personally and always considered him to be a pretty smart guy, and since he became the interim director, he and I have turned over a new leaf. Since becoming the director, he's been very cordial to me and very receptive to my comments and suggestions, and very responsive to my inquiries about various things. I don't think I'd have any complaint if he were named the permanent director.

But make no mistake, up to now, Allan Polunsky's been driving this bus. And as of this writing at least, I'm pleased to say I don't have any significant beefs with him, either.

Everyone's been so nice to me, it almost makes me suspicious. :-) The next few months are going to be mighty interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Don Dickson, for the heads up about the PSC's meetings this Thursday and Friday. I have an email in to the AG's Open Meetings dept. asking when the next meetings are. I guess I better call and find out if this will be an open meeting to the public.

I am fighting Real ID implementation for Texas (see

I am particularly upset because the PSC put in an Attorney General Opinion Request on Sept. 8 trying to see if the DPS can legally start "drivers license check points" and command local police and sherrifs law enforcement officers to conduct these check points. We want to do a protest at the soonest PSC meeting that we can highlighting how checkpoints lead directly to the Real ID mentality for Texas
so that Texans will have to answer throughout everyday's activities
"Your papers please".

I also want to protest to the AG regarding this opinion request but need to figure out how to do that and get an number for the request. I am a retired state employee and I know how rude and consistently unhelpful the AG's office is to the public.

Here is a link to a pdf file showing the Public Safety Commission's opinion request and the second link is an article commenting on this request implying that MADD is the interest group pushing to get checkpoints started again. I also have an email to the editor there to find out the names of the "interests" pushing the legislators for reinstatment of te NAZI checkpoints.

P.S. This checkpoints issue needs to revived on this blog with a current posting. The "problems" of the hoards of illegal immigrants in Texas, the hoards of illegally voter registered illegal immigrants, and drunken driving are all perfect problems being stirred up now. The "ultimate" short term solution is one "Real ID" for border crossings, immigrant identification, voting, and really everything, probably even toll road access ID.

The DPS is by law not allowed to lobby the Texas legislature but they are already doing this pushing to get for themselves much more money and power by being the administrators / implementors of the Real ID Act for Texas.

Texas Becomes Roadblock Battleground
Interest groups battle over roadblocks ahead of the 2009 Texas legislative session.

Don Dickson said...

PSC meeting notices, agendas, and meeting minutes are viewable at this address:

Don Dickson said...

Oops, the full URL doesn't appear. Click the "site index" tab on the DPS web site and look for "Public Safety Commission."

Anonymous said...

Roadblocks–For Unlawful Drugs–Impermissible
City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, ___ U.S. ___, 121 S.Ct. 447 (2000). The City of Indianapolis implemented roadside vehicle check points in an effort to interdict unlawful drug trafficking. All vehicles passing the checkpoints were stopped at the checkpoints which were staffed by approximately 30 officers. Pursuant to a written protocol, the officers would approach the drivers, inform them they were being stopped briefly at a “drug checkpoint” and ask the drivers to produce a license and registration. Officers would look for signs of impairment and conduct an open view examination of the vehicle from outside. A narcotics detection dog would walk around the outside of each stopped vehicle. An actual search of the vehicle could only be based upon consent or “the appropriate quantum of particularized suspicion.” The average stop lasted 2-3 minutes or less, barring complications. The checkpoints were generally operated during daylight hours with a warning sign reading “narcotics checkpoint. . . . ahead, narcotics K-9 in use, be prepared to stop.” Six such roadblocks were conducted which stopped 1,161 vehicles, yielding 104 arrests of motorists, 55 of which were for drug related crimes, 49 arrests were made for offenses unrelated to drugs. Thus, the overall “hit rate” was approximately nine percent.
Two individuals who were stopped, but apparently not arrested, filed suit on behalf of themselves and the class of all motorists who had been stopped, claiming the roadblocks violated the Fourth Amendment together with the search and seizure provision of the Indiana Constitution. They asked for injunctive relief, damages, and attorney’s fees. A divided panel of the Seventh Circuit held that the checkpoints contravene the Fourth Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court, per Justice O’Connor, affirmed in a 6-3 decision. Justice O’Connor distinguished the Indianapolis checkpoints from previous checkpoints approved by the Court. See Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990) (DUI checkpoints approved) and United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976) (approval of checkpoints designed to intercept illegal aliens). In both Sitz and Martinez-Fuerte, the Court had found special justifications for the respective checkpoints. In Sitz, there was the “obvious connection between the imperative of highway safety and the DUI checkpoints.” In Martinez-Fuerte, the “long standing concern for the protection of the integrity of the border,” and the difficulty in guarding the border’s entire length, paired with the location of the checkpoint within 100 miles of the border, validated suspicionless stops. By contrast here, the Court found the checkpoint was for the “general purpose of investigating crime.” While the purpose of stopping the flow of illegal narcotics was laudable, the majority feared that approval of this scheme would encourage law enforcement to set up other checkpoints for other types of crime, for example, burglary or theft. Justice O’Connor commented “there would be little check on the ability of authorities to construct roadblocks for almost any conceivable law enforcement purpose” resulting in checkpoints becoming a “routine part of American life.”
Indianapolis tried to salvage the checkpoints by arguing that the officers’ request for driver’s license and registration brought the checkpoints within the purview of Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). In Prouse, while disapproving the suspicionless stop, the Court “suggested” that a checkpoint with the purpose of verifying driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations could be permissible. However, the majority easily dispatched the Indianapolis argument since it had stipulated that the primary purpose of the checkpoint was narcotics interdiction. It was on this point that Chief Justice Rehnquist, dissenting and joined by Justices Thomas and Scalia, disagreed with the majority. He claimed that Prouse “expressly recognized” the use of roadblocks to check the driver’s licenses and vehicle registration. Because there was a valid reason for conducting the roadblock, he contended that it is “constitutionally irrelevant” that Indianapolis hoped also to interdict drugs. He also disagreed with the majority of merely looking at the “primary purpose” of the checkpoint, a test which he claimed the majority impermissibly “lifted” from the jurisprudence relating to the searches of homes and businesses. He also noted that the Indianapolis checkpoint was much more successful than that approved in Martinez-Fuerte where the checkpoint only yielded aliens in .12% of the vehicles stopped. He also noted that in Sitz, the success rate was only 1.6%. Finally, he argued that since the initial purpose of the Indianapolis checkpoint was valid, the use of a drug-sniffing dog could not transform it into an impermissible search. While joining in Chief Justice Rehnquist’s dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas wrote separately to state that in his opinion, all checkpoints could be considered unreasonable and were certainly not contemplated by the “Framers of the Fourth Amendment.” He was obviously inviting a future case to decide whether Sitz and Martinez-Fuerte were correctly decided.
The majority was careful to point out that it was not invalidating previously announced “special needs” cases, like drug testing for student athletes, customs officers, or public transportation employees. Neither was the court invalidating checkpoints based upon “some emergency,” for example, to thwart an imminent terrorist attack or catch a “dangerous criminal who was likely to flee by way of a particular route.”

FleaStiff said...

They are bureaucrats: the only thing they know how to recommend is more layers of bureaucracy and more expensive consultancy and management contracts.

What did you expect? Action?

Don Dickson said...

We'll see what we get tomorrow; but yes, I do share fleastiff's and grits' concern that for $950,000, what we're going to get is a powerpoint presentation with a new org chart that has the boxes and lines rearranged, but with all the same personnel in the boxes.

They could have gotten me to do that for not a penny more than $250K. :-)

Don Dickson said...

An update: If you think the Sunset report was anti-climactic, you should have been at Thursday's meeting of the PSC. The Deloitte reorganization study did NOT get rolled out as expected; the task force studying how to improve the promotion system didn't say much more than "we met since your last meeting" -- and no one yet knows what the Drivers License Division is going to look like in the brave new world.

It was a seven-hour snoozefest.

Friday's legislative "work session" was scarcely more interesting. One thing was clear -- the DPS is going to be asking the Legislature for a whole hell of a lot of money.

Don Dickson said...

Don't know if anyone was paying attention, but this week Governor Perry appointed John Steen of San Antonio and Ada Brown of Dallas to the PSC. Steen is a lawyer and a GOP heavy-hitter, surely a close friend of Allan Polunsky's. Brown is a lawyer at McKool Smith, and formerly a Dallas ADA and county court judge.

What's weird is that it took the Governor almost two years to fill one vacancy and two weeks to fill the other.