The SA Express-News yesterday featured a pair of stories giving a good deal of detail about the day to day activities of DPS border security, which some in local law enforcement have criticized as redundant and taking away from the agency's historic mission:
The nerve center of the Texas Department of Public Safety's strategy for securing the Rio Grande is the Border Security Operations Center, an unassuming building tucked behind the DPS headquarters.The main article focues in part on the culture and mission shift at DPS as a result of Texas' nine-figure border-security investment:
Opened in 2010, the BSOC is staffed by 18 people, including nine analysts and a Texas Ranger captain, as well as representatives from federal law enforcement agencies. They process tens of thousands of pieces of information from videos taken by helicopter pilots, images snapped by remote cameras, and reports from state troopers and local law enforcement about traffic stops.
The data is fed into TxMap system, a program that allows analysts in Austin and at seven joint operations intelligence centers along the border to visualize information such as pursuits, drug busts and where DPS assets are deployed.
The information is also distributed to local, state and federal agencies.
The Legislature has provided more than $600 million for border security since 2007, with most of the money given to DPS to target drug and human smugglers. The border operation today represents a small army, with specialized Ranger Reconnaissance Teams, new intelligence centers, patrol boats, helicopters and surveillance cameras watching for traffickers.
Even a high-altitude spy plane soon will be deployed.
It's a departure from DPS' traditional roles as highway patrolmen and a support service to local law enforcement agencies.