Sunday, October 06, 2013

DPS backs off S. Texas roadblocks after lame justifications debunked

Following up on a story highlighted on Grits last week, Jeremy Schwartz has a piece in the Austin Statesman today on the Texas Department of Public Safety's decision to install roadblocks in South Texas, a tactic Grits labeled "pure pretext stops." Titled, "Border area checkpoints raise question of intent," Schwartz's article says, "The tactic came as a surprise to many. State troopers hadn’t conducted such checkpoints since at least 1994, when a Texas court effectively prohibited most law enforcement roadblocks in the state."

Jeremy's report cast further doubt on the stated reasons for the tactics, debunking the notion (see the chart at right) that high numbers of vehicle crashes justified them:
In a release announcing the operation, DPS officials said the unusual measure was necessary in the Rio Grande Valley, in particular, because of “unsafe driving behaviors” and the “number of vehicle crashes” in the region. The agency set up numerous roadblocks in late September and early October as part of a wider law enforcement surge in the Rio Grande Valley.

But an American-Statesman analysis of Texas Department of Transportation data shows that the counties singled out by DPS — including Hidalgo and Cameron — have low crash rates compared with several other population centers in the state. Based on crashes per vehicle mile traveled, a statistic commonly used to calculate safety rates, the Rio Grande Valley trails far behind cities like Lubbock, Laredo, Houston and Midland, and has crash rates comparable to Central Texas and the Dallas area.
DPS has also tried to claim the roadblocks were necessary because of high rates of uninsured drivers in the area, but "according to the Texas Department of Insurance, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston all have significantly higher numbers of uninsured drivers than Hidalgo and Cameron counties," the Statesman reported.

Caught in this web of dubious excuses, "On Saturday, the San Antonio Express-News reported that DPS has stopped using the checkpoints and discontinued a broader enforcement push in the Valley." That's good news. It was a foolhardy and politically tone deaf move to ever launch them in the first place.


Anonymous said...

"Border area checkpoints raise question of intent." What is their intent?

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by the deception. This falls in line with the capitol fecal smuggling investigation, traffic/cavity probe, and chopper incident. In the fecal smuggling case there was an implication the agency chief got bad information from his staff. In the checkpoint justification there was clearly some misinformation about traffic hazard data (data the agency prides itself on). One has to wonder how often the head of this organization gets bad information. How many incidents in the past has he gotten it? Is there a situation he hasn't gotten any information? This is very unusual coming from such a respected agency. I know some Troopers and I highly doubt checkpoints are something they are eager to do.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@11:05, that's the question posed by the case law: If it's only to check licenses and insurance, it's technically legal, though based on dubious and questionable grounds. If it's for general crime control, no. Their public comments have cited both. Either way, the optics were bad.

@12:00, interesting and possibly disturbing point about bad information spurring agency decisions.

Anonymous said...

actually, the original DPS statement said the operations would run until oct. 2nd. they stopped because they planned to stop. They dont care what anyone thinks or what the legislature has said to previous propositions of this very same nature (in 2011 I believe it was shut down by legislature when proposed: this time they just did it, no proposal necessary) The thing that bothers me is not that they are doing it, but that they are lying so blatantly about motive, methods and how people are being treated. I wish we could document exactly where each stop happened, from the anectdotal evidence, it appears that very, very poor areas were deliberately discriminated against. The economic impact should be investigated, and someone should poke their nose into the effect on school attendance during those 3 weeks. I think you would see a pattern that identifies the true purpose of stops-

Rey said...

The leadership of DPS is completely out of touch with the situation on the ground on the border. This operation was specifically targeting immigrant communities and colonias. Border Patrol units were parked nearby and were communicating with DPS. This coordination clearly shows that DPS is indirectly being used to enforce federal immigration law.

Anonymous said...

no they weren't you liar

Anonymous said...

DPS and border patrol were working side by side. If they weren't stationed together border patrol would magically appear 10 minutes later. We all saw it. If they had actually been truthful in their motives we wouldn't have a problem. But the way they went about it was just disgraceful. I had to carry my citizenship with me which I hadnt needed to carry in 30 yrs, just in case. Austin IS so out of touch on what happens here, or they just don't care. South Texas is it's own country in itself and that's why so many injustices took place these past weeks.

Anonymous said...

They just moved to another location, there's no way they just stopped.

Perry runs the DPS and yet no word from his office.