Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lege hearing today focuses on Driver Responsibility Program, police proliferation

This morning the Texas House Public Safety Committee will meet to discuss a pair of Interim Charges that may interest Grits readers.
  • Interim Charge #3: Monitor the Driver Responsibility Program and consider methods for overall improvement of the program.
  • Interim Charge #4: Study the statutory definition, duties, and authority of a Texas peace officer.
The Legislature doesn't need to do anything for the Driver Responsibility rules recently proposed in the Texas Register to pass, but as mentioned last Friday, there may be a need for them next spring to reconcile the indigence program at DPS with the one that will launch in the courts in September 2011, preferably by having the Department of Public Safety waive charges for indigents as the Legislature directed courts to do beginning next year.

As for the duties and definitions of a peace officer, regular readers know I'd like to see Texas limit authority of constables to process serving and bailiffs duties: Mission creep at these agencies costs local taxpayers and reduces overall accountability. What's more, the ever-increasing list of different types of specialized police agencies deserves to be whittled down substantially - a theme discussed on this blog nearly since its inception - as does the overall number of agencies. There are 2,615 different entities currently employing peace officers licensed by the state.

That said, the Lege discusses this topic every session, everyone seems to agree there are too many agencies and different types of cops, then inevitably MORE specialized agencies are approved instead of taking any off the list. I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if next year is any different, but the discussion at the hearing should be interesting.

UPDATE: See initial coverage from the Dallas News and written testimony (pdf) from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.


Anonymous said...

Minor point - according to TCLEOSE there are only 17 types of departments, the 2,600 number means that governmental entities are merely using the 36 types of officers listed - not creating a specialized department

Example Buda is creating it's own department and no longer contracting with Hays Co.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good catch, that's exactly what I meant, I just phrased it clumsily. I edited the post to make it read correctly.

Don Dickson said...

Highlight of this hearing: (paraphrasing from memory)

Rep. Frost: Col. McCraw, is there any evidence that the Driver Responsibility Program reduces DWI or encourages driver responsibility?

Col. McCraw: None.

Don Dickson said...

Grits, it was great to see you again at today's hearing, and I'm glad you chimed in even though you hadn't worn your Sunday-come-to-meetin' clothes.

I sure hope they repeal this stupid thing, though I fear they won't in deference to the trauma center lobby. But if it's true, as you've testified, that the DRP causes an increase of 17,000 uninsured crashes per year, the program probably costs trauma centers more than it makes for them.

And if you figure in the gigantic unfunded mandate to city and county police officers, judges, prosecutors and probation officers to deal with the thousands upon thousands of misdemeanor case filings and convictions that result from the DRP, it seems to me that it shouldn't be all that difficult to find a replacement revenue stream for the trauma centers.

If everyone had insurance, the trauma centers might not be coming to the Capitol with hat-in-hand (although nowadays minimum policy limits are barely enough to cover the chopper ride to the trauma center).

Anonymous said...

Grits, the idea of addressing police authority is right, but the approach is wrong. The frontal approach of limiting police authority and/or agencies seems to be detrimental to society in general (humor me for a minute). A more subtle approach that would have a more direct impact would be to remove the ability for peace officers to work off duty jobs under the Private Security Act altogether. I can almost guarantee the disappearance of these 'special police' agencies overnight. From my experience a large number of these agencies are staffed with personnel who have no desire to police or bring about a better society and have other motives. These special police agencies merely exist in large part as a platform from which to launch 'private police' off duty job business enterprises for the sole purpose of personal financial gain. The result of this has been obvious in the myriad of events involving abuses of police authority (Dallas County Deputy Constable Frias) to the outright spawn of the "gypsy cop" phenomenon such as the likes of Michael Meissner, who can still be a cop somewhere. Limiting agencies or the authority of peace officers isn't the common denominator here. Off duty work is in every instance. Hardly any agency has policies in place to address off duty jobs and even fewer actively enforce those policies. I hear DPS is the only agency that has such stringent policies in place it is almost unbearable to even attempt a request for off duty employment there. I realize that this restriction would hurt a lot of good cops. But the situation has gotten out of hand. Some of these people are making twice to three times as much as their normal salary on off duty jobs alone, so the risk of circumventing policy and law in some cases is lucrative enough for the risk. There are a whole host of other points I could bring up as well, but I'll save that for rebuttal. The sole motivations for special police agencies isn't the ability to be the "po-po". In my opinion it has a lot to do with personal profiterring using a public oath of office. Address that and your problem is solved.

College Cop said...

" "I can almost guarantee the disappearance of these 'special police' agencies overnight. " "

And you'd be wrong and misguided, because it's not the special jurisdiction agencies soaking up most of the off duty work, its the big agencies (like Dallas and Houston) followed by the real cause of gypsyism, the small town cop shops (that pay next to nothing).

The big city cops get lots of work because of the perception that if trouble happens,n they can call on duty help easier. The small town cops get work because they underbid the cities. Suburban, State and special jurisdiction cops pick up what slack they can

Get rid of off duty work, and the small town (2 full timers and a bunch of reserves) cop shops go away 1st, and the big city cop shops then end up with a quality problem becase their best officers (no longer able to supplement their incomes with off duty work) start leaving for suburbs like Plano and Sugarland.

As I've said before, the hatred of special jurisdiction police forces (with the exception of the federally funded task forces) is wildly misplaced, it's the civil service protected big city police empires and the small town PD fiefdoms that drive the problems regularily mentioned on this blog.

Anonymous said...

The specialized police forces enforcing specific regulations very seldom cause any problems and perform a needed function. ie,e the dental and pharmacy police keep dentist and pharmacist from dispensing narcotics via scrip fraud.

The real problem and one that Grits never has an answer for is the underfunded and unorganized rural and small town law enforcement,

Either you fund DPS to be a state police force or start providing state funding to rural sheriffs.