Santiago Lopez" />
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Monday, October 2, 2023


DPS must explain its case to voters

The Texas Department of Public Safety has convinced state lawmakers to add a bond proposal to a ballot for voters to consider this November, according to an article appearing in the Houston Chronicle this weekend.

The DPS is asking for $49.7 million to build a facility that would train its troopers – as well as officers of other law enforcement agencies in Texas – to handle the myriad conditions encountered on a daily basis while driving during their work day.

From driving on dirt roads to handling a vehicle in a high-speed pursuit, the facility will better prepare officers to drive under conditions that have produced more than 3,000 collisions involving DPS troopers since 2001, according to information accompanying the article in the Chronicle. And in those incidents, six DPS employees and eight civilians were killed, the paper reported.

A feasibility study produced in 2006 is found on the DPS Web site, and its 51 pages are filled with detailed descriptions of each section of the training course as well as charts of statistics and drawings of the complex which will be built, should the voters vote yes in November. What is not found in the study is whether the officers will only undergo the road training during their initial time in the academy, or if officers will have to re-certify on any kind of regular basis. Also absent from the study is whether DPS would require all of its personnel assigned to traffic enforcement to achieve a satisfactory score on the course.

Maybe such decisions regarding training should be best left to the DPS and not be of concern to the voters – only voting for the funding to build the complex should be at the forefront of the issue. After all, the Chronicle article made no mention of the existence of the study.

The people of the state of Texas ought to want its law enforcement officers to be well trained and able to handle any situation to arise on the job. After all, officers must qualify to carry firearms, batons, Tasers and pepper spray – driving is just as important to their job as being able to know when to employ these varying degrees of force. The public should want to know how DPS plans to utilize its hoped-for training ground, DPS should also do more to make Texans aware of all the facets related to improving officer training, not just the tragic events which point to such a need.

The 43 percent of the aforementioned collisions were preventable only brings us to the present need for the training program. The application of a $49.7 million facility is one that takes us beyond change and toward better-trained officers.

Since the facility would be shared among state law enforcement agencies, would other departments who send officers to DPS for road driving training pay some sort of tuition? The answer is not found in the 51-page feasibility report, nor are projections for the site’s operating costs stemming from maintenance, salaries for support personnel (including mechanics, custodial staff and construction crews to oversee track upkeep), as well as when and where training for instructors to teach the new brand of DPS driver training will occur.

Though it may turn out to be "the No. 1 track in the nation," according to Sunday’s Chronicle, more questions beg to be asked beyond whether funding this project is beneficial to the public and law enforcement, such as where the money to build the project is coming from as well as the money needed to keep it operational.

And though it may prevent further accidents involving DPS personnel, the impact to the pocketbooks of the citizens of Texas should be explicated so that an informed decision can be made as to whether this facility is not only procedurally sound, but financially viable as well.

Lopez, an English senior, can be reached via [email protected]

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