AUSTIN (KXAN) — “We continue to operate the same way we were operating as if there was a partnership,” said Major Gabriel Ortiz with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
KXAN spent six hours on the road with him this month observing traffic stops, learning about Criminal Investigation Division (CID) operations and addressing concerns from community members.
Brianna Hollis, Reporter: There’s been some criticism and concern about DPS unfairly targeting communities of color, what’s your response to that?
Major Ortiz: I understand that perception exists, but I would say this. One, I’m Hispanic. I’m a minority, I’ve experienced racism, I understand how important it is for those members of the community to understand they’re being treated fairly. I can tell you right now, if citizens of the community of Austin were being treated unfairly, not only would I raise the issue, but I think several troopers would also raise the issue.
Two weeks ago, the city ended its partnership with DPS. It’s called the Austin Violent Crimes Task Force (AVCTF), and it began in March to help address Austin Police staffing shortages. Even though Mayor Kirk Watson called for the end of the partnership, Governor Abbott directed DPS to continue patrolling in Austin. Currently, 110 troopers patrol Austin streets and 20 CID agents work proactive investigations.
During our time with Major Ortiz, we observed traffic stops that stemmed from things like broken headlights, expired registration and unreadable license plates. They mainly resulted in warnings. One case resulted in a DWI, another resulted in a cite-and-release because someone in the car had less than 2 ounces of marijuana in their possession and another resulted in a citation for driving without a license.
KXAN is still compiling information from the ride-along. Check back for updates.