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State police suspend controversial patrol agreement with Austin

Monday, May 15, 2023 by Andrew Weber, KUT

The Austin Police Department says the Texas Department of Public Safety is ending its partnership with the city of Austin to supplement police patrols.

APD told KUT Saturday that troopers were being reassigned to the Texas border following the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era restriction on migration.

In a statement, APD Chief Joseph Chacon said it was not immediately clear whether the controversial partnership would continue in the future.

“DPS will temporarily cease operations in Austin, and their last day will be Saturday, May 13,” Chacon said. “It is unknown at this time when they will be able to reengage in the partnership with APD, but it will not be for several weeks at least.”

Chacon added that state troopers were “being deployed heavily in border cities” in the wake of the expiration of the Title 42 immigration policy, which ended Thursday. That Trump administration policy aimed to curb the spread of Covid-19 by effectively barring entry to asylum-seeking migrants at the border. News of the partnership’s pause was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

DPS did not respond to a request for comment.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson spearheaded the deal between DPS and APD in late March because of a staffing crisis in the department.

APD has roughly 300 officer vacancies. Watson and APD have said the deal was a stopgap until the city and its police union can work out a long-term labor contract and the department could hire more officers.

City Council members expressed concern about the patrols, as the deal wasn’t vetted by Council.

On top of that, arrest numbers from the Travis County attorney showed Black and Latino drivers were being disproportionately stopped and arrested by troopers.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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