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Austin Standoff Over Troopers' Role Policing Streets

A policing partnership that started as a rare, cordial moment between Austin officials and Texas state government leaders has now spiraled into another battle between state and local control in Texas' capital city, the Texas Tribune reports. After a state trooper was accused of pointing a gun at a 10-year-old boy during a traffic stop, Austin's mayor and city manager declared an end to a collaboration between city and state law enforcement agencies that put state troopers on Austin streets to help cope with staffing shortages. Gov. Greg Abbott responded by sending 30 additional Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to patrol the city, saying "their jurisdiction is every square inch of Texas." The additional forces bring the total number of state police deployed to Austin to 130.

Abbott first sent DPS troopers to Austin in late March, at the request of Watson. The move was supposed to support the city’s police department, which has been struggling with staffing vacancies and long response times to 911 calls. But in the weeks after, data showed state troopers were disproportionately arresting Black and Latino residents. Abbott and state GOP leaders have targeted Austin in recent years in their efforts to assert dominance over Texas’ largest, more liberal cities. The governor has criticized Austin on its policing before. “From the start of this partnership with DPS, I said I wanted Austinites to feel safe and be safe,” Watson said in a statement Wednesday. “Recent events demonstrate we need to suspend the partnership with DPS. The safety of our community is a primary function of City government, and we must keep trying to get it right.” Earlier this week, a local TV outlet reported that an Austin man and his 10-year-old son accused DPS of pointing a gun at them. DPS provided the Tribune with body camera and dash cam footage of the incident, which shows a man FOX 7 identified as Carlos Meza pulling his vehicle into his driveway. When his son opened the passenger door to get out of the vehicle, two DPS troopers drew their guns but kept them pointed toward the ground. The videos do not appear to show the troopers point their firearms directly at the child. When Meza opened his door, a trooper drew and pointed their gun at him and yelled at him to get back in the car.


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