William G. McKinsey, CJIS Biometric Services Section Chief for the FBI, featured right, presents the Biometric Identification Award to, from left, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McGraw, Assistant Director Mike Lesko, Latent Automated Fingerprint Identification System Section Supervisor Jenny Hall, and Latent Prints Section Supervisor Meghan L. Blackburn on July 14, 2017 in Austin. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Monday, January 8, 2018, called on McGraw to work with state lawmakers in order to prevent the planned firing by the Texas Public Safety Commission of 117 commissioned DPS officers in a budget-cutting move. “These 117 officers, who are now slated for downsizings, were all hired as part of the Retire/Rehire Program, which encouraged retired officers to re-enter the Department to help fill the shortage of commissioned officers,” Canales said. “These troopers are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable in Texas, in addition to the fact that they showed an incredible selflessness by coming back to law enforcement when their state needed them. Yet, it now seems that the Department might be forsaking their battle-tested veterans by picking youth over experience.”
Photograph Courtesy FBI
Texas Public Safety Commission “picking youth over experience” in budget-cutting move that will fire 117 veteran DPS troopers, says Rep. Canales
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Monday, January 8, 2018, called on Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), to work with him and other state lawmakers to prevent the planned firing of 117 commissioned DPS officers in a budget-cutting move by the Texas Public Safety Commission.
“These 117 officers, who are now slated for downsizings, were all hired as part of the Retire/Rehire Program, which encouraged retired officers to re-enter the Department to help fill the shortage of commissioned officers,” Canales stated in his letter to McCraw.
“These troopers are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable in Texas, in addition to the fact that they showed an incredible selflessness by coming back to law enforcement when their state needed them,” the House District 40 lawmaker emphasized. “Yet, it now seems that the Department might be forsaking their battle-tested veterans by picking youth over experience.”
Canales, who serves on the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, noted following the Public Safety Commission decision, “Ironically, on the very next day, DPS graduated 97 new troopers, and recently started a new recruit class which is expected to add even more officers to the Department’s ranks.”
The South Texas state legislator urged McCraw “to reconsider this proposal to make these layoffs. From my reading of last session’s budget bill, DPS was actually funded to increase the amount of commissioned officers serving our great state.”
The Texas Public Safety Commission oversees the DPS, whose five members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate for staggered, six-year terms.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is the major law enforcement agency in the state, with extensive responsibilities and resources to project the public. The uniformed troopers of the Texas Highway Patrol are the most visible symbol of the DPS. DPS troopers enforce traffic and criminal law, usually in unincorporated areas, and serve as the uniformed Texas state police.
Canales expressed hope that one of the Valley’s own on the Texas Public Safety Commission – Cynthia León of Mission – will use her considerable experience and influence to help prevent the planned layoffs, which would reportedly go into full effect by May 31, 2018.
León was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Public Safety Commission in January 2011; served as the chairman from April 2012 to March 2017; and was reappointed as a member of the commission by Gov. Greg Abbott on March 8, 2017. In April of 2017, the Public Safety Commission unanimously conferred upon her the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus in recognition of her outstanding service to the Department and the Commission. León received her bachelor’s degree from Austin College and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a former member of the Senior Executive Service and a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute of Charlottesville, VA. Her term on the Public Safety Commission expires January 1, 2020
Canales’ public support for state law enforcement came in response to concerns brought to him by the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association (DPSOA), which is one of the largest organizations representing commissioned law enforcement officers in Texas and includes more than 3700 men and women who daily pledge their lives to protect Texans across the state. (Source: http://www.dpsoa.com)
STATEMENT BY TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
DPSOA released the following statement after the Thursday, December 21, 2017 decision by the Texas Public Safety Commission to let go of the 117 troopers:
The Department of Public Safety Officers Association (DPSOA) calls upon the Public Safety Commission to rescind the order made on Thursday, December 21st, to lay off 117 DPS commissioned officers that were hired under the Department’s Retire/Rehire Program.
DPSOA is committed to supporting our members affected by this decision. We also believe this decision is contrary to the intent of the Governor and Legislators to not only maintain 2017 troop levels, but also add an additional 250 troopers.
The Retire/Rehire Program was started in 2002 after the Department experienced a significant retention and recruitment problem, including a record number of vacant commissioned positions statewide.
Retired officers were encouraged to re-enter the workforce by participating in the program which allowed the officer to draw a salary while also maintaining their earned pension. Participants had to re-apply to the Department, go through testing, and meet fitness performance requirements. Participants were also treated as if they were a new employee for salary and benefit purposes.
Some retirement-eligible officers were encouraged to retire then re-apply which assisted the officer financially while also helping the Department which would assign the rehired officer to a hard to fill duty station.
After retention and recruitment levels improved, the Department eliminated the routine practice of rehiring officers in 2013.
While DPS did receive a budget cut, page 13 from the LBB’s Summary of Conference Committee Report for Senate Bill 1 states:
“ …The majority of this funding ($694.3 million in General Revenue Funds and General Revenue–Dedicated Funds) is provided to DPS, $445.7 million of which is in the agency’s bill pattern for Goal B, Secure Texas. Other goals in the DPS budget contain additional funding for border security-related functions and activities ($248.6 million). This funding maintains support for DPS personnel at fiscal year 2017 full deployment levels, eliminates funding for onetime and transitional expenditures, and adds additional personnel to the border security initiative….”
Additionally, the legislature expressly granted authority to the Department to move money around in order maintain the total number of commissioned law enforcement officer positions at 2017 levels (Rider 61 of the DPS budget – S.B. 1, 85th Session).
TEXAS DPS HONORED FOR RESOURCEFUL USE OF BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGY TO HELP IDENTIFY SUSPECT IN CHILD EXPLOITATION CASE
During the summer of 2017, the Texas DPS received the FBI’s Biometric Identification Award for their unconventional use of technology to help solve a child exploitation case. Biometric Services Section Chief William G. McKinsey of the FBI’s CJIS Division presented the award to Jenny Hall and Meghan Blackburn, both of the Austin Crime Laboratory.
“This case perfectly demonstrates the continued importance of fingerprint evidence and the innovative forensic work being accomplished at DPS crime laboratories,” said Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw.
In July 2015, the Texas Office of Attorney General submitted a digital photograph to the Texas DPS Crime Laboratory in Austin. In the photo, an unknown suspect was exploiting a child, and the only possible lead to the identity of the man in the photo was the fingers on one of his hands.
Hall, the latent automated fingerprint identification system supervisor, and Blackburn, the latent prints supervisor, joined forces to retrieve an image of a single print from one of the suspect’s fingers in the photo. Despite the fact that no scale was available for the fingerprint, examiners extrapolated information from the photo, performed additional research, and estimated the size of the fingerprint. A search of the fingerprint image against the Texas database did not return any potential investigative leads. However, Texas DPS also launched a search of the FBI’s NGI System, which resulted in an investigative lead.
The fingerprint identified the suspect as Robert Harold Bossick, Jr., who was living in the Augusta, Georgia area. The information was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.
Bossick was located and, during an interview, admitted to taking sexually explicit photographs of a local 9-year-old girl. Information was also developed about Bossick participating in a private chat group that was sharing child pornography. Investigative leads were sent to other states and countries, which led to the arrest of two more individuals and the identification of three juvenile victims.
Bossick was arrested in July 2015 and later pleaded guilty in federal court to possession and production of child pornography. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
This case marked the first time latent print examiners with the Texas DPS Crime Laboratory successfully used an evidentiary photo of a finger to identify a suspect.
“Sexual predators who prey on children are among the most heinous of criminals, and we are proud that our DPS crime lab experts were part of the criminal justice effort that put this deplorable criminal behind bars,” McCraw added.
Each year, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division presents the Biometric Identification Award to recognize the outstanding members of local and state law enforcement who use the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System to solve major cases. In 2017, two state agencies received the award for their resourceful use of the system: the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.