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The Source: DPS' Lack Of Transparency 'Honored' By National Investigative Reporter Org

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State of Texas DPS
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Every year Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc, a 40-year old nonprofit dedicated to improving investigative reporting gives away a dubious distinction, The Golden Padlock.

 

The Golden Padlock is given to the least accessible, most secretive and impressively impervious individuals and agencies working in government.

 

Texas' own Department of Public Safety made the finalists for 2015. They lost to the Massachusetts State Police, but were one of the final 5 and Mark Horvit executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)--also a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism--tells us DPS was nominated by numerous media organizations, both state and national, for their handling of the details of their border security plan.

 

In many cases, media complaints dealt with the run of the mill stonewalling law enforcement agencies across the country are known for, but DPS also was known for aggressively protesting media coverage directly to lawmakers, sometimes before the articles were even published.

 

We invited DPS to come on our program, but they declined sending the following statement from spokesperson Tom Vinger:

 

We are proud of the men and women of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) – including those involved in border operations – who willingly risk their lives every day protecting the people of this state. The department has provided – and continues to provide – a significant amount of information to state leaders about border security, including Operation Strong Safety (OSS). Several general and specific border-related dashboards are provided to Texas leaders on a regular basis.  DPS also submitted an official law enforcement-sensitive OSS report to the Governor and Texas Legislature this session, and we provide them with a dashboard with border wide and OSS data.  Some of this information can be found on our website at http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/PublicInformation/borderSecStats.htm. As with all agencies who are appropriated funding, we take our direction from the Texas Leadership and Texas Legislature. DPS will work closely with the Texas Leadership and the oversight committee to ensure the department is transparent, accountable and in compliance with their directives, especially with respect to information and data they intend for us to capture and report. If state leaders direct DPS to collect new data – in addition to the significant amount of border-related information already being collected and reported to state leaders on a regular basis – the department will certainly comply.

 

We talk to a couple of veteran reporters who regularly report on Texas DPS and the border on what it is like to do the public's work reporting on DPS.

 

Guests:

 

  • Mark Horvit, executive director of IRE
  • Melissa del Bosque, staff writer at the Texas Observer
  • Jeremy Schwartz, staff writer at the Austin-American Statesman

 

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive