The longtime director of DPS is retiring.
"After 43 years and 9 months with the Texas Department of Public Safety, I am retiring on Aug. 31, 2008," Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr. said in a brief statement.
Davis, 67, who has headed the agency since November 1999, declined to be interviewed.
The DPS has been under harsh criticism for the past two months over agency structure and management.
A legislative review panel found that the department's structure hampers communications and crime analysis; that it has outdated computer systems; that driver's licensing should be handled as a business service; and that the agency lacks the tools to prevent and respond to terrorism.
Less than a month after that report was issued, an intruder in June set the Governor's Mansion on fire with a Molotov cocktail. Despite warnings from the governor's protective detail and state preservation officials that at least three officers needed to be on duty at all times during the mansion's renovation, only one officer was assigned on the night of the fire. And that trooper already had finished a guard shift at a nearby state museum.
Davis told a legislative committee that he didn't receive any request for additional troopers to help guard the mansion, and it wasn't immediately clear how far up the chain of command the request went.
Davis defended the agency, saying it now performs "better than anytime I have seen it" during his 43 years with DPS.
The chairman of the board that oversees the DPS has promised a major restructuring of the agency and last month hinted that it would be done with or without Davis' help. But Chairman Allan Polunsky said Davis was not forced to retire.
"Only Col. Davis could explain what motivated him to retire at this point," Polunsky said.
He added, "Most definitely the agency is headed in a new direction. This began prior to today's announcement from Colonel Davis."
It's about time. It seems to me that the political leadership has been inexplicably complacent about the shortcomings of security at the Governor's Mansion -- despite the fact that Governor Perry is the most security-conscious chief executive in my memory. Clearly, he has been working behind the scenes to get rid of Davis. We still need to know what Perry knew about the security problems at the Mansion and when he knew it. Did DPS inform him about its lack of personnel and its malfunctioning alarm and surveillance equipment? I bet not. If Perry had known, given his concern about security, he would have done something about them.
If the mansion fire was a DPS error, the fault likely did not reside with Davis. Yes the DPS did not have sufficient staff at the mansion. But one has to wonder if troopers were pulled off the mansion detail to accompany the governor as he gallivanted around Europe on the taxpayer's dime. We will never know since DPS does not comment on the governor's security. Another, perhaps more likely, reason why there was only one trooper at the mansion has to do with Operation Border Star, Perry's get-tough on the border initiative. It is now apparently standard practice to send troopers down in squads to patrol the border area, stretching an already undermanned agency.
The Sunset Review found all manner of problems at the DPS, including the aforementioned shortage of officers. This is less Davis' fault than the demographics of an aging population and a very young one without much in between. It also doesn't help that there is fierce competition for officers from the border patrol and the military. The feds pay more. The review also found fault with DPS' handling of driver's licenses. The logical solution to this would be to spin off this non-law enforcement responsibility as a stand alone or move it to another agency, say TXDOT. DPS Commission Chairman Alan Polunsky made it clear that he would never agree to such a move.