DPS Responsibilities

September 30, 2020

There is no greater responsibility of government than protecting its citizens. Texas faces the entire range of threats to its ever-increasing population of almost 30 million residents, who live throughout the state’s over 268,000 square miles of rural and urban communities and along 367 miles of coast line and 1,254 miles of international border with Mexico. Texas possesses a substantial amount of the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources and has over 313,000 miles of roadways with over 210,000 miles in the unincorporated areas of Texas.  

The scope and magnitude of the public safety threat environment is substantial and possesses an asymmetric threat to public safety and includes:

  • Transnational and State-Wide Gangs
  • Mexican Crime Cartels
  • International Terrorist Organizations
  • Domestic Terrorist Organizations
  • Individual Radicalized Violent Actors
  • Mass Attacks in Public Places
  • Mob Violence
  • Serial Bombers, Arsonists and Snipers
  • Violent Serial Criminals
  • Sex & Human Trafficking Organizations
  • Drug Trafficking Organizations
  • Cyber Intrusions and Attacks
  • Major Floods, Wildfires and Hurricanes
  • Pandemic Diseases, such as COVID-19
  • Fatal Vehicle Crashes

These threats present daunting challenges for the state’s leadership, Legislature, local officials, and agencies such as the Department charged with protecting people from harm. Constant vigilance and the timely and effective integration of effort across all jurisdictions and disciplines is absolutely essential because even one of these threats can quickly overwhelm entire cities, counties, and regions of the state. This is particularly important at a time when state and local governments are faced with decreasing revenue and resources to protect people from harm.

Currently, there are only 80,179 local and state commissioned officers in Texas working for 2,768 different local and state law enforcement agencies in 254 counties. While these departments are highly professional, over 50% have 10 or fewer officers, 78% have 20 or fewer officers and 91% have 50 or fewer officers. Regardless of their professionalism and dedication, it is not possible for most of these agencies to sustain around-the-clock operations for long periods of time or to invest in the types of capabilities needed to address significant threats. Fortunately, Texas is blessed with a strong sense of cooperation among law enforcement agencies and the support of the public, which serves as a force multiplier of these limited resources.

The State Legislature and Governor have provided DPS with essential public safety capabilities to address its many public safety responsibilities and to assist its law enforcement partners when needed. In recent years, the Department has been tasked with conducting major crime prevention operations along the international border with Mexico to address the substantial amount of drug and human smuggling into and throughout Texas and in other areas of the state threatened by escalating drug and gang related violence. The Department has also been directed to proactively address threats to schools, mass attacks in public places, violent gangs, and the sex trafficking industry throughout the state. The amount and type of DPS assistance varies, and sometimes requires the integration of several of the below essential public safety capabilities that most law enforcement agencies in Texas either do not have, or cannot sustain at the level and intensity needed.

  • Intelligence and Crime Analysis
  • High Visibility  Patrols
  • Major Violent Crime Investigations
  • Terrorism Investigations
  • Drug Investigations
  • Gang Investigations
  • Sex and Human Trafficking Investigations
  • Serial Murder Investigations
  • Public Corruption Investigations
  • Cold Case Investigations
  • Cyber Intrusions and Attacks
  • 3D Crime Scene Mapping
  • Laboratory Forensic Analysis
  • Polygraph Examinations
  • Radio Communications Interoperability
  • Air Patrol and Rescue Operations
  • Boat Patrol and Rescue Operations
  • Dive Recovery Team
  • Crisis Negotiations
  • Major Highway Safety Operations
  • Tactical Operations
  • Field Force Operation Teams (riot prevention)
  • Mounted, Motor Cycle and Bike Patrol
  • Drug and Explosive Canine Teams
  • Security Threat Assessments
  • Physical and Technical Surveillance
  • Undercover Operations
  • Special Event Security

The Department has the additional responsibility of providing local and state law enforcement and criminal justice agencies around-the-clock access to the following mission-critical law enforcement/criminal justice information systems:

  • National Crime Information Center
  • Texas Crime Information Center
  • Criminal History Records
  • National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
  • Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
  • National Data Exchange
  • Texas Data Exchange
  • Texas Gang Intelligence Index
  • Combined DNA Index System
  • Texas Sex Offender Registry
  • Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System

Texans expect and deserve quality service when seeking a license from the state, and anything less undermines the public’s confidence in state government. All of the license and regulatory responsibilities listed below have been entrusted to DPS, and they must be managed in an effective, efficient, and courteous manner:

  • Driver Licenses
  • Licenses to Carry Handguns
  • Licenses for Private Security
  • Licenses for Motor Vehicle Inspectors
  • Licenses for Metal Recycling Businesses
  • Licenses to Dispense Low-Level THC
  • Ignition-Interlock Devices

The most important and challenging of these programs is Driver License. The challenge stems in large part from the enactment of the federal Real ID Act, which mandates additional processes necessary to validate the identification and lawful presence of the card holder. The second major factor is the state’s ever increasing population. Everyone who moves to Texas and seeks to drive must obtain a Texas Driver’s license and the state’s population continues to increase.

The 86th Legislature appropriated substantial resources to improve driver license operations and during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the men and women in the Driver License Division continued to issue commercial vehicle driver licenses while working towards establishing one of the nation’s best Driver License Programs by reengineering processes, expanding capacity and leveraging technology.  

All members of the Department are essential employees which was evident by DPS’s ability to conduct uninterrupted operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This required secure and effective information technology offsite services, telecommunications support, new health monitoring and safety procedures, and increased office sanitation. Traditional threats to public safety will continue, while new ones will evolve. Fortunately, the state leadership and legislature are committed to the safety of all Texans, and the men and women of DPS are forever committed to protecting and serving the great State of Texas regardless of the risk.