When they aren’t rescuing stranded hikers from 300,000-acre parks or airlifting victims from dangerous flood zones, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens will now aid in anti-terrorism and border protection missions.
The TPWD semi-monthly magazine highlighted changes to their operations this month in an article about the new teams:
As fully commissioned peace officers, and law enforcement, Texas’ 532 game wardens have long assisted local authorities and other state agencies in times of crisis, but the TPWD Law Enforcement Division recently established a cadre of specialty teams made up of volunteer game wardens willing to take extra training and respond to situations anywhere in Texas at a moment’s notice while also maintaining their regular duties.
Specifically, there’s a 25-man unit called a “scout team” that the magazine says “is designed to serve as what the military calls a ‘force multiplier.’” Its duties include “border operations, dignitary protection or any form of high-risk law enforcement, such as serving felony arrest warrants or hostage situations.”
The move will likely raise concerns about the militarization of local and state law enforcement. That’s captured in the Dallas Observer’s take on the news: “The militarization of every possible law enforcement entity in America is complete: Texas Parks and Wildlife now has a SWAT team.”
But Mike Cox, the author of the magazine’s piece, disagrees.
“All of our state Game Wardens are fully commissioned Texas Peace Officers, and because of that they have guns and badges and get involved in backing up local sheriffs and other agencies,” Cox, TPWD news team lead told TheBlaze in a phone interview.
“Their primary is still enforcing conservation laws, the game and fish laws,” Cox added. He emphasized the new roles are merely additional duties, and their role in assistance with community policing is secondary.
Cox also said the Game Wardens make DWI arrests and make drug seizures, but this only happens when they are asked to help or encounter the violator during their day-to-day duties.
“We’re not trying to become a military force, and our game wardens are only marginally involved in border activities, when they are asked to assist by the (Department of Public Safety),” he said.
The militarization of local peace officers or law enforcement has received more attention as of late, noted in a recent Fox News article about the growing number of military vehicles and equipment distributed to police and sheriff’s departments – $4.2 billion worth since 1990.
When asked how many Texas agencies now work border patrol or anti-terrorism missions, neither the governor’s office nor DPS had an immediate response.
“When dealing with issues along the border, DPS works with a variety of local, state and federal agencies, each with their specific jurisdictions and areas of responsibility,” Tom Vinger, DPS spokesman said in an e-mail to TheBlaze. When asked which entities those were, Mr. Vinger said U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the primary federal agencies.
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