A version of this story ran in the May 2014 issue.
Above: Steve McCraw
Ever since Steve McCraw, who was once an FBI agent, became director of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2009, he’s striven to make the state’s largest law enforcement agency more like a wing of the Department of Homeland Security. McCraw has invested in armored gunboats, a surveillance plane and even a helicopter sniper program (since discontinued after two undocumented Guatemalan migrants were killed in 2012). Now the agency has become the federal government’s newest partner in fighting the global war on drugs.
In late March, McCraw signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) that allows DPS to send its troopers to other countries to train. DPS can also train foreign police officers in Texas under the new agreement.
The INL oversees a $1.7 billion annual budget, of which about half a billion is dedicated to “counternarcotic control strategies” such as law enforcement training, drug crop eradication and foreign programs that support the U.S drug war strategy. INL spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala says the federal agency has one other partnership in Texas. Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar (whose brother is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar) signed an agreement with the agency in 2011. Last year, Martin Cuellar’s department hosted a three-week study tour in Laredo for eight narcotics officers from Ecuador.
After signing the agreement with DPS’ McCraw, Ambassador William Brownfield, assistant secretary for the INL, told Texas Public Radio that DPS has unique expertise in border security, especially in drug- and gang-related crimes. Brownfield cited Central American gangs as one area that DPS might focus on in the new collaboration. He said he hopes U.S. law enforcement will soon “address issues related to gangs down there that eventually operate up here.”
McCraw, in a written statement, said he was pleased to have DPS join the U.S. State Department’s global campaign in the war on drugs: “Crime today is alarmingly transitory, transnational, organized and covert, and it’s not enough for governments to focus solely on protecting public safety and disrupting crime within their borders—the efforts must be global.”