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Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush speaks with members of the Austin American-Statesman's Editorial staff [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush speaks with members of the Austin American-Statesman's Editorial staff [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN].

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush speaks with members of the Austin American-Statesman's Editorial staff [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN].

Madlin Mekelburg
By Madlin Mekelburg August 24, 2020

Fact-checking claim about vehicle damage, Austin police funding

If Your Time is short

  • The parking garage featured in Bush’s video is under Texas Department of Public Safety jurisdiction, not the Austin Police Department.

  • The damage shown in the video was discovered by law enforcement five days before the city’s vote on police funding.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush said a video from a parking garage used by state agencies showed more than a dozen vans with busted rear windows on the same night the Austin City Council voted to redirect $150 million in funding from the police department.

The council’s recent funding decisions regarding the Austin Police Department have come under fire from state officials, who have threatened to freeze local governments’ property tax revenue if they cut police budgets.

Bush said his video highlights the need for police funding and said the city is moving down a dangerous path.

"This was taken tonight in one of the parking garages used by (the Texas General Land Office) and other state agencies in downtown Austin, the same night the City of Austin voted to cut $150 million from (the Austin Police Department)," he wrote in the tweet. "The need for police funding is as clear as ever. This is a dangerous path to go down."

Bush did not return a request seeking more information about the video, including whether he recorded the footage himself, whether the incident had been reported and when exactly the damage occurred.

Here’s what we know: The parking garage is under the jurisdiction of state law enforcement, not the city police. And the damage to the vehicles was reported five days before the City Council voted on police funding.

Let’s dive in.

Incident is under investigation

The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating the incident featured in the video on Bush’s Twitter account.

Troopers with the agency discovered multiple vehicles with shattered windows during a "routine early morning garage check" at a parking garage near the Capitol on Aug. 8, according to a statement from the agency.

The vehicles are owned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Department of Agriculture and the General Land Office.

An "investigation confirmed 14 vehicles had windows broken with what appears to be a bb or pellet air gun," reads the statement. "At this time, no arrests have been made, and the investigation is ongoing."

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The Austin Police Department has no record of any incident that meets the description, and a spokesperson said the garage is under the Department of Public Safety’s jurisdiction.

The DPS is responsible for security at the Texas Capitol and the surrounding buildings, according to an overview of its duties published online.

"On September 1, 1991, the Texas Legislature transferred all duties and responsibilities of the Capitol Security Police Division of the State Purchasing and General Services Commission to the Texas Department of Public Safety," reads the overview. "The Capitol Complex includes the State Capitol and grounds, Capitol Extension, State office buildings, State parking lots and garages, and private office buildings and businesses," the DPS website reads.

Austin City Council Vote

The Austin City Council approved the city’s budget for the coming fiscal year during a meeting on Aug. 13.

The $4.2 billion budget included about $150 million in planned cuts to the Austin Police Department, which was slated to receive $434 million in the initial budget proposal before the council.

Of the $150 million in approved cuts, about $20 million will be immediately removed from the department’s funding by canceling three upcoming cadet classes, reducing overtime costs and pulling money from "commodities and contractuals."

The money will be redirected to other programs and city departments, including violence prevention efforts and local emergency COVID-19 response.

The other $130 million will be moved from the Police Department budget into two transitional funds aimed at moving certain services out from under the umbrella of the police department, including support services, recruiting and traffic enforcement.

Our ruling

Bush shared a video to his Twitter account purporting to show damage to state-owned vehicles parked at a garage in downtown Austin on the same night the City Council voted to cut funding from the Austin Police Department.

While we don’t know for certain when the video was taken, we do know that the damage was discovered by state law enforcement officers at five days before the vote on cuts to the police budget.

Plus, Bush’s attempt to connect the damage with the Police Department is misleading, as the parking garage is not within the Austin Police Department’s jurisdiction. The Texas Department of Public Safety discovered the damage and is conducting an investigation.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Twitter, George P. Bush, Aug. 13, 2020

Email interview with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Aug. 17, 2020

Email interview with the Austin Police Department, Aug. 17, 2020

Austin American-Statesman, Texas GOP leaders unveil plan to freeze property tax revenue after Austin vote to cut police spending, Aug. 18, 2020

Austin American-Statesman, Austin council OKs budget with $150M in police cuts, Aug. 13, 2020

City of Austin, City Council Budget Adoption Meeting Transcript, Aug. 13, 2020

Texas Department of Public Safety, Overview, Aug. 18, 2020

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Fact-checking claim about vehicle damage, Austin police funding

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