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Texas Troopers Misidentify Hispanic Drivers As White, TV Report Says

Texas Department of Public Safety

Five stories that have North Texas talking: some Texas utilities offer free electricity at night; Texas gets a bad grade for government transparency; Ted Cruz doesn’t care that GOP politicians don’t care for him; and more.

A broadcast report says Texas state troopers habitually misidentify the race of Hispanics as white in traffic records, calling into question the accuracy of state data used to monitor racial profiling. KXAN-TV in Austin reports a review of data since 2010 shows troopers across the state inaccurately recorded the race of Hispanic drivers. Among the most common surnames listed by troopers as white are Garcia, Martinez, Hernandez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez. A state law meant to prevent racial profiling requires authorities to document the race of every driver who is issued a warning or citation, or is arrested. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger acknowledged that databases have limited identifying codes. Computer systems have five specific codes for race, but Hispanic is seen as an ethnicity, rather than a race. Texas Standard, the public radio newsmagazine, has more details. KXAN has a follow-up report, with reaction from law enforcement groups. [Associated Press/KERA]

  • Some Texas utilities are offering free electricity at night. The New York Times reports: “Thousands of TXU Energy customers … are at the vanguard of a bold attempt by the utility to change how people consume energy. TXU’s free overnight plan, which is coupled with slightly higher daytime rates, is one of dozens that have been offered by more than 50 retail electricity companies in Texas over the last three years with a simple goal: for customers to turn down the dials when wholesale prices are highest and turn them back up when prices are lowest. It is possible because Texas has more wind power than any other state, accounting for roughly 10 percent of the state’s generation. Alone among the 48 contiguous states, Texas runs its own electricity grid that barely connects to the rest of the country, so the abundance of nightly wind power generated here must be consumed here.” [The New York Times]

  • Texas gets a bad grade for government ethics and transparency. The Center for Public Integrity reports: “The state earned a grade of D- in the latest State Integrity Investigation, a national assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. Texas ranked 38th out of 50, suggesting that the nation’s second-largest state — a powerhouse of high growth and economic prosperity — may be heading in the wrong direction when it comes to ethics and other measures of government integrity. In the first State Integrity Investigation, published in March 2012, the Lone Star State ranked 27th with an overall grade of D+.” Read more here. [Center for Public Integrity]

  • A person arrested on unrelated charges in Houston will be questioned as a "person of interest" in the shooting of a Texas state judge outside her Austin home. In social media postings Monday night, the Austin Police Department said it was "aware of the arrest in Houston of a person of interest in the shooting" of state District Judge Julie Kocurek. The posting said "the arrest was for unrelated charges" and went on to say that it would make no further comments. Houston police spokesman Victor Senties said he had no information on the matter. Kocurek was shot Friday night upon returning to her home in a posh neighborhood near downtown Austin. Police said Kocurek was hospitalized in stable condition with injuries not considered to be life-threatening. [Associated Press]

  • Many GOP politicians don’t care for Texas’ Ted Cruz. But he doesn’t seem to mind. The Washington Post reports: “Ted Cruz has been branded a “wacko bird” by a Senate colleague. ... A GOP consultant labeled him a show horse, and a strategist for a rival presidential campaign called him the Mitt Romney of 2016 — the Republican no other Republican can stand. … Cruz does not appear to be bothered. The senator and presidential candidate seems to relish the fact that so many fellow Republicans love to hate him. On the trail, the Texas Republican fondly recounts his skirmishes. His campaign blasts out fundraising e-mails quoting the critical words. … A super PAC supporting Cruz released a radio spot Tuesday boasting that Boehner referred to Cruz as a “a pain in the you-know-what.” In other words, Cruz’s status as persona non grata has become part of his political persona: He uses the enmity of others to paint himself as an outsider, someone whose role taking on Washington prompted an ugly backlash from the establishment that he counts as a point of pride.” Read more here. [The Washington Post via Texas Tribune]

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.