Texas DPS Breaks From Random Compliance Inspections & Raids Retama Park

Much to the disappointment of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership (THP), the Department of Public Safety (DPS) swept through the stable area at Retama Park on Tuesday, April 10.

The Texas Horsemen's Partnership and the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) have been cooperating on a random compliance inspection procedure for nearly a year now. The intent of the random procedure was to eliminate the need for the "global shakedown" type of raid that was conducted by the DPS on Tuesday.

Speaking of the raid, THP Executive Director Tommy Azopardi explained, "The Texas Horsemen's Partnership is very supportive of the DPS efforts and encourages a crime-free environment at all of our racetracks, but we think there are other ways to achieve that goal than subjecting our members to this type of degrading activity."

Azopardi continued, "The message that is sent to our horsemen and the public when these 'shakedowns' happen is that all horsemen are suspect of being crooks."

As a rule, each time that one of the shakedowns has occurred, the DPS has mostly found only minor infractions. Moreover, most of the time, the more serious incidents have involved racetrack employees or outside vendors. The majority of the violations have typically been unlabeled (but legal) medication and possession of alcohol.

The large number of law enforcement officers needed to conduct these raids is costly to the taxpayers and is so visible that it is potentially harmful to the Texas racing industry. It would be difficult to find any other regulated industry where the constitutional rights of the licensees are pushed to the limit the way they are in the Texas racing industry.

The Texas Horsemen's Partnership was not notified when the search started, instead finding out about the raid when THP members began calling the association office wanting an HBPA representative present for the searches. Notification at the beginning of a search had previously been a courtesy that was extended to the THP office.

Azopardi expressed his surprise at the change in procedure, saying, "I was under the impression that if the random compliance inspections were working, there would not be the need for any more global shakedowns, and therefore the THP supported and assisted the Texas Racing Commission's enforcement division with the program. I thought they were working fine, but obviously we need to revisit this issue.

"If the DPS has reason to suspect that there is criminal activity at any Texas racetrack, then they should do some 'old fashion' police work and catch the perpetrators. I guess it is just easier to throw out a big net and hope you catch something; or they were trying to impress the legislature during this session; however, I remained convinced that there are better ways to accomplish their goal," concluded Azopardi.

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