Last week, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department sent out a press release gushing about its new toys. The department's "newly-acquired advanced detection equipment" will supposedly keep us safe from a "potential radiological or nuclear threat."
Sounds cool, but, uh, what exactly is this thing? Should be a simple question, but as is the usual case in Texas, the law enforcement agency chose to remain rather tight-lipped.
"While we cannot divulge the specific devices purchased for security reasons we can say that these devices can be deployed on a game warden’s duty belt, on a patrol vessel and in an aerial platform," department spokesman Tom Harvey said in an email, adding that the mystery machines are "capable of detecting and identifying radiological and nuclear isotopes from several different types of sources."
According to Harvey, the department bought 100 of these unidentified belt-holstered objects, and it all cost $1.1 million in taxpayer funds. Toss in the extra cost of training game wardens to use these ostensible proton packs, and that's quite a hefty price tag for a purchase made on the public's dime that the department is essentially hiding the receipt for.
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Harvey also did not respond to our query regarding the parks department's policy and procedure for how its game wardens would handle the nuclear material it is apparently now tasked with detecting. Hopefully, they at least have some really thick gloves.
Here's Harvey's email response, in its entirety:
Texas Game Wardens have obtained roughly 100 pieces of detection equipment through FEMAs Port Security Grant capable of detecting and identifying radiological and nuclear isotopes from several different types of sources. The equipment cost $1.1 million and was purchased through a grant from the federal government. While we cannot divulge the specific devices purchased for security reasons we can say that these devices can be deployed on a game warden’s duty belt, on a patrol vessel and in an aerial platform. Not only can the devices be used for threat interdiction but they can also be deployed to assist our environmental investigators who work closely with the Department of State Health services and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to investigate cases where certain low level materials may have been released outside the parameters of their permit or license or where an industrial device may have been lost or stolen. Specific threats and historic incidents would have to be released by the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, so feel free to contact them for more answers to your questions below.
Regarding the role of our wardens, Texas Game Warden patrols along Texas’ coastal waters put them on the front lines of America’s homeland security efforts. Whether it be illegal fishing, drug trafficking or the smuggling of dangerous materials, we have a duty is [sic] to protect Texans from all threats, and we owe it to our citizens to equip our officers with the equipment they need to do their job. For these reasons, we are better equipping and training Texas Game Wardens who have been actively involved in emergency management and related response for decades.