History of the Texas Rangers
Fabled by law-abiding Texans and feared by outlaws, the Texas Rangers are an elite law enforcement agency that has statewide investigative jurisdiction. Based in Austin, the Rangers have existed for almost 100 years after being founded by the original Texan himself – Stephen F. Austin.
Originally formed to patrol the Texas frontier and to guard early Texan settlers from hostile Native-American tribes, the Rangers, who were all volunteers, were reorganized after the state secured its independence from Mexico.
Thereafter, the volunteers were used to patrol the Texas-Mexico border, and to undertake special policing missions. Once a mission was accomplished, the volunteers were sent home until there was a new mission.
The group was officially disbanded by the US Government during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, but, however, once Texas was allowed to self-govern again, the Rangers were back in business. This time, the group was no longer comprised of volunteers, but rather, paid agents of the state.
Starting in 1935, the Rangers became an official law enforcement agency under the supervision of the Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas DPS).
Duties of the Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers have led investigative responsibility on a statewide basis for the following: public corruption, border security operations, major crime investigations, officer involved shootings, and unsolved and serial crimes.
In addition to those duties, the Rangers assist in the following arenas.
Interagency Investigations and Suppression of Crime Assistance
Rangers assist local law enforcement in certain high-risk or high-profile situations on an as-needed basis. The assistance will either be requested by local authorities or assigned by the Texas DPS.
Generally, the need for Rangers arises when the local authorities are unable or unwilling to enforce the law due to extraordinary circumstances.
Organized Crime Unit
The Rangers coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies in gathering intelligence and suppressing organized crime, whether it be human trafficking, narcotics, or weapons.
With superior forensic capabilities, the Rangers provide training and assistance to other law enforcement groups. Some of the areas where the Rangers excel are hypnosis, facial reconstruction and skillful artists who aid victims in rendering realistic depictions of suspects and crime scenes.
Internal Investigations and Intra-agency Training
When called upon by the Director of the Texas DPS, Rangers investigate alleged misconduct of other Texas law enforcement personnel, including incidents involving officer shootings. The Rangers also investigate incidents involving injuries to Texas law enforcement officers.
Additionally, the Rangers provide technical and specialized investigation and forensic training to various local, state, and federal agencies.
Security for Elected Officials
When the Texas Governor is traveling throughout the state, or when outside dignitaries are visiting Texas, the Rangers provide security detail to ensure the officials are safe in performing their duties.
Other elected officials are also afforded special protection by the Rangers during public events.
Becoming a Texas Ranger
The Rangers are an elite force, which means it is a highly selective law enforcement agency that has stringent standards. In order to join their ranks, an applicant must have at least eight years of experience with a Texas DPS law enforcement agency. The applicant’s experience must have been primarily focused on the investigation of major crimes. This force is so selective, that experience in the Military Police does not suffice.
If an applicant meets the minimum standards, the would-be Ranger must be a top scorer on the entrance exam and be successful in the subsequent oral interview. A position with the Rangers is so highly sought after, that recruiting is rarely done. Usually, hundreds of women and men will apply for only a handful of open positions.
Rangers are generally highly experienced officers, so much so that the current average age of an officer is 44 years old.
Currently, the Texas Ranger Division has around 235 full time employees, which includes 166 commissioned Rangers.
In 2019, the Rangers conducted a total of 2,235 investigations, which resulted in 993 felony and 56 misdemeanor arrests. As a result of last year’s investigations, the Rangers secured 562 confessions and 537 convictions. Interestingly, the Rangers conducted 9 hypnosis sessions during their investigations into criminal activity.
With respect to punishment, the 537 convictions led to grand total of 8,531 years in prison, including 3 death sentences and 76 life sentences.
Notable Texas Rangers
John Coffee Hays
A Tennessee man by birth, John Coffee Hays ventured to Texas in 1837, shortly after the new nation gained its independence from Mexico. By 23 years old, Hays was a Ranger Captain, who gained fame during the Mexican War of 1846-1848. During the war, he defended United States supply and communication lines from attacks by Mexican guerillas.
Fighting alongside US army troops, this Texas Ranger earned a national reputation for valor. After his time as a Ranger, Hays moved to California, where he helped establish the city of Oakland.
Following his family friend Davy Crockett from Tennessee to Texas in 1835, Ben McCulloch joined Sam Houston’s army for the Battle of San Jacinto. Soon thereafter, McCulloch joined the Rangers and earned his stripes battling Comanches during the many skirmishes between Texans and local native tribes.
McCulloch quickly ascended in the ranks and was named John Coffee Hays’ first lieutenant. During the Mexican War, McCulloch was named the chief scout for General Zachary Taylor, who later became the 12th President of the US. McCulloch eventually headed west to California for the gold rush but returned to Texas shortly before the Civil War. He was killed in battle during the War.
John B. Jones
After serving with the Texas forces in the Civil War, John B. Jones was chosen to lead the newly formed Frontier Battalion. This new organization was comprised of six Ranger companies and was tasked with securing the frontier lands of Texas.
Under the guidance of Jones, the Rangers soon became a formidable state police force that helped bring peace to an otherwise chaotic period in Texas history, namely – the Reconstruction Era. One of Jones’ most famous accomplishments was when his group of Rangers thwarted a bank robbery by an infamous criminal named Sam Bass, who was killed during the ensuing gun battle. Jones was eventually named an adjutant General of the state of Texas.
The Texas Rangers are certainly a unique law enforcement agency, in that they have a storied history which has played a vital role in shaping the character of Texas. Do you know of law enforcement agencies in other states that have such an interesting past?
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