AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department and the police union began handing out 958 new, heavier ballistic vests to officers Monday.
“These vests will be given to every man and woman that serves on the front line as well as those support units,” said Austin Police Department Interim Chief Brian Manley.
The Austin Police Association president made the plea for the more expensive ballistic vests last summer after the attack on police officers in Dallas. An officer would only don the ballistic vests during a critical incident such as an active shooter. Most officers would store the extra 20 pounds of gear in their patrol vehicle.
“In the past, this hasn’t been as big of an issue in the country, but as we’ve seen in the last year, very violent crimes have been committed with AR 15s and AK-47s, and quite simply our vests won’t stop that,” said APA President Ken Casaday in August.
Chief Manley says the vests cost $336 each, which brings the total cost to more than $321,000.
“The money came from within our general fund. We have dollars budgeted every year to purchase equipment. Again, we are as conservative as we can be throughout the year so we can come in at or under budget each year,” said Manley. “This was a significant enough need and we had the funding at the end of the year last year to purchase these.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made it one of his priorities to pass a senate bill creating a grant program to fund vests for officers across the state.
“We must protect our law enforcement officers at all costs,” said State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the author of that bill. West says the amount of money that will go to the fund is yet to be determined. “We’re trying to get $25 million, but you never know it may be $10 million, it may be $50 million.”
The bill has support from Democrats and Republicans.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Manor Police Department, and Pflugerville Police Department are among the law enforcement agencies that do not have the heavier vests for all front-line officers.