AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of law enforcement members across Texas will have added protection in the form of vests, and on Tuesday departments found out how much money they will receive to pay for them.
In Dallas, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, announced who will receive state grants in accordance with a new law. At the Dallas Police Association Headquarters, Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joined several state lawmakers and police officers to make the announcement.
“We want to do more than express our appreciation. We want to put our money where our mouth is,” Abbott said.
Four hundred and fifty Texas law enforcement agencies will get $23 million, enough for 33,000 vests–at a cost of approximately $500 to $1,000 for each vest. More than half a million of those dollars will go to local agencies in Central Texas.
After Dallas police officers were killed in the line of duty while they protected a Black Lives Matter march in 2016, lawmakers reacted. In the 2017 legislative session, they unanimously approved Senate Bill 12, a $25 million program to help police departments pay for protective vests. Nearly every lawmaker, Republican and Democrat, approved the grant program.
The Dallas Police Department will get the most at $1.75 million. Fourteen Central Texas law enforcement agencies will receive grant money. Anywhere from $3,500 going to Texas State University police to almost $109,000 to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
“We promised that we would make the lives of police officers safer and our communities safer,” said Abbott, alongside Lt. Gov. Patrick and the author of the bill, Dallas Democratic State Senator Royce West.
“Everyone who’s been a victim of a crime, the first person or entity they call, are police officers,” said West.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life, schools are not immune to criminals who shoot and kill with high powered weapons. “We may never use it. Let’s hope we don’t have to. But if we need it, we have it,” said Sgt. Lance Cox with the Austin ISD Police Department.
Cox applied for the grant and heard Tuesday morning his department will get more than $40,000 to better protect every AISD officer.
“It’s money that’s outside of our budget that we don’t budget for and it’s equipment that we need,” said Cox, who explained the armor they have now can’t stop high powered rifles. “Anytime we can get equipment to keep our officers safe, which in turn keeps the kids and the staff and this district safe, let’s go. That’s a great thing for us.”
The Austin Police Department will get more than $80,000, enough to purchase around 100 vests. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says they’ll make sure all the patrol officers will have them and then see who else would benefit from having them.
“It’s unfortunate that we really are in a day and age where these are a necessity for our frontline police officers, given the threats that we face as a community. We’ve seen this on display in the country. We’ve seen this horrifically on display in Dallas,” said Manley, “When they are responding to those calls where they believe they will encounter an armed subject from what we know going into the call, they’ll have the opportunity to strap this vest on real quick,”
The vests are part of the “Police Protection Act.” In addition, it makes it a hate crime to specifically target a police officer. It also increases penalties for crimes where the officer is a victim, even if a hate crime can’t be proven. It also establishes July 7, the date of that attack in Dallas, as “Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day.”
Below are Central Texas departments that will receive grants, and how much the grant is worth:
- Austin ISD — $41,000
- City of Austin — $82,200
- Bastrop County — $82,200
- City of Bastrop — $13,650
- City of Buda — $17,908
- Hays County — $108,976
- City of Pflugerville — $24,809.50
- City of San Marcos — $49,000