The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 12, which would set up a grant program for police departments around the state to acquire protective vests.
SB 12, authored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would create a $25 million grant program for law enforcement agencies across the state to buy bulletproof vests. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made this bill one of his legislative priorities for the session.
“Although many of us may think that all police officers and sheriffs already have bulletproof vests and other protective headgear, what we have found is that this may not be the absolute case,” West said.
During the hearing, the July 7 shooting in Dallas, which killed five officers, was brought up as a reason to support the bill.
Frederick Frazier, first vice president of the Dallas Police Association, said the vests officers wear today are outdated and not strong enough to withstand new weapons.
“The armor that I got at the academy in 1995 is the same armor that the officers are wearing today, but we’re not seeing the same guns on the street,” Frazier said. “We’re seeing a lot of high powered rifles that can go right through our vest.”
Gary Tittle, the assistant chief of Dallas police, said although Dallas has a vest policy, it didn’t save the lives of those five officers. Tittle said the bill would allow the department to buy better vests.
“The first form of government, in my opinion, is protecting the people, their lives and their property,” Tittle said. “This bill allows us to protect those who protect us.”
Chris Jones, training coordinator at Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said SB 12 would allow smaller agencies around the state to buy bulletproof vests for their officers. Jones said these agencies would not have enough money to do so otherwise.
West said while members of the Legislature don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll come home each night, this security isn’t there for the families of law enforcement officers.
“I think that by passage of this bill and other bills, we send a clear message in terms of where we stand as relates to law enforcement, the support that we provide,” West said. “… We need to do everything in our power to make certain that your significant others, your spouses, can rest a little easier at night knowing that you have the support of the Texas Senate.”