AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said the state needs to step up and write a big check to protect Texas law enforcement.
Better body armor is the first step to improve policing and community relations in Texas, according to Patrick.
“The state needs to write that check, whatever that amount,” Patrick said.
Lt. Governor Patrick announced Wednesday he wants to outfit every law enforcement officer across the state with the better armor at an estimated price tag of $15-20 million. “It is our blue line that separates our society from anarchy,” said Patrick.
That line and the men and women who serve and protect Texans need an added layer of protection, Patrick said. He wants “every officer to have a vest on all the time.”
The stronger vests can protect against high-powered rifle rounds. Currently, most departments use the lightweight Kevlar vests that only shield against a shotgun or pistol rounds.
“People need to quit talking about officers as if their lives do not matter or we won’t have any officers”.
Patrick’s call for high-capacity body armor follows a number of officer shootings nationwide. Specifically, the sniper attack that killed five officers in Dallas this summer — three of those officers were shot in the vest.
Patrick said, “Sadly, we now have to take these extra steps and this is step one, we’ll hear what else we need to do to protect them from people who are anarchists and murderers.”
Prices for the extra 20 pounds of gear start around $400 a piece, according to Patrick.
Ahead of the upcoming session, Patrick also announced plans to push for a new law to help widows of all first responders killed in the line of duty.
Patrick wants to spare spouses from paying property taxes, similar to the exemption the state offers military families.
“It will be one of my priority top bills,” Patrick said.
That initiative includes the husbands and wives of police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical responders killed on the job, until or if their spouse remarries.
Patrick acknowledged the state’s budget will be tight this year due to the dip in oil prices, but he is urging legislatures to make room for law enforcement.
Patrick noted the high-capacity armor is not an every year appropriation, the major expense would come in the first year of the initiative, if approved by Texas legislatures.
“I would love to do it actually as soon as we can so we can start this money flowing even if we don’t actually pass the budget until later,” Patrick said he wants to get the police departments funding for better body armor at the beginning of 2017.
After Wednesday’s announcement, Patrick met with law enforcement officials and administrators to discuss what other steps the state can take to better officers.