AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers advanced two bills Monday that aim to protect police officers across Texas.
Senate Bill 1138 would permanently put a Blue Alert System in the books for every local law enforcement agency in the state.
Similar to an Amber Alert, the Department of Public Safety would put out a Blue Alert if an officer is hurt or killed in the line of duty. “And immediately alert other law enforcement agencies, the press and actually the public of the suspects on the loose,” said State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, a co-author of the bill.
As soon as a suspect’s description is known, that information gets displayed on highway signs, over your phone, and onto social media just like an Amber or Silver Alert.
“I can’t tell you how important this is and recognize how the Senate has come together,” Whitmire said. All 31 senators co-signed bills to protect police officers in Texas.
Led by Whitmire, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee advanced SB 1138 and Senate Bill 12 Monday to a full-Senate vote on the floor next week.
SB 12 would provide grants to help departments pay for new bullet proof vests. Rifle plated vests became a priority after the shootings in Dallas last summer.
“They will be the only bills we take up Monday because we want all the focus to be on the men and women who protect us and let them know that they have our full bipartisan support,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Patrick has made SB 12 one of his top priorities and said it could cost the state somewhere between $15 million to $20 million to outfit every officer in Texas with a rifle plated vest.
“Protecting law enforcement, keeping people safe, keeping those in law enforcement safe is a duty of all of us and I know something all Texans desire,” Patrick said.
Sen. Whitmire said DPS would likely be able to cover the costs of a statewide Blue Alert system by dipping into its existing funds.
“This is the hardest time to be a cop,” said Kevin Lawrence, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “It’s tough to keep morale up, it’s tough to keep your incentive,” Lawrence added. The leader of the Texas Senate, Patrick said it’s time for the state to step up its support to back Texas’ first line of defense.
“It is extremely appreciated, it’s very valuable to the troops out there,” said Lawrence.