MANOR, Texas (KXAN) — A plan to protect Texas police officers from high-powered weapons is getting closer to reality.
Friday the entire state mourned the loss of San Antonio Officer Miguel Moreno who died after being shot Thursday afternoon. A higher-strength bulletproof vest would not have saved his life, but in the wake of other high-profile shootings of police officers, a new grant program just might save the next officer.
“You never know what the day brings,” Officer Gloria Rock of the Manor Police Department said.
With so much uncertainty built into the job, Rock at least wants every day to end the same — back home safe. “[There are] a lot of tools that we depend on,” she said, patrolling the streets in her police cruiser Friday afternoon. “I depend on all the tools on my belt, I depend on the vest.”
Still, with all those tools available, Rock said she thinks about what could happen during a normal work day. It’s what happened to several officers in Dallas last year when a gunman opened fire.
“The day, I guess, that you don’t have fear when you go to a call,” Rock said, “is the day you probably shouldn’t be a police officer anymore because every call has the potential of becoming a dangerous situation.”
Manor PD has vests for all 27 officers who need them. “Makes a hot day like today even more hot,” Chief Ryan Phipps said.
They’re around $1,000 apiece, he said, and the department keeps growing with the town. In his short time leading the department, he’s promoted or hired 17 officers.
“And then [for] existing employees,” Phipps said, “every five years [the vests are] replaced because they expire.”
The cost adds up; Manor PD depends on grants and donations to help them pay for the ever-growing list of equipment they need as new neighborhoods spring up all over the area.
Manor is the kind of police department state lawmakers want to help. They authorized — and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law — $25 million this session to help departments statewide buy body armor to protect against rifle fire.
Departments will have to apply for the grants and report back what they bought. “There’s never an end to the amount of protection that we would like to provide for our officers,” Phipps said. His department plans to apply for one of the grants, he said.
It’s not clear when anyone will be able to, but the funds will be available starting in September with the new fiscal year, according to language in the state budget.
Manor won’t quit growing by then, and neither will the police department’s need to keep buying the best in police protection. “We just have no idea who’s in the home,” Rock said, “what type of call it is.”
In addition to this grant, Phipps said, they’ll be asking city council for at least $40,000 for ballistic helmets, protective masks and shields. No matter how good their defenses are, like any police department, they’re always looking to improve.
“Knowing that they are top of the line is always comforting,” Rock said.
Austin police tell KXAN they will most likely not be applying for a grant through that program because they just bought all their officers ballistic vests with removable metal plates to stop rifle fire earlier this year.