Texas Will Give Out Enough Bulletproof Vests to Equip 40% of Police in State

Texas is doling out almost $23 million in state funds to provide enough bulletproof vests to equip more than 40 percent of licensed law enforcement officers in the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, released a list of 453 agencies this week that will receive funding through a grant created by legislators last year after a sniper killed five police officers in Dallas during an otherwise peaceful protest against police shootings in 2016.

“The job of our law enforcement community is becoming more difficult as the threats our officers face continue to increase,” Abbott said at a press conference in Dallas on Tuesday — National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

The money will equip nearly 33,000 officers with vests or body armor that can withstand gunfire from high-powered automatic weapons. There are approximately 77,500 licensed law enforcement officers in the state, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

The legislation was a priority for Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who joined Abbott and the bill’s author, state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, at the announcement.

“This grant program is one more step the state can take to enhance the safety of our officers and to make sure our police know that, in Texas, we back the blue,” Patrick said.

To receive funding under the grant, local jurisdictions had to submit applications by September. In the application process, agencies were able to select which vests they wanted, which caused discrepancies in agency funding.

For example, Harris County received the most vests of any jurisdiction — 4,385 for law enforcement officers including sheriff’s deputies, constables and fire marshals. The county got more than $3 million to cover the costs. But the city of Houston was awarded more money for fewer vests.

Houston’s more than $3.9 million in funding will cover about 3,600 vests, placing the average cost per vest at more than $1,000 compared to Harris County’s $700. The average cost of vests per jurisdiction ranged from $220 to $2,100, according to the list provided by the governor.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In May, the Texas House passed Senate Bill 12 to create and fund a bulletproof vest grant program to outfit approximately 50,000 officers with vests that can withstand rounds from high-caliber firearms. [Full story]
  • Texas lawmakers passed a bill last year making any crime against police or judges a hate crime. [Full story]
  • The July ambush of police officers in downtown Dallas was one of the highest-profile examples of the intense community-law enforcement divide in 2016. [Full story]

Author –  JOLIE MCCULLOUGH – The Texas Tribune