Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants lawmakers to pass a $25 million grant program to pay for bulletproof vests for all patrol officers in Texas.
Pointing to the fatal shooting of five Dallas officers in July, Patrick said Texas should "protect those who protect us," by paying for bulletproof vests that withstand high-caliber rounds. Patrick wants to fund vests for 50,000 to 60,000 officers. As vests tend to have a life span of five years, the state will keep looking for ways to fund them, he said.
Patrick first announced the push in October. Now, he wants it to happen "right away."
The grant program – which would be created by Senate Bill 12 – would allow agencies to buy vests and require them to provide "proof of purchase of bulletproof vests, including the price of each vest and the number of vests purchased." State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, will carry the bill in his chamber, Patrick announced during a Thursday news conference at the Texas Capitol.
West likened the Dallas ambush — when five officers were killed downtown after a Black Lives Matter protest — to the Sept. 11 attacks and John F. Kennedy's assassination, saying, "You know where you were on July 7."
"We know that there are a multitude of issues as it relates to law enforcement," West said. "Let me be real clear that whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, we support law enforcement."
The state is already preparing for a tight budget year, but that isn't deterring Patrick.
"Even in a tight budget year, you make priorities," he said
Though officers in Dallas were wearing vests, bullets from high-caliber firearms "go through us like butter," said Frederick Frazier, first vice president of the Dallas Police Association. "Obviously, we need to get better equipment."
Frazier, West and other law enforcement officials stood behind Patrick as the lieutenant governor made the announcement. Patrick said they would be part of a growing group acting as his advisers on law enforcement issues.
Among the members of that group is Jackson County Sheriff Andy Louderback, legislative affairs director with the Sheriffs' Association of Texas. He said law enforcement in Texas and around the country have to be prepared for more violence.
"Those who hate the West have said what they're going to do to us," Louderback said. "We're not immune to it in Texas. We're not immune to a nightclub being shot up. We're not immune to someone getting in a two-ton truck and driving over people."
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- Patrick announced his plan to get state lawmakers to pay for rifle-resistant vests in October. It's unclear where — or whether — the Legislature will find the more than $20 million necessary to do it.