Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says nearly 60,000 law enforcement officers are being outfitted with substandard equipment. Patrick is pushing for an upgrade that he says will save police officers' lives.
Patrick says of the five police officers shot and killed during a protest in Dallas this summer, the three who were shot in the chest were wearing a type of body armor at the time that could not stop the bullet.
“Everyone was wearing a vest that day, those shot in the vest did not survive, so we’re going to launch an initiative to make sure that every patrol officer in Texas has the latest in a bulletproof vest to make sure that they can survive a high caliber round," Patrick explains.
He estimates this initiative will take an estimated $15- to $20 million out of what is already expected to be a lean state budget.
Patrick says he has met one on one with U.S. Senator John Cornyn in effort to develop a federal matching grant program for outfitting state, county and local police officers with adequate bulletproof vests in the future, but he says in the meantime the state needs to make the initial investment and make sure Texas patrol officers are not being put in harms way without the appropriate equipment.
Patrick is also pushing to have state lawmakers pass another bill that would exempt the families of fallen first responders from having to pay property taxes. Plano mother Ashlee Hardy lost her husband, Wes, in the line of duty in 2007 and says ever since, paying the bills has been a real struggle.
“I can say that paying the property taxes and figuring out where that money is going to come from, it’s a lot of money and when he was killed it shattered our world and the first thing I said to myself was, ‘How am I going to pay the bills?'" Hardy says.
Patrick is calling the initiatives two of his top legislative priorities for the 2017 session.