U.S. Sen. John Cornyn came to Fort Worth Monday to promote a bill that would encourage local and state governments to hire military veterans as law enforcement officers.
He got a warm welcome from county and city leaders.
“This is has been a military community for years,” Mayor Betsy Price said.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn agreed.
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“We are placing a lot of emphasis on hiring veterans,” he said.
One after another, Tarrant County and Fort Worth leaders voiced their strong support for the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act, a bill introduced by Cornyn and fellow Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Cornyn held a roundtable discussion about the bill Monday at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex with police and local leaders.
The bill would encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to hire veterans by creating a statutory preference to prioritize the hiring and training of veterans.
There is currently an administrative process that gives a preference to state and locals that hire veterans. This bill would essentially codify that administrative process, putting a preference in the law for state and local agencies which hire veterans.
Officials pointed out that veterans’ experience and skills make them highly sought after by police recruiters.
Law enforcement agencies could get as much as $25,000 in federal money for hiring veterans and could be eligible for additional money for academy and field training, supplemental community policing training, uniforms and basic training.
But some critics through the years have said hiring veterans as police officers may be risky because they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health problems.
Those supporting the bill include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Texas Police Chiefs Association and Texas Municipal Police Association.
Thomas Belton, director of Tarrant County Veteran Services, noted Monday the transition from the military to civilian life remains a challenge.
“I would tell agencies to make sure the recruiters follow up — just follow up,” Belton told Cornyn when the senator asked him what challenges veterans face.
Cornyn believes the bill is a way to help veterans.
“This is not a complicated bill,” he said. “It’s a way to make a community safer.”