Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to give all Texas patrol officers bulletproof vests that can withstand rifle rounds — and to exempt the spouses of fallen first-responders from paying property taxes until they remarry. He laid out both initiatives during a Wednesday press conference, saying he'll prioritize them during next year's legislative session.
So far this year, 17 law enforcement officers have died on the job in Texas, more than in any other state, Patrick said. Outfitting the 59,000 officers who are regularly on patrol in Texas with rifle-resistant vests could cost the state up to $20 million, Patrick said — though he didn't specify where lawmakers would find that cash in what's expected to be a tight budget year.
Patrick said his proposal was in part inspired by the July shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers by a sniper during an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. "We saw law enforcement officers give their lives to protect people who were protesting them minutes before," Patrick said.
State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and members of the law enforcement community stood with Patrick at Wednesday's event. In September, Eltife and the city of Tyler announced a similar initiative to provide rifle-resistant vests to local law enforcement.
Ashlee Hardy, widow of Plano police officer Wes Hardy, praised Patrick and members of the law enforcement community. When her husband died on the job, she was a stay-at-home mom raising their two daughters.
"Paying the property taxes and having to figure out where that money was going to come from – it's a lot of money on top of raising my twin daughters," she said. When her husband died, "it shattered our world, and the first thing I said to myself was, 'how am I gonna pay the bills.'"