On Monday the Texas Senate passed a series of bills meant to remedy the problems cops and their families faced during and after Micah Johnson’s July 7 ambush on Dallas police.
The bills, all passed on the first voting day for the Texas Senate in 2017, will potentially provide every patrol officer in Texas with a bulletproof vest able to stop a rifle round, give property tax exemptions to the surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty and establish a blue alert system to notify the public of suspects’ descriptions and potential whereabouts in cases in which an officer is wounded or killed. July 7 will also become an annual day of remembrance for fallen cops statewide.
In October, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he wanted vests capable of stopping a shot from a high-powered rifle for each of the 40,000 law enforcement officers who are regularly on patrol in the state. Announcing that getting the vests would be priority in the coming legislative session, Patrick guessed that the vests would cost about $20 million.
“One of the things that was clear [after the Dallas ambush] was that we were not giving our law enforcement officers the protection they needed. Everyone was wearing a vest that day and those who were shot in the vest didn’t survive,” Patrick said.
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Dallas Police Association Vice President Frederick Frazier said last week that departments across the state need better equipment because criminals have bigger and better weapons. “The armor that our officers are wearing today can’t keep up with the weaponry that is out there,” Frazier said. “Rifles are abundant, and the armor that I got out of the academy in 1995 is the same armor that officers are wearing today.”
The grant program established by the bill will provide Texas’ law enforcement agencies with $25 million to purchase 50,000 vests.
The other bills passed by the Senate are intended to ease the tax burden on those who are left behind when cops are killed in action. “[Wes Hardy’s death] shattered our world, and the first thing I said to myself was, 'How am I gonna pay the bills?'” said Ashlee Hardy, whose husband was killed in a 2007 traffic accident, at a press conference with Patrick.
Each of the laws now goes to the Texas House, where they are expected to win approval.