Today across Texas and the United States of America, we celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. It’s a day to honor the courageous law enforcement officers who serve and protect our communities.
For many of us, these are our partners or spouses, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, or friends. They are on the front lines every day to protect our communities, sacrificing their lives to keep our families safe.
Our police, men and women, risk their lives on a daily basis. There is no routine stopping of traffic or a routine response to a call for help. We thank our officers for keeping us safe and for patrolling our neighborhoods, streets and highways day and night. We thank their families for the sacrifice they must make and for their suffering, pain and sorrow when their loved one does not come home. Actions speak louder than words and in the last session, the Texas Legislature delivered on its promise to ensure law enforcement has the resources they need to do their jobs.
Funding to keep our communities safe and to provide law enforcement with the necessary tools and resources was one of our priorities during the last session. The state budget included $ 22 million for the DPS to equip its vehicles with bulletproof windshields and $ 10 million for bulletproof vests. We have allocated $ 15 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to establish a body camera program. The budget also included $ 200,000 for the peace officer mental health program; $ 15 million for border prosecution grants; $ 10.2 million in grants for local border security; and $ 7.9 million for anti-gang activity, among others.
In the last session, the Legislature established COVID-19 as a suspected illness for first responders who die or are disabled by complications from the virus. This will simplify the process of obtaining benefits, compensation and assistance. The state is also now requiring some first responders to receive full employee benefits and compensation if ordered to quarantine or isolate due to possible or known on-duty exposure to a communicable disease.
To prepare Texas peace officers for the incredible amount of responsibility and complexity that comes with their careers, the state must provide solid and effective training and the resources to properly train new officers. HB 3712 requires the basic training course to include training on prohibiting the use of certain cervical attachments such as chokes, an officer’s duty to intervene and stop or prevent another officer from using excessive force against a suspect; and an officer’s duty to call for emergency medical personnel and provide first aid or treatment in certain circumstances.
To protect both citizens and the law enforcement community, we passed SB 24 in response to the growing number of unfit officers moving from one law enforcement agency to another after dismissal. . This bill requires law enforcement agencies to review a candidate’s criminal history, personal records and past conduct before hiring them. The recruiting agency must then certify to the Texas Law Enforcement Commission that it has reviewed the required documents. If a recruiting agency does not comply with these basic requirements, TCOLE will suspend the peace officer license of the head of the law enforcement agency.
Equally important, we have focused on meeting the mental health needs of law enforcement officers. According to reports, 228 law enforcement officers committed suicide in 2019, nearly double the number killed in the line of duty (132). That same year, there were 19 suicides of police officers in Texas alone. During the last session, I had the pleasure of co-writing SB 64 which will create a voluntary peer support network focused on training our agents to support each other. I also supported SB 1359 which requires every law enforcement agency to develop and adopt a policy allowing the use of mental illness leave for peace officers experiencing a traumatic event on the job.
Finally, in the last session, I drafted SB 1071 to provide totally disabled state peace officers with a monthly retirement payment based on today’s salary scale. It is crucial that we take care of the peace officers who put their lives at risk for our families every day.
Join me on this Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, to thank our law enforcement personnel, men and women, for their service, dedication and commitment to ensuring the safety of our communities and our communities. families.
Editor’s Note: The guest column above was written by State Senator Juan Hinojosa de McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with permission of the author. Hinojosa can be contacted by email via: [email protected]
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