AUSTIN, Texas (The Texas Tribune) – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday called on state leaders to move about $50 million from the state budget to purchase bulletproof shields for school police officers at the following a mass shooting last month at a primary school in Uvalde where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.
“I ask the Speaker of the House to join the Senate members of the Legislative Budget Council and me next week in a budget implementation letter to transfer $50 million to the governor’s office or the Department of Security (DPS) to start buying these bulletproofs. shields as soon as possible so that every member of law enforcement in the school has one,” Patrick said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This will begin the funding needed to eventually provide bulletproof shields to all law enforcement agencies.”
Patrick’s request would require the approval of House Speaker Dade Phelan and other Council House members of the state’s legislative budget. But because lawmakers have already earmarked the money for the two-year budget cycle, it would also require letters from the agencies where the money would be taken certifying that the transfer would not negatively impact their functions.
Patrick said he would send a draft letter on Monday and asked Phelan to act quickly. Phelan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Republican leaders in the state have already signed two similar transfers worth about $1 billion this year to send money to Gov. Greg Abbott’s costly border security initiative, Operation Lone Star, which lacked funds. Patrick, who approved those transfers, said the same should be done to provide bulletproof shields to school police officers.
“We used the transfer authority this year to spend billions at the border. Surely we can find that amount of money to better protect our children,” Patrick said, adding that there are “several sources in the current budget that can be tapped to provide this funding.”
Patrick did not name these sources.
In the latest of those budget transfers in April, the DPS, one of the agencies Patrick suggests should receive money to pay for bulletproof shields, was forced to forfeit $160 million of its approved budget for maintain Operation Lone Star. Without this transfer, the leaders of the Texas military department, which has assigned 10,000 soldiers to the mission, would not have been able to continue the operation.
Patrick said the state should start by providing bulletproof shields to all school police officers and then expand to all law enforcement officers. The state might face supply chain issues getting the shields, but it should push for “all the quality shields we can find.”
“This simple fix can get started right away,” Patrick said. “If all law enforcement had bulletproof shields last week, lives might have been saved.”
Patrick’s plan continues the trend of Republican leaders in the state responding to mass shootings by pushing for more teachers to be allowed to use guns in schools and defunding school police. But law enforcement’s response to the shooting was heavily criticized after state and law enforcement officials gave inaccurate information in the aftermath of the shooting that has since been debunked.
Police responding to the shooting took more than an hour to engage the shooter who was inside a classroom shooting children and teachers. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo determined that police were dealing with a “barricaded suspect” and that the children were no longer in danger, state officials said. The DPS chief later said it was the “wrong decision, period.”
Various authorities, including the US Department of Justice and a Texas House Investigative Committee, are studying the law enforcement response.
Patrick said that if every state trooper had a bulletproof shield, “their ability to respond to an active shooter situation would be greatly enhanced.”
Texas lawmakers have reacted similarly in the past. After a gunman with a high-powered rifle ambushed and killed five Dallas police officers in July 2016, state lawmakers responded by allocating $25 million from the state budget to police departments. state police to purchase body armor capable of withstanding rifle ammunition.
Last session, after two DPS soldiers were shot through the windshield of their patrol car, lawmakers agreed to foot the bill for DPS patrol car bulletproof windshields, a Patrick said.
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