The Texas Capitol is among the most beautiful and historic buildings in the country. When you stop to think about all of the events that have transpired there it is overwhelming. And if those buildings could talk they would tell you an amazing story about the most impressive of the 50 United States. Yet for all of the history that has transpired in and around those red granite walls, yesterday was another day of firsts in Austin.
Yesterday for the first time in Texas history, the Lt. Governor declared March 13th to be Law Enforcement Officer Day at the Texas Capitol. And while many police officers appreciated that gesture, what really made yesterday have meaning was the fact that the Lt. Governor restricted the Senates first day of voting to bills that protected Texas Peace Officers. This was the only time in our states history that the first day of voting in the Senate was dedicated to us and our colleagues.
The legislation passed yesterday (what I call the first 5) covered these topics:
SB 12- The Protective Vest for Police bill- This bill lays out funding to provide body armor rated for rifle caliber rounds for all Texas Peace Officers.
SB 15/SJR 1- The First Responder Property Tax bill- This bill provides a Homestead Tax Exemption for the surviving spouse of police officer, fire fighter or EMS worker that is killed in the line of duty.
SB 798- Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day- Designates an annual recognition of July 7th, the day of the murder of five Dallas Police Officers, as Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day, to recognize all of the Texas Peace Officers who have died in the line of duty since 1836.
SB 1138- The Blue Alert bill- Creates a system by which police officers can warn other departments as well as the public around the state when someone injures or threatens to injure or kill a Texas Peace Officer. (Similar to the Amber Alert system in place for missing children)
SB 30- The Police and Community Education Act- This bill provides the outline to create a module to be taught to drivers education students as well as Texas Peace Officers on what to expect during a law enforcement interaction.
When the legislature is in session, the Capitol can only be described as controlled chaos, but I was honored to be one of a handful of police leaders who joined forces with the Texas Municipal Police Association in Austin yesterday to speak to legislators about the impact numerous pieces of legislation (there are over 100 law enforcement related bills already filed) could have on our states peace officers. We spoke to many representatives who were eager to hear the perspective of officers and eager to help strengthen laws that assist us as we work to keep our state safe. Witnessing this high level of interest from our leaders on the subject of protecting Texas officers renewed hope that the relationship police have with both lawmakers and the public can be strengthened this year.
A huge thanks goes out to Lt. Governor Patrick for both the symbolism of yesterdays events and the real world impact that these bills will have both for our current officers and the family of fallen officers.
And thanks to all of you who continue to stand behind those who protect Texas.
Until next time,
Eric Kaiser is the Chief of Police for the Jourdanton (TX) Police Department and a Master Texas Peace Officer