Rural TX Law Enforcement Gets $126M Boost

Rural Police
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A new state grant program has awarded nearly $126 million in taxpayer money to rural law enforcement agencies, aiming to boost staff recruitment and retention.

The Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts revealed the impact of a grant program for rural law enforcement agencies and prosecutor’s offices created by state legislators last year. Since opening in January, the program has received 503 applications and given out $125,975,981.

According to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office, sheriff’s offices represented the lion’s share of grant recipients, with 224 applications fielded and $77.5 million allocated. Some 136 district attorney offices and 124 county prosecutors applied, receiving $28.6 million and just over $19.6 million, respectively. Constable offices saw the fewest applications — just 19 — for a total amount of $250,981 awarded in grants.

The grant program was made possible through SB 22, which came into effect last September after being passed by the legislature in June. Championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as one of his legislative priorities and authored by Sen. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), the bill was intended to provide financial assistance to law enforcement authorities in counties and jurisdictions of 300,000 residents or less. A total of $330 million was directed to fund the program in its inaugural year.

Some of the goals outlined in the bill included paying county sheriffs at least $75,000 yearly, deputies $45,000, and jailers $40,000. Grant funds may also go towards payroll, new hires, or equipment, yet some expenditures were excluded, such as those on software, contract employees, overtime, hazard pay, or office equipment.

Of Texas’ 254 counties, a whopping 236 qualify for the grant initiative, making the potential of its impact significant.

“For the Texas economy to grow and prosper, we must make sure that Texas families feel safe, and that requires supporting our local law enforcement men and women who work tirelessly every day,” Hegar said in a news release.

“Tragically, some governmental jurisdictions are defunding the police, yet thankfully Texas leadership has stepped up with additional support for law enforcement agencies across our vast state,” he said.

As covered by The Dallas Express, officer shortages across the Lone Star State have generated considerable public safety concerns. The Dallas Police Department currently fields some 3,000 officers, even though a City analysis recommended a force of around 4,000. Persistently high rates of crime in certain parts of the city, as well as delayed response times, are indicative of such staffing woes.

Nevertheless, the Dallas City Council approved a budget of just $654 million for DPD this fiscal year, opting to spend considerably less on police than other high-crime jurisdictions, such as Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.

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