Travis Co. peace officers getting rifle-resistant vests without using Abbott's grant money

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and other county law enforcement officers joined forces Tuesday morning to ask Commissioners to approve a budget amendment.

Allocating $287,000 to buy 574 rifle-resistant vests at $500 each.
"I don't want to let that slide by.  We would have had state funding for these bullet proof vests but for Governor Abbott's withdrawal of that funding over political issues," said County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

Eckhardt is referring to Governor Greg Abbott's $23 million in grants providing jurisdictions around Texas with vests designed to quote "protect against high-caliber rounds."

"SB4 was still being litigated and it just prevented disqualified us from the grants," Hernandez said.  

The Travis County Sheriff's Office tells Fox 7, Commissioners Court decided not to apply for the grant.  Sheriff Hernandez would have been required to send a letter along with the application that committed her to fully complying with Department of Homeland Security detainer requests.

"The Travis County family is really shaking out the couch cushions and looking for every kind of efficiency to meet our needs even in the face of a state that continues to back further and further away from appropriately funding what we do for the state," Eckhardt said.  

Sheriff Hernandez says she tasked her staff with researching the best option for rifle-resistant vests and figuring out how to buy them.  

So they found about $200,000 - the result of a one-time savings from inmate food services.  Commissioner Brigid Shea congratulated the Sheriff's office for being creative.

"Finding funds in your budget to provide something essential that we almost lost because of frankly I think kind of a political hissy fit," Shea said.  

"Whatever it takes to keep people in uniform safe, good gosh that's the easiest vote in the world to make," said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.

The item passed unanimously.

Not just deputies will be getting the vests.  Also Constables, park rangers and the Fire Marshal's office.

"Because here in Travis County, when we say 'all' we mean 'all.'  So what the Constables office does and what the Fire Marshall's office does and the park rangers, all of the Travis County Sherriff’s Office, I mean they put their lives on the line and they need protection," Hernandez said.

"Nobody wants to not feel safe out there so number one, the Sheriff doing what she did for us...we're very grateful.  Sometimes vests can be very expensive," said Precinct 4 Constable George Morales.