On Sept. 13, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office submitted a grant application to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Public Safety office for a portion of the $53 million the state has dedicated to law enforcement active shooter training and protective equipment.
The sheriff’s office, in collaboration with all four county precincts’ police programs, are vying for $783,151.20 in grant funds for fiscal year 2022-23 to provide bullet-resistant shields to local law enforcement. This state-sponsored initiative comes after the Uvalde elementary school shooting in May.
In June, Abbott and other Texas legislative leadership transferred $105.5 million to the Public Safety office to support additional school safety and mental health initiatives through Aug. 2023, including $3 million for local law enforcement agencies to offset travel expenditures for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training and $50 million for bullet-resistant shields.
“The state of Texas is working to ensure our law enforcement partners across the state are able to protect our children, teachers and schools as the new school year begins,” Abbott said in an Aug. 17 press release. “These new funds will give law enforcement officers expanded access to training for active shooter scenarios as well as critical protective equipment.”
The other initiatives and cost breakdowns include:
- $5.8 million to expand the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine statewide;
- $4.7 million for the Health and Human Services Commission to increase multisystemic therapy across the state;
- $950,000 for the HHSC to expand coordinated specialty care teams across the state;
- $7 million for rapid response training by the ALERRT Center;
- $7 million for the Texas School Safety Center for on-site campus assessments to evaluate access control measures;
- $17.1 million for school districts to purchase silent panic alert technology; and
- $5 million for the Texas Department of Public Safety to expand fusion center research and capabilities.
Elizabeth Signorotti, grant coordinator for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, said their department is the third priority for this initiative, as Abbott’s office “is looking mainly to provide schools and school personnel with bullet-resistant shields.”
However, Signorotti said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been quoted in saying his office does want all law enforcement in Texas to be outfitted with this piece of equipment.
Signorotti said this particular grant will only fund equipment with a designation of Level III or higher.
“The difference between a shield and a vest is not just coverage, but the level of rounds that it can take,” Signorotti said. “Most vests can take rounds from things like handheld guns, but the weapon of choice more and more appears to be what they call an assault rifle. Anything below Level III is not rifle resistant.”
Another requirement for the grant is that all recipients receive ALERRT, which is designed to equip first responders with effective strategies to respond to active attack events and is led by veteran first responders with proven experience in active attack response, according to the Office of the Texas Governor’s website.
“Almost all of [the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office] deputies have gone through it,” Signorotti said. “[Officers] at the precincts who are going to be participating in this who still need to go through it will obviously go through the training.”
The deadline for the application is Sept. 19, and Signorotti said the sheriff’s office will expect a decision within the next two months.