Austin, TX – Travis County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) deputies lost the opportunity to receive lifesaving ballistic vests, after the department’s sheriff decided it was more important to shield illegal immigrants from federal agents.
The vests were made available through a unanimously approved state Senate bill in 2017, which allocated $25 million to help Texas law enforcement agencies to purchase the gear for their officers in the wake of the July 7, 2016 police ambush in Dallas that left five officers dead, KXAN reported.
In January, Governor Abbot declared that $23 million in grants from the fund would be dispersed to buy 33,000 vests for over 450 law enforcement departments who had applied. Every agency that applied was accepted.
The vests are designed to protect against more powerful rounds than the low-caliber bullet vests commonly issued to Texas law enforcement officers.
The applications, which were due by Sep. 6, 2017, required agency leaders to “sign a letter confirming compliance with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detainer request both now and during the grant term of at least one year,” Travis County Commissioner’s Court records said, according to KXAN.
Project Manager Valerie Hollier planned to apply for the grant in the amount of $240,000, in order to purchase over 200 rifle-resistant vests for Travis County.
“It is anticipated the number of fatal shootings will be reduced by equipping more officers with type III & IV body armor,” Hollier wrote in her recommendations for seeking the grant.
The only other requirement needed to complete the application was a written commitment from TCSO Sheriff Sally Hernandez, agreeing to hold arrested illegal immigrants for ICE.
But the sheriff refused.
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According to county documents, Sheriff Hernandez said she wanted to see whether or not a law banning sanctuary cities would be upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals before she would decide if she was required to cooperate with ICE.
Regardless of the appeals court’s ruling, the case is widely anticipated to proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to KXAN, a TCSO spokesman said that the sheriff is in compliance with the law at this time, but that she won’t commit to cooperating with ICE long-term.
In the meantime, TCSO will not be receiving rifle-resistant vests.
Sheriff Hernandez declined to comment on the issue, KXAN reported.