Court OK’s shields, hats for deputies
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BULLET-RESISTANT PROTECTION ON TEXAS GOVERNOR’S LIST OF NEW GEAR AFTER SCHOOL SHOOTING IN UVALDE
New equipment for La Salle County sheriff’s deputies will run the gamut from cowboy hats to bullet-resistant shields, according to decisions made unanimously by commissioners this month.
Sheriff Anthony Zertuche said in court Friday, January 6, that he believes it is vital for La Salle County to take advantage of potentially life-saving equipment upgrades recommended by the state governor’s office in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde last May.
“The governor’s office gave an opportunity for cities and counties to apply for funds for bullet-resistant shields,” Zertuche said. “We prepared an application for La Salle, ten shields at a total cost of $69,000.”
A condition of the funding application is that county or city governments adopt a resolution affirming the need and the request, the sheriff added, and he will have an August deadline to make the purchase.
La Salle County has already equipped some of its officers with the shields, however.
“This helps with the purchase we already made,” Zertuche said. “It allows us to buy more shields. We have twenty already. This covers ten of them.”
Commissioners voted as one in favor of the resolution to accelerate the fund application.
Zertuche said after the meeting that he expects all of his officers to have immediate access to the special equipment when the need arises.
Operation Lone Star, which was created by Texas Governor Greg Abbott last year in response to an ongoing pressure of undocumented immigration and asylum seekers at the Texas-Mexico border as well as crime related to human smuggling, provides funding for law enforcement coverage in critical areas. In La Salle County’s case, approximately $500,000 is available from the state for overtime pay, additional patrol shifts, and border security patrols along the IH-35 corridor. According to Sheriff Zertuche, that money may also cover the purchase of three new patrol vehicles by his department.
“Consultant Carl Esser of Uvalde helped us with the grant application,” the sheriff said.
Commissioners agreed to a resolution making the request for the special funding.
In further business related to deputies’ equipment, commissioners gave the green light Friday to the purchase of straw cowboy hats that will become part of the law enforcement agency’s standard uniform.
“We decided to add this to the uniform,” the sheriff said, “because we want to look more uniform in dress. We don’t want some of our officers to show up in ball caps, others in hats… we want everyone to be in the same style.”
Zertuche said he has begun seeking bids for the purchase and gave a preliminary estimate of $102 per hat, but added that the price has only been offered by one vendor so far.
Although the sheriff is in command of his own budget, funds are allocated to him by the county commissioners. The hat purchase, Zertuche said, will require an addition to his department’s allowance.
“The funds are there,” County Treasurer Mary Perez said at the meeting, “as long as you don’t go over budget.”
“Thirty deputies,” the sherif said. “You do the math.”
“This is one hat,” County Judge Leodoro Martinez said. “One hat.”
“If they want felt hats in winter, they’ll have to purchase their own,” the sheriff said.
Commissioners approved the purchase without further discussion.
“Now I want to see all the deputies with hats,” the county judge said.