By Anita Miller
Law enforcement advocates — many of them the wives of officers — were out in force at the Commissioner Court meeting Tuesday urging the elected official not to “defund police,” some taking aim at the proposed FY 2021 budget.
“It’s time to stand up and take a stand,” said one, who claimed her husband, a deputy with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, drove a patrol vehicle with no lights or siren and 160,000 miles on it and wears an “outdated” bulletproof vest. “We are silent no more. We are here to tell you to stand up and fund law enforcement,” she said.
Another complained that they might have to move if law enforcement “needs are not met.” More than one warned against Hays County becoming “another Austin,” and urged the court to “back the blue.” Last week, the Austin City Council voted to move millions from the police department budget to other areas.
County Judge Ruben Becerra, despite asking speakers to adhere to the three-minute time limit for public comments, let many speak longer than their allotted time and after the woman spoke of her husband’s outdated equipment, noted, “that’s a troubling statement for me,” and asked her to clarify the agency where her husband is employed.
“No one is proposing to defund law enforcement,” Becerra said. “The budget didn’t do this and the proposed budget doesn’t. The efforts you guys are being told about are maybe slightly skewed.”
Peggy Davis, who said she had “never been an advocate” until this issue arose, said, “Judge, I don’t believe what you say about your underfunding and cutting the budget, your proposed budget cuts.”
Yet another, who said she was speaking to county officials because the San Marcos City Council is meeting via Zoom, used her time to read Scripture.
For the record, the proposed budget includes $1.5 million for law enforcement salary increase as per the county’s collective bargaining agreement as well as $715,000 to fund new positions at the expanded Hays County Jail.
Moreover, nearly every week, the court’s agenda includes request for new vehicles or maintenance on existing ones for the HCSO and the five constables’ offices as well as replacement of outdated vests and other equipment. The county also participates in the federal 10-33 program, by which domestic law enforcement agencies can acquire military surplus for free.
Becerra said it was “very telling” that he’s hearing of deputy sheriffs going around with expired equipment. “That makes us look bad as a county,” he said. “Every time we get a request from the HCSO or constables, every single time we support it … there’s a clear level of deception taking place.”