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Financial Assistance 6


Recommendation

Texas should reimburse state sales taxes paid by police officers, Emergency Medical Services personnel, firefighters and public safety officials who reach into their own pockets to pay for certain equipment. Reimbursement should be limited to the state sales tax on the first $1,000 of items purchased per year. The items exempted should be those required or approved by their respective local police departments.


Summary

Many of the roughly 66,000 licensed peace officers in the State of Texas must personally purchase a portion of their equipment with their own funds.[1] This equipment can include uniforms, weapons, leather and protective gear, and ammunition. The amount of equipment purchased by a peace officer depends on an individual police department’s requirements. For example, the Dallas Police Department provides all equipment an officer uses while on duty, excluding undergarments, while an Austin police officer must provide his own weapon and footwear.[2] Some departments, like the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD), give their officers an annual clothing allowance to purchase uniforms, while others allow officers to purchase optional equipment such as assault rifles.[3]

The dollar amounts of such items can be sizable. For instance, a Glock 22, 40-caliber handgun costs SAPD about $400, while a uniform consisting of pants and a shirt costs close to $100. An officer’s leather gear, consisting of a belt, holster and keepers, costs roughly $230. A Kevlar “bullet proof” vest costs the SAPD $425, while an AR-15 assault rifle can be as much as $700.[4] While not all peace officers across the state must purchase all of this equipment out of their own pockets, many do purchase a portion of such items.[5]


Legislative Changes Required

The Legislature should amend state law to provide a state sales tax reimbursement for peace officers who purchase equipment necessary to perform their duties. Reimbursement should be limited to the state sales tax on the first $1,000 of items purchased per year. Additionally, the items must be required or approved purchases.


Fiscal Impact

The estimated cost to the General Revenue Fund to implement this proposal would be $8,451,000 per year.

The fiscal impact is a function of 65,857 licensed peace officers, 48,078 Emergency Medical Services personnel and 21,275 certified firefighters receiving a reimbursement of the 6.25% state sales tax on $1,000 per year.


[1] Telephone interview with Roger Sanchez, administrator for Licensing, Training and Testing, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Austin, Texas, October 5, 2001.

[2] Telephone interview with James Miller, supervisor over the Quartermaster, Dallas Police Department, Dallas, Texas, October 3, 2001; and telephone interview with Sgt. Sean Mannix, vice president, Austin Police Association, Austin, Texas, October 3, 2001.

[3] Telephone interview with deputy chief Tyrone Powers, Planning and Resource Section, San Antonio Police Department, San Antonio, Texas, October 5, 2001; and telephone interview with Sgt. Sean Mannix.

[4] Telephone interview with deputy chief Tyrone Powers.

[5] Telephone interview with Larry Watts, chief of staff, Combined Law Enforcement Associations

of Texas, Austin, Texas, September 27, 2001.