Texas Grants $125 Million to Rural Sheriffs and Prosecutors for Salary Increases

Bipartisan legislation has designated grants for smaller counties to increase pay and purchase equipment.
Texas Grants $125 Million to Rural Sheriffs and Prosecutors for Salary Increases
Kinney County Sheriffs Deputy Danny Molinar stops a vehicle in Brackettville, Texas, on Aug. 6, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Jana J. Pruet

Texas has awarded $125 million in grants to rural sheriff departments, constable offices, and prosecutor offices for salary assistance, according to the Texas State Comptroller’s office.

Bipartisan legislation approved during the 2023 legislative session designated $330 million in funds to be used by smaller law enforcement agencies across the state to increase minimum salaries and purchase equipment.

“For the Texas economy to grow and prosper, we must make sure Texas families feel safe, and that requires supporting our local law enforcement men and women who work tirelessly every day,” said Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar in a statement. “Tragically, some governmental agencies jurisdictions are defunding the police, yet thankfully, Texas leadership has stepped up with additional support for law enforcement agencies across our vast state.”

State Sen. Drew Springer authored the legislation, known as Senate Bill 22, which establishes grants for eligible counties with a population of 300,000 or less. Agencies can apply for the remaining portion in 2025.

The comptroller’s office began accepting applications for the grant money last year and determined how much each county would be awarded according to its population. The last day for agencies to apply was Jan. 31.

Texas is home to 254 counties, of which 236 have a population under 300,000, according to the Texas Demographic Center’s 2022 estimate.

“The Comptroller’s office cites high levels of participation by eligible entities, with more than 94% of the eligible rural sheriff’s offices and nearly 86% of the eligible prosecutor’s offices applying for these grant programs,” the Comptroller’s office said in a press release.

Sheriff’s department grants ranged between $250,000 and $500,000.

Entities receiving grant money are required to use the money to increase salaries to minimum requirements—$75,000 for sheriffs, $45,000 for constables and deputies, and $40,000 for jailers—before purchasing equipment, including firearms, vehicles, and other items.

Grants for prosecutors ranged between $100,000 and $275,000.

Low Recruitment of Law Enforcement

Law enforcement careers are less attractive to younger members of the workforce.
“It’s not very appealing anymore to the younger generation to come into law enforcement,” Michael Lazcano, chief deputy at Reeves County and vice president of the Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Officers Association, told the Texas Tribune.

The U.S. Department of Justice found persistent challenges in recruitment for sheriff’s offices.

A 2022 study found the number of full-time sworn officers—174,000— remained flat between 1997 and 2020. Meanwhile, the number of civilian personnel more than doubled from nearly 89,000 to 191,000 over the same period.

A study authored by Pamela Metzger, executive director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at the Southern Methodist University Deadman School of Law, found less than 1 percent of lawyers practiced criminal law in rural counties in Texas.

Although 8 percent of people in Texas live in rural counties, less than 3 percent of attorneys in the state have primary offices in rural areas, the study said.

“While the national attorney-to-population ratio is 4:1000, at the start of 2021, more than 100 Texas counties had a ratio of 1:1000,” it said. “In seven counties, there was no local lawyer at all. The vast majority of these counties were rural.”

The study also found there were 93,347 lawyers in Texas in 2021. Of those, 13,226 were criminal layers, 2,701 were rural lawyers, and 846, or less than 1 percent, were rural criminal lawyers.

New lawyers graduating with high levels of debt are less likely to consider practicing in rural communities despite opportunities to gain valuable trial experience, Ms. Metzger says.

“Few new lawyers are prepared to handle high-stakes criminal cases without an established infrastructure that provides training and supervision.”

Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: [email protected]
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