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Help Veterans Transition to Law Enforcement

Editorial by U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush

San Antonio Express-News

The men and women who serve in our military are the most dedicated public servants we know. They voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to keep the peace; further American interests abroad; and defend our homeland against a growing and diverse set of threats. After sacrificing so much for the good of our country, it is only right that every level of government — local, state and federal — plays its part to make sure our veterans can transition to civilian life as smoothly as possible.

Law enforcement and veterans’ service organizations in San Antonio have made great strides toward this goal, and it’s time to replicate their success across Texas and the nation.

We saw their efforts in action recently when we joined the San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for the “Camo to Cops” job fair. With programs like this, local law enforcement agencies in the area are helping military men and women continue their service to our country.

During the event, we heard many success stories of veterans who are now serving with the sheriff’s office and SAPD. The themes became familiar. The officers were drawn to military service out of a strong desire — a personal calling — to serve their country. When it came time to consider civilian life, they did not want just any job. They wanted a fulfilling career that would let them take full advantage of the skills they honed during their time in the armed forces. San Antonio law enforcement has been quick to help veterans do just that. Over the last five years, 30 percent of hires at the police department previously served in the military. And in the sheriff’s office, nearly a third of all officers are veterans.

When you think about it, that veterans are a good fit for our law enforcement needs should come as no surprise. Our all-volunteer force is the strongest in the world because the men and women who sign up to protect and defend us have a heart for serving our nation and are eager to do whatever it takes to accomplish a mission. This attitude and skill set translates well into law enforcement, where veterans can put their talents to work protecting our neighborhoods and serving our communities.

But the truth is, more can be done to help veterans transition back home. For that to happen effectively, we need folks at every level of government working to get this right.

At the state level, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) has been doing this for a long time. In fact, going back to the first days of the Texas Republic, soldiers were given land as payment for protecting our frontier. Today, that tradition continues. The Veterans Land Board — a division of the GLO — provides veterans with access to land, home, and home improvement loans and other services to help them as they begin their new lives as civilians. It is no surprise Texas provides the strongest veterans’ benefits package in the nation. This year, the GLO is spreading the word to make sure Texas veterans are aware of the programs already in place to help them, so they can take full advantage.

The federal government has a role to play too. Following the lead of local law enforcement here in San Antonio, we, along with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, are proud to fight for new legislation that will help veterans transition to law enforcement jobs back home. The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act, will strengthen federal, state and local partnerships by incentivizing the hiring of veterans as law enforcement officers.

By prioritizing existing federal funding to do this, we can better serve our veterans as they transition from military life to civilian life — by helping them find a steady job that allows them to continue to serve their community. Of course, this serves a dual purpose — it will also help our law enforcement agencies attract well-qualified, service-oriented individuals to keep our communities safe. That’s a win-win for both law enforcement and veterans.

Earlier this month, Sheriff Susan Pamerleau and Assistant Chief Anthony Treviño, who served 55 years in the United States Air Force combined, spoke of their military service, and the great privilege of protecting our country. They chose, like so many others, to double down on public service and take part in the hard work of local law enforcement.

Ultimately, they want more veterans to be able to take advantage of opportunities with local law enforcement — not just for their benefit, but for the benefit and safety of this community as well. By learning from the example set in Military City USA, we can do that for veterans in Texas and across the country.

 

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees.