DA’s office buying body armor for constables

Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman Harkness said it is her privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Liberty County and promises to do everything in her power to make people proud. (File photo from January 2021)

Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman is using part of the DA’s forfeiture and seizure money to provide body armor for all six of the constable offices. The purchase was approved by Liberty County Commissioners on Tuesday, March 9. Bergman has oversight of the fund but said she wanted commissioners to approve it to provide transparency in government to Liberty County residents.

Bergman, who has been in office for just three months, said she was concerned to learn from her husband, Pct. 6 Constable Zack Harkness, that constable offices are not provided county-issued body armor. Most of the constables and deputy constables who currently have body armor are using items they purchased with their own funds or borrowed from another agency.

Body armor comes with an expiration date, so items that are in use now may be on the verge of expiring or have already expired, she said. Expired body armor will still offer protection to the person wearing it but it may not be as reliable as components degrade over time.

Each set has a hefty price tag of $1,200 to $1,400. Twenty-five sets will be needed to accommodate all of the constable offices in Liberty County. Court at Law No. 2 Bailiff John Coleman will also receive a set of body armor through the purchase, according to Bergman, as he provides courthouse security.

“Pct. 5 is the exception because they have some body armor that isn’t expired at the moment. I told them my office would purchase their body armor when theirs expires next year,” Bergman said.

Body armor is not a one-size-fits-all item. Bergman said there have been problems with deputy constables not having properly fitted body armor.

“If you are going to wear that every day, it needs to fit you properly and be comfortable,” she said.

Using the forfeiture and seizure account for the purchase will be “money well spent,” she added.

“I couldn’t, in good conscience, have money in that account and not provide them the tools they need to keep them safe and allow them to go home to their families at night,” she said. “Their jobs can be dangerous. They are out doing evictions, serving papers and making arrests. There is no reason why they shouldn’t have this.”

Last year, under the previous DA, the same fund was used to purchase pieces of essential equipment for Texas Department of Public Safety troopers who patrol Liberty County. Those purchases were also approved by commissioners court.

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