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New incentive program helps entry-level officers pay down student debt

Posted: 5:56 PM, Feb 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-20 18:56:29-05

KILLEEN, TX — A new program offers student debt relief for police officers entering into the field. The recruitment tool aims to draw in more cadets to help with a nationwide officer shortage.

Texas officers hired full-time by a department after Sept. 1, 2019, and keep their jobs for at least a year can apply for the program.

“Once you completed your degree, and you then get into law enforcement, you can then apply for and get reimbursed up to 20% total cost per year for up to five years to potentially get the entire cost of your student loans repaid,” said Kevin Lawrence of the Texas Municipal Police Association.

Law enforcement advocates agree that training and education is critical in developing highly qualified officers.

“I think that investment is worth volumes for what you get out of an education,” said Keisha Murray, a patrol officer at A&M Central Texas. She accrued some debt while pursuing her education.

“Looking at your student loan debt is something you have to consider when you’re budgeting and planning for future expenses and trying to figure out is that investment worth it,” she said.

Her colleague Andrew Flores agrees.

“You rack up student loans and it hurts your pocketbook a little bit, so getting some help is definitely advantageous for anybody,” said Flores.

But some wonder why veteran officers cannot gain this same financial assistance. Some say it could act as a valuable retention tool.

We spoke to CLEAT, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, about future bills. They are in talks with legislators to push the idea forward to help seasoned officers with student loan debt.

“The average pay for police officers in Texas is less than $50,000 a year, and so a lot of officers, especially if you work for large municipalities say Austin, Houston, or Dallas, make significantly less than even that,” said Murray.