It's believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the country.
State lawmakers here in Texas are considering legislation that if passed, could potentially wipe away all or part of student loan debt for college graduates who go into a law enforcement career.
The three R's of law enforcement are: Recruitment, retention, and retirement.
Bills in the state House and Senate are aimed at helping recruit college students towards law enforcement, and for the departments to retain them once they get there by paying off and forgiving student loan debt over time.
Nikki Flowers is among the Garland police cadets in the 11th week of their 28-week academy.
Flowers is coming out of college with a degree and student loan debt. She would welcome help paying it off.
“Oh absolutely. I’m still paying on my student loans as of right now,” she said. “So that’s a huge incentive, I would believe, for anybody with student loan debt.“
Bills before lawmakers right now would do just that. The Texas House and Senate are considering measures that would offer repayment assistance for peace officers who have worked at least one year in their department.
Student loans would be repaid over a period of time.
“Every year that they are serving as a police officer, 20% is taken off their student loans,” said Frederick Frazier, legislative chairman for the Texas Fraternal Order of Police.
Frazier, who is also a Dallas police officer, came up with the idea and took it to lawmakers before the session got underway.
The loans would be paid off over time, so departments can retain recruits.
“You’ve got to complete the program in the department you started it at,” Frazier said. “You get them there and then you have to have an incentive for them to stay at the department they’re at.“
With fewer college graduates going into law enforcement, Frazier hopes this student loan repayment is an incentive for that group making career choices.
“That’s the target rich environment that these bills are looking for. To get those individuals into the career path and help them with that debt that they immediately take on once they get out of school,” Frazier added.
“If this bill goes through, this would be a huge incentive for people even considering to become a police officer. So the Garland Police Department, we're real excited about the possibilities,” said Garland PD Lt. Pedro Barineau.
Garland cadet Daniel Walters graduated from Anderson University in South Carolina, and says this type of help would make it easier to be a police officer.
“With such a high stress job, it'd be just mitigation of one more stress factor that you can reduce. Allow for officers to focus more on the job, not have to worry about that debt hanging over their head,” Walters said.
Given the low numbers assigned to the bills, there's a good chance for a vote this session.
If it passes, it would be paid for through the general fund, at least for the first year.
Once lawmakers gauge response, that may better determine how it will be funded in the higher education part of the state budget.