New Year, new City Council, but watch out for ‘new’ contract rumors as we plan to negotiate benefits competitive with other big U.S. cities

Joe Gamaldi, President

Let me start by wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year!

With the new year comes a newly elected Houston City Council. The HPOU was once again very successful in our runoff endorsements. Every single one of our endorsed candidates won their races and insures for the next four years we will have a City Council that understands the issues impacting Houston police officers and supports realistic solutions to those issues. Whether it be staffing – they have all committed to our continued growth – or continuing to stay competitive in our pay and benefits. These conditions prevail for us while law enforcement applications continue to plunge nationwide to the tune of 63 percent.

Speaking of pay and benefits, I have just sent a letter to Mayor Turner to notify him of our intention to begin contract negotiations, as our current agreement expires on Dec. 31, 2020. For those of you who haven’t been here when we negotiate a contract, or need a refresher, these negotiations can take anywhere from six to eight months. So, we need to get started now. We will send out a survey to the entire HPOU membership, as we have done for several contracts, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and so we know where our focus needs to be.

Obviously, number one will always be pay raises which keep up with our comparable cities and is always the major focus going into every contract. But it’s always important to identify other issues. When negotiations with the city are completed, we will make the entire document available to all of you. As is a Union tradition, we also will have numerous informational meetings before we conduct our contract vote.

The vote consists of us keeping the Union Building open for several days, 24 hours a day, for everyone to come by and vote. If the contract is ratified, it then goes to Houston City Council for final approval.

Undoubtedly, as we get rolling, the HPD rumor mill will enter its fever pitch. Those of us on the negotiating team sign a confidentiality agreement and we will be unable to discuss specifics while the negotiations are ongoing. Of course, we do our best to manage the rumor mill, but I am asking everyone to be careful of spreading rumors. Don’t take it as gospel simply because your co-worker heard something from their buddy’s cousin, twice removed on their mother’s side.

As a pre-emptive strike, let me address two rumors I have already heard. For one, we aren’t giving up the PD days and, for another, we aren’t giving up phase down. If you are spreading these rumors, just stop! You looked foolish the last two times you said it for the previous two contracts, and you will look foolish again this time.

We would never bring a contract to our members that won’t pass with an overwhelming majority, just as every contract in our history has done.

Meeting with President Trump about DAs, Judges

As you are well aware, we at the HPOU have not been shy about pointing out issues with a number of the judges in Harris County and, of course, the current district attorney, Kim Ogg. We have continued to draw attention to the revolving-door criminal justice system that has been ushered in under the current regime, and these practices have been met with disgust by the community.

Every day there is a member of our community who asks why is this happening? Why are habitual offenders being given a pass?

We have drawn so much attention to the problem that after we recently profiled a suspect receiving bond for murdering Sgt. Sullivan from Nassau Bay, Gov. Abbott vowed to pass a law in the next Legislature insuring “no bond” for all cop killers. But this problem is not just here in Houston; it is nationwide and other police unions in big cities across the country have joined the fight. Our work has garnered so much outrage that President Trump invited us to the White House to discuss these pressing issues.

It was an honor to represent the Houston Police Officers Union and the Fraternal Order of Police at this meeting. When I spoke to the President, I made it very clear what our issues are. While crime is trending downward nationwide, in our big cities it is flat or trending up. The statistics show it is because repeat offenders are getting sweetheart deals, free to commit more crimes with no consequences.

We all know if hardened criminals do not fear punishment, they become even more emboldened. It’s why criminals routinely tell our officers that they won’t even go to Montgomery County to do a robbery because they would get 50 years for it. Meanwhile, in Harris County they would get probation.

The President immediately offered additional resources to federal prosecutors for them to take additional cases out of the hands of local DAs and agreed to lend his voice to our issues. The truth is, folks, being tough on violent crime should not be a left or right issue. Nor should it be a partisan issue. We can all agree that if some dirtbag points a gun in someone’s face and robs them, they should go to jail for a long time. This is common sense and every reasonable person I speak to agrees!

As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call, text away, or you can also reach me at the following: email (jgamaldi@hpou.org), messenger on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi).