Officer safety paramount in 2015

Ray Hunt

Last month’s assassination of two of New York’s finest was a tragedy for the entire country.  It also should serve as a reminder to all of us that we can never let our guards down, especially in the current climate.

The HPOU has been pushing for two-person units for several years as we believe it’s safer for our officers.  We clearly understand that some prefer to ride alone, but for those who want partners, they should be permitted to ride together.

Chief McClelland has consistently stated that captains are in charge of their stations and may permit two-person units.  Immediately after the assassination in New York, at least four captains immediately ordered officers paired up for safety.  Yes, the officers in New York were paired at the time of the killing, but they were also unaware of the social media threat and the unprecedented event that then took place.

I had a partner for most of my 18 years in patrol and fully believe that four hands and four eyes are safer than two.  Many captains are hesitant to pair up units when there are not enough units to cover every beat.  It’s not the fault of the captains that the department is understaffed and they should not be faulted for putting safety over assigning an officer to every beat.  Frequently, officers in adjacent beats have to cover when staffing is low.

I hope captains will exercise the authority given to them by the chief and pair up officers while these protests continue and threats continue to be made via social media and that small segment of the population, even better if the practice continues beyond the unrest as it will make our officers safer.  Safety is paramount!

 Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act

Many of you are aware that HPD officers do not pay Social Security via our city checks, but many paid for this benefit prior to their HPD service.  Many also pay from extra jobs worked while an officer.  However, because we receive a pension, there is an offset and we do not get the same Social Security benefits as other Americans.  This may soon change.

I attended a news conference with Woodlands Congressman Kevin Brady on Dec. 15.  Congressman Brady announced that he has filed a bill to restore the Social Security benefit for police, fire and teachers.  HR 5697 will restore our benefits and treat us like other Americans.

Brady has bipartisan support for the bill and is hopeful it could become law soon and become effective by 2017.  Please contact your congressman and voice your support for HR 5697.  It’s a matter of fairness.  Thank you, Congressman Brady for standing up for public servants!

Check your paychecks

Audits on pay were recently done by HPD.  Some received a nice Christmas gift when it was found that one had never ever received equipment pay and another has not received training pay.  Others got the bad news that they were incorrectly receiving weekend and/or shift pay.  For those who were underpaid, they will be getting the back pay.  For those who were overpaid, payroll has worked out repayment plans and even permits using vacation time to repay the overpayments.

Each of you is urged to check your checks regularly to make sure you are getting paid the correct amounts.  It’s required that any money owed the city has to be paid back regardless of the time passed just as money must be paid to employees for underpayment, regardless of the time passed.  If you have questions, call the HPOU and speak with Joe Gamaldi, Doug Griffith or myself.

Thanks

A huge thank you to HPOU board member Luis Menendez-Sierra and his family for once again organizing the feeding of our officers who had to work Christmas Day.  Also thanks to all who took time out of their holiday to help prepare and serve the meals, including Assistant Chief Charlie Vazquez.

We hope each of you had a Merry Christmas and wish you all a wonderful 2015!