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HPD to get a pay raise

Mayor Parker and the police union agree to a new contract.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The Houston Police Department hopes a new union contract that targets raises primarily to younger officers will ward off recruiting struggles that have forced it to offer bonuses to cadets.

The agreement, which Mayor Annise Parker and Houston Police Officers Union president Ray Hunt announced Monday, is aimed at helping HPD compete with peer agencies.

“The fact that we’ve been having to pay hiring bonuses as the economy picked up means that some folks were making economic decisions,” Parker said. “We need to make sure we’re competitive across all ranks, and we need to focus on those, particularly, entry-level officers, to make sure that we have a continuing influx of new talent into the Houston Police Department.”

The deal would give the department an across-the-board 4 percent raise this year, at a cost to the city of about $13 million. That would be followed by two years of varied raises, intended to bring the various ranks in line with peer agencies, at an average cost of $16 million per year. Most notably, starting this June, probationary officers would get $42,000, up from $35,160 today, a bill of about $849,000 in the next fiscal year.

In 2018, the last year of the contract, all police officers would get a flat 3.5 percent raise, at a cost of $12 million. Union members will vote through Friday, and, if they approve the deal, City Council will consider it Feb. 18.

The Mayor’s press release is here. As noted in the story, this is a separate issue from the call by HPD Chief McClelland to hire hundreds more officers to deal with HPD’s backlogs, about which I remain skeptical. Normally I’d say that I’d expect this deal to be ratified, but after the recent HFD contract rejection I’ll wait and see. Mostly, I’m interested to hear what frequent commenter Steven Houston thinks of this. I’m also looking forward to what Council and the scads of Mayoral candidates will have to say about it.

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5 Comments

  1. Steven Houston says:

    I predict their union members will approve the contract by a huge majority, not because they are getting a great deal but because the city has made it crystal clear that the city is already preparing for huge deficits in the next several years (not to mention asking for the tremendously expensive Justice Complex and hundreds more officers). Most of the money goes to junior officers since HPD is so far down the food chain in terms of pay and benefits compared to other cities it isn’t funny. It should also be noted that the 4% raise mentioned in the article is NOT part of this contract but the end portion of the last contract where they went without raises for years all while paying increasing insurance costs.
    Here’s an idea of how much less HPD gets paid while having higher qualifications than other departments:
    HPD probationary officer: $28k
    Austin probationary officer: $51k
    Fort Worth probationary officer: $55k
    (all the departments have better retirement programs and benefits too)

    It used to be the case that Houston had a lower cost of living but we passed all the other cities years back, some cities are so much cheaper to live in that their higher pay translates into nearly a 50% premium. But while it gets a little better over time, for the most part, every other city compensates better from cradle to grave, even veteran officers getting between $20k to ~$10k less, all while getting lowered pensions, especially those hired in the past 10 years. So any increases thrown to new hires will help get them in the door, whether they stay of not depends on a myriad of factors.

    So what did the officers give up to obtain better pay for mostly younger officers as well as captains and command staff (who are no longer part of the contract though it has been mentioned they will be getting city attorney style raises by the mayor)? Basically, they are giving the city more latitude to discriminate against white males. The city has long used preferential hiring to obtain higher percentages of females, blacks, Latinos, and other races; city policy codifying it back in the 80’s and HPD going further until they were sued. IIRC, the goal was to fill at least two thirds of every academy class with women/minorities no matter what. They succeeded in this for years but recently, those so qualified learned it was smarter to go fed or with another city (unlike most other big cities in Texas, HPD requires military service or 60 college hours, promotions requiring college degrees as you move up the ladder). Reports are now that while the city has no specific quotas for new hires, there is still preferential hiring, the article you linked to making it clear that some on Council and the Mayor are less interested in fair promotions than a specific outcome of mirroring the community by race not only in numbers but in ranks as well.

    “If we want to retain and attract the best and the brightest, which we do, then obviously we have to make sure we’re paying market rate,” said Councilman Ed Gonzalez, a former HPD sergeant who chairs the council’s public safety committee. Gonzalez, along with Parker and Hunt, also highlighted proposed changes in the way officers are promoted that are expected to encourage more diversity in higher ranks by lessening the emphasis on a written examination and increasing the weight given to an assessment process that mimics on-the-job management challenges. A Houston Chronicle report last year showed that white HPD officers hold 60 percent of all sergeant, lieutenant, captain and chief posts, which leaves every other ethnic group, most notably Latinos, underrepresented compared to the city at large. “How can we make sure those achieving higher ranks reflect the diversity of the city? Anything that makes it a more fair system where everyone has a chance to succeed, that’s a positive thing,” Gonzalez said.” (from the Chronicle article listed above)

    Over time, the quota hires will fill more promoted slots as they do on the command staff but it will take time. Are quotas based on race and gender a bad thing? That is something people can argue about but the new contract will enhance the city’s ability to selectively pick who it wants and given the mayor’s comments, well…

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Are quotas based on race and gender a bad thing? That question has long been debated and will continue to be debated until the end of time. The only feedback that I have is that it hurts moral. Of course that is from officers who seem to want to blame anyone but themselves for not getting promoted.

  3. Steven Houston says:

    PK, there are scores of instances when white males were put on infinite waiting lists only to find out gang members were hired instead or told that the credit score for a WM had to be 100+ points higher to make the cut when extremely marginal others were employed. Because of that, I can understand how it impacts moral in hiring, decades of preferential treatment having the same kind of impact it had when the city used to actively discriminate against women and minorities as the last 25+ years have done for WMs. Given the amount of power and authority we give to officers, all while expecting them to take an unbiased approach to their dealings with the public, it’s a slippery slope with ample concerns from all directions.

    The same holds true for promotions, the methodology used by the city police to promote someone tied to a written test based on things like the rules they must follow, their contracts, and then an assessment by outside experts with no ties to the city about as transparent and fair as can be expected. When you start to push your thumb on the scale in order to promote more of one group over another, not only does it hurt morale of those losing the promotion but it tarnishes the credibility of those promoted since they had to get outside “help” in the form of a racial benefit to make it.

    The changes in their system were not as much as the city likely wanted, the city has long wanted to appoint captains rather than go through this process for example, the down side is that you get political hacks when the city has too much control, historical records prove this to be the case prior to civil service (but the proposed changes are not that burdensome). If future Chiefs start jumping past people for poor reasons in order to promote more minorities, the ripple effects will result in all sorts of chaos but traditionally they have been very cautious about doing so. I’d like to hear what your brother thinks of preferential hiring and promotions given he is on Council.

  4. Paul Kubosh says:

    “I’d like to hear what your brother thinks of preferential hiring and promotions given he is on Council.”

    I don’t want to speak for him but as for me I think quotas are a bad thing. One complaint that here from the officers who appear in court is that they are getting fussed at by Captains and lieutenants who have never written a ticket.

    As far as Mike’s opinion is concerned call him (281) 850-0172. He puts his cell phone on his cards and I know he doesn’t mind me putting it here.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    Word is in that approximately 86% of those voting accepted the contract. Now it goes to Council for approval.