San Angelo Police Chief Tim Vasquez says he`s concerned that when officers have to negotiate their own pay and benefits with city council, they may come out on the losing end of the deal.
"Council could literally say, we want you to wear pink uniforms, but we`re going to give you a five percent pay raise for it," Vasquez said. "That could be negotiated. There`s some question how effective is this going to be."
Vasquez says city council members were prepared to give officers a raise. But now, he says, officers themselves will have to convince city leaders to pay them more.
"You know, we walked into this budget session in our budget hearings, and i`m just going to throw out a number, it was pretty close to a 3 to 4 percent payraise for the officers," Vasquez said. The minute council adopted "meet and confer," that went to zero. now for officers to get back to that 4 percent that we had negotiated, they`re going to have to give something up."
Earlier this week, San Angelo city council members approved "meet and confer," which allows officers to negotiate directly with city officials for their pay. The San Angelo Coalition of Police will negotiate for police officers. That association is part of the statewide union "CLEAT," the Combine Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
"Some of your bigger cities like Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, have meet and confer, and have been negotiating for years," says Korby Kennedy, president of SA-COP. "But we have never had anything like that here in San Angelo. and basically as a police officer, we have never had a voice."
In order for the city council to approve "meet and confer," officers first had to conduct their own certification election. a slim majority, 52 percent, voted in favor of allowing the San Angelo Coalition of Police to negotiate pay and benefits for all officers in the department. V-asquez says it has become a divisive issue among officers.
"Because it has happened the way it`s happened, we have officers who are not necessarily happy with each other," Vasquez says. "It`s created somewhat of a turmoil. And that, for me, is my biggest reason for not liking `meet and confer` right now."
Supporters of "meet and confer" say it is working in other cities, and that it will give officers here a greater say in matters important to them.