New Year Starts with a New Mayor…City Hall Prayer Service

Now that the mayoral race is behind us and we prepare for the Texas legislative session next year, I want to address the pension issue. We receive at least a phone call a day regarding our pensions and questions about the HPOU’s position on all aspects of the pension system. The Union has a Meet and Confer contract with the City of Houston regarding pay and benefits for all active Houston police officers. That contract expires on Dec. 31, 2018. That contract has absolutely nothing to do with pensions. The Houston Police Officers’ Pension System (HPOPS) has a Meet and Confer contract with the City of Houston that affects pensions of all active and retired police officers and their beneficiaries. That contract expires on June 30, 2023. While the HPOU has worked closely in Houston and Austin with the trustees and lobbyists for HPOPS to protect our earned benefits, the HPOU does not negotiate any pension benefits. That is the sole responsibility of the elected trustees of HPOPS, none of whom serve on the HPOU Board of Directors. That does not mean that we do nothing about pensions. I am frequently asked my opinion on the pension my brother and I will receive, the pension my sister and brother-in-law currently receive, the pension that many of you will receive or are currently receiving, and the pension that my nephew will someday receive. My opinion is just that – my opinion – and not necessarily the opinion of the HPOU Board or any of the HPOPS trustees. I want a system that pays promises made and is secure for all who follow. Mayor Sylvester Turner has assured us that he wants to work with the stakeholders of all three of the city’s pension systems (Police, Fire and Municipal) to make sure that our pensions are secure and our earned benefits are protected. Mayor Turner has been a close and supportive friend to Houston police officers for more than 26 years. We also have a City Council that has been very supportive of its sworn officers as well. We have great admiration for our elected officials who support working police officers and their families. Furthermore, it is also great to truly know that the vast majority of our City Council members has demonstrated to us time and time again that they have our backs. This takes me to one of our primary goals for 2016. With a supportive mayor and council in place, we will step up our presence in Austin. In the past, we would strategize and prepare for the following year during the interim. This year is different and, as a result, we are already engaged in a full court press in Austin to make sure we are prepared to defeat those individuals whose goal is to take or set up a scenario that would eventually cause great harm to our pension system. This does not mean that we will oppose any modifications the HPOPS trustees propose to strengthen the system. They have inserted many best practices into our plan and expect them to continue to examine any additional modifications that may be needed. However, I would not expect any additional modifications until the City of Houston pays what it owes and safeguards are put into effect to insure future payments to the system. Not only will we continue to work closely with other police organizations throughout the Texas Law Enforcement Council (TLEC) to protect earned benefits, but we will fully support the efforts of the trustees and lobbyists for HPOPS. HPOPS may actually negotiate pension benefits, but the HPOU will assist them in any way requested. Let’s Pray Houston On Jan. 26, 1st Vice President Doug Griffith led HPOU’s next phase in Pray For Police and called it Let’s Pray Houston. Once again the Police and Clergy Alliance (PACA), KSBJ Radio and the HPOU gave out Pray For Police signs and wristbands. Citizens and police stopped by from 6 a.m. until noon to pick up wristbands and signs and some prayed with our prayer partners. Although the weather forecast called for a 60 percent chance of rain, we had no rain that morning. An HPD officer who recently suffered a gunshot wound in the line of duty stopped by and was surrounded by approximately 20 individuals who prayed over him. It was incredibly moving. Around 12:30 p.m. that day the officers, clergy, and citizens working the event marched over to City Hall under the escort of HPD Special Operations to pray for our city leaders. Mayor Turner, Council Members Brenda Stardig, Dwight Boykins, David Martin, Greg Travis, Karla Cisneros, Robert Gallegos, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Mike Knox, David Robinson, Michael Kubosh and Jack Christie all joined us in the lobby of City Hall. Also attending were Chief McClelland, EAC Buenik, and several assistant chiefs, along with Harris County Constables Alan Rosen and Heliodoro Martinez and Harris County Sheriff’s Office Major Steve Marino. HPD Chaplain Monty Montgomery prayed for police officers, HPD Officer Barry Curtis prayed for the community and Bishop Corey Wilson prayed for our city and county leaders. The HPOU thanks all the officers, clergy, and citizens who made Let’s Pray Houston a success. We also thank the 95 percent of Houstonians of all races who support their police! After the event at City Hall, we all walked back to the HPOU. Then God brought the rain! HOPA We were saddened to hear that we recently lost another Houston police officer to suicide. I remind each of you that the HPOU sponsors the anonymous Houston Officers’ Peer Assistance (HOPA) at 832-200-3499. That number is answered by trained peer assisters 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need someone to speak with regarding a situation in your life, please contact them. If you know of anyone who may be struggling with an issue, please refer them to HOPA. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for assistance.