HPD negotiating for pay raises

HOUSTON Mayor Bill White, Chief Harold Hurtt, and the President of the Police Officers' Union are all committed to getting more officers on the streets. Problem is, they no longer see eye to eye on how to do it.

While their contract with the City of Houston isn't up for another two years, Union President Gary Blankinship is pushing to renegotiate salaries now.

"The only way we can fix this thing is to reopen the contract and renegotiate new pay scales that are competitive," Blankinship said.

The competition has never been fiercer HPD's starting salary is just over $28,000 a year. San Antonio's is over $27,000. In Austin, it's $32,000, and it's more than $36,000 for Fort Worth. And in Dallas? Over $41,000.

"Police officers in their pay and the value of their benefits have gotten far more than 20 percent, probably 25 percent, pay increase since I've been mayor," White said.

Mayor White says the new budget calls for additional incentives that would bring the starting salary to $45,000 a year. Blankinship fears it may not be enough.

"These other agencies see those same increases [and if] you're looking at overall career earnings, these people are beating us to death in the first five to 10 years," Blankinship said.

For instance, a senior HPD officer with 16 years of experience would make $30,000 less than his counterpart in Austin. Mayor White points out those figures don't take into account the value of benefits and paid time off. Starting negotiations now, he says, would be premature.

"If we are able to manage the budget wisely, and [if] our tax revenues increase, then in the next two years we can think about what we ought to do when this police contract expires," he said.

HPD is currently offering a $12,000 incentive to new recruits, but they don't get all of that money up front.

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