McALLEN — The city and local police union signed a new two-year collective bargaining agreement Wednesday, securing additional benefits for McAllen’s police officers.
City leaders and members of the McAllen Professional Law Enforcement Association held a signing ceremony to mark the occasion during which they praised the professionalism on both sides of the negotiating process and they stressed their support for the police officers.
“We’re the seventh safest city in the country,” Mayor Javier Villalobos said during the signing ceremony. “Not the state, the country, and it didn’t happen by chance, it happens because of the (leadership) of our chief and the execution of our laws, our policies by our police department.”
As part of the new agreement, which goes into effect Oct. 1, officers will continue to have health insurance upon retirement for a maximum period of 10 years, during which time the city will pay 50% of the premium.
That is a benefit that the department used to have about 10 years ago but was eventually taken away, according to Sgt. Jesus Regalado Jr., the MPLEA president. The removal of those benefits, Regalado said, led officers to stay in the field much longer than they wanted to or anticipated simply because of the cost of insurance.
“So that is something that we were able to accomplish and (we) look forward to create balance across the board with our police department and helping officers retire while they’re still healthy, and move forward with enjoying retirement and family and so forth,” Regalado said.
The contract also includes an 8% pay increase, 4% per year, which Regalado said will hopefully make them more competitive and bring them closer to the pay offered at other departments in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Currently, the highest paid police departments in our area, in the Valley, are Brownsville and Edinburg police departments,” Regalado said, “and it’s important for us to get to those numbers, to that pay, merely just because of the fact that we are the busiest police department in our area.”
“We handle the most calls for service across the board,” he added, “and we do offer a lot of different kinds of services to our cities, our assistance, and everyone who visits McAllen whenever they need the police.”
There was at least one thing that didn’t make the cut, though.
Regalado said they weren’t able to reach an agreement on incentives for education or for officers to obtain certifications.
“That’s something that we look forward to in the future and maybe accomplishing,” Regalado said. “It’s something that eventually is going to be very cost-effective to the city so we don’t know exactly how we’re going to work that out, but we’ll try to come up with a solution for them that seems fair for everyone, both sides.”
The new contract is the second negotiated by the MPLEA, a union of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which only just last year won the right to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement for the department’s officers. In years past, the contract was negotiated by the McAllen Police Association, the other union that represents McAllen police officers and which is associated with the Texas Municipal Police Association, or TMPLA.
When the MPLEA negotiated the first contract last year, they agreed to a one-year extension of the existing contract because of budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really did it because we wanted to be in a better position to have something better to offer,” City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said during the signing ceremony. “Last year, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do it — there was a lot of unknowns, we were concerned about how the year had gone and yet we were very optimistic of what we thought would happen this year.”
Of the new contract, Rodriguez said he believed it was fair and equitable for the police department and for the taxpayers.
Police Chief Victor Rodriguez praised the enhanced pay and benefits that were secured through the new agreement.
“Any day that we are able to enhance the pay and benefits for our police officers is a good day,” he said, “and today is one of those days.”