Commentary: The Police Union Should Take the Deal

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Jeff Londa (left), who leads the City's team, speaks with attorney Ron DeLord, the police union team's lead negotiator. Photo by Scott Ball.

Jeff Londa (left), who leads the City's team, speaks with attorney Ron DeLord, the police union team's lead negotiator. Photo by Scott Ball.

Ron DeLord is a larger than life figure in Texas law enforcement circles, whether he’s leading negotiations on behalf of a police union or riding his Harley to commemorate fallen officers. DeLord advertises himself as a “historian, author, and police union consultant” on his website Gospel According to DeLord. Even that is an understatement.

What the description lacks is an understanding that DeLord also is something of a circus ringmaster, as anyone knows who has taken the time to read his collective bargaining bible, “Police Union Power, Politics and Confrontation in the 21st Century,” or watching him in action. Staging disruptive conflict, launching intense personal attacks on key city officials and negotiating adversaries, targeting critics as anti-law enforcement, it’s all in there.

At least in Texas law enforcement circles, and probably beyond, DeLord is a celebrity.

Ron Delord. Courtesy photo.

Ron DeLord, attorney and lead negotiator for the San Antonio Police Officer Association. Courtesy photo.

I first wrote about DeLord’s book in April 2014 after the San Antonio Police Officers Association fired its first lead negotiator and hired DeLord. A recent perusal of the book is revealing: what has transpired in San Antonio over 17 months, nearly 20 bargaining sessions, and several staged walkouts reads like a carefully staged film script by author DeLord.

Yet another preplanned suspension in talks occurred last week when DeLord dismissed Mayor Ivy Taylor’s July 31 deadline for reaching agreement on a new contract, and instead announced stalemated talks would be suspended for the rest of the month while he embarks on another Harley ride.

Mayor Taylor, City Council and City Manager Sheryl Sculley see a new contract reached this month as the only sensible way to move forward with the Fiscal Year 2016 General Fund Budget, which needs to be approved in August and takes effect Oct. 1. Such deadlines mean little to DeLord. The lure of the open road is stronger than the prospect of a closed deal.

Union president Mike Helle and his fellow officers sometimes seem like supporting cast on a stage dominated by DeLord. What they might not realize is that DeLord’s playbook lacks a chapter on how to gracefully declare victory and get back to work. DeLord’s strong suit is setting fires, then fanning the flames. To his credit, he’s won the union a considerably better deal that the one offered by the City at the start of talks in April 2014.  But there is little chance now of winning significant new concessions. DeLord’s continued bluster and histrionics can only damage the union’s already battered image in the community.

San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle and lRon DeLord, the police union's lead negotiator (right) during the contract negotiations on Tuesday, March 31. Photo by Scott Ball.

San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle (center) and Ron DeLord, the police union’s lead negotiator (right) during the contract negotiations on Tuesday, March 31. Photo by Scott Ball.

That’s why Helle could emerge as a hero by turning the tables and taking charge of the negotiations. Helle, who seldom speaks during the negotiations from his seat at the table next to DeLord, could thank the best union defender in the state for his excellent services and then let him to ride into the sunset.

The wage and benefits package the City of San Antonio has put on the table would win approval from most police unions in Texas. The average police officer is badly misled to believe even more money can be squeezed out of taxpayers and elected officials.

Helle, who barely won re-election earlier this year, could demonstrate newfound strength and leadership by taking matters into his own hands while DeLord is on the road. That opportunity is not without political risk, but there is good reason for Helle to go it alone without DeLord.

San Antonio would remain the only police union in the state and perhaps the country where members pay no monthly premiums for their rich health care plan. The free ride for dependents would end, but union members would enjoy four more years of premium-free coverage. The signing bonus and wage increases in the four-year contract are greater than most workers in the U.S. economy will enjoy over the same time period. The current offer on the table is fair to San Antonio’s police officers and it’s fair to taxpayers.

The San Antonio Police Department is arguably the best place in Texas to wear a uniform and work. It boasts the best overall compensation package in the state’s most livable city. The union is doing itself no favors by prolonging matters. Voters strongly supported Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council in the May and June elections, and those elected officials strongly support City Manager Sculley and her team.

Unless Helle rethinks the union’s posturing this week, Mayor Taylor’s July 31 deadline will come and go without a deal. DeLord will be happy on his Harley while Helle will be left flat-footed outside City Hall, without a signing bonus and without a scheduled pay raise later in the year for his members. A stronger union president would recognize a good deal and take it, and then turn his attention to selling it. He also would stop fighting City Hall just for fighting’s sake.

Police Union negotiations. Photo by Hagen Meyer

Police union President Mike Helle (center) talks to reporters while lead negotiator Ron DeLord records the conversation on his phone (right). Photo by Hagen Meyer.

Helle can make everything change in a day by taking charge and making a deal. He would win back public support for the police union in an instant. All he has to do is negotiate a few face-saving changes to the current deal on the table and then announce an agreement alongside Mayor Taylor, the City Council and City Manager Sculley.

Helle could thank DeLord publicly for all he accomplished on his visits here, even buy him a new Harley. There would still be time for union members to cash bonus checks and enjoy their own summer vacations. City Council’s new budget would include a future pay raise for the police.

All would applaud as the curtain then falls on the city’s longest and most distracting melodrama.


*Featured/top image: Jeff Londa (left), who leads the City’s team, speaks with attorney Ron DeLord, the police union team’s lead negotiator.  Photo by Scott Ball. 


Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard report archive.

Police Union Rejects Mayor’s Deadline: ‘See You in August’

Tensions High as Mayor’s Deadline For Police Contract Looms

City ‘Disappointed’ With Police Union’s Latest Offer

Mayor Taylor Calls Police Union Back to the Table

17 thoughts on “Commentary: The Police Union Should Take the Deal

  1. Robert,
    Your comments while entertaining certainly border on fiction. It would almost seem the words; while written with your flair, originated from another’s grey matter. I’m sure Mr. Delord appreciates your acknowledgement of his legendary status.

  2. Very well-written article, and agreed with your assessment.

    But if Helle had a spine, we wouldn’t be here in the first place. Seems a little late to grow one now.

    • You obviously don’t know Helle or anything that goes on within the walls therein. Jason’s comments…point on.

  3. Do you really believe that anyone is buying this satire as reality? I get that you’re Sculley’s puppet but you’ve gone a little overboard. Funny read I guess.

  4. Robert,

    what you and the rest of the media don’t seem to understand is that for the majority of the PD & FD, the city’s best “offer” represents a significant cut in pay to the majority of the Departments. The only members who would see an actual pay raise are the single members with no kids. Those members are in the minority and they typically hope to eventually not be in that category. The members who actually have a family (and who can least afford a pay cut) stand to lose $10K/year from current compensation. Until the City gets serious and at least offers a “break even” of current compensation to the majority of members, there will be little hope of resolution.

    Even though Joe Krier was recently caught on audio stating the City had only a 2% chance of winning, that’s the real reason the City is suing the Unions over the 10 year Evergreen clause. Because they know they can’t force a pay cut with it in place.

  5. The Rivard Report has always been a work of fiction dreamed up by a person who has constantly shown no surport of the Fire and Police here in San Antonio. I as SAPD Officer thank Mr. Delord for all he has accomplished for the members of SAPOA.

  6. If the city is offering a pay raise that doesn’t at least equal the increase to the medical insurance than they are giving the officers a pay cut. It seems to be popular now days to vilianize the police and their representatives toward the city they serve. Delord’s fame has nothing to do with the facts in the matter and are out of place in this article. Stick to the facts instead of sensationalizing. The city of San Antonio can’t afford to reduce benifts and pay right now. City police department nation wide are having a tough time filling their police ranks. Shortages in the field have adverse effects on property values due to increases in property and violent crimes. Go ahead and reduce the police officer’s benefits and see how that works out in the long run. When a city has a cash surplus due to tax revenue, it’s normally as a result of being a nice city to establish a business. If law enforcement suffers, criminal activity usually goes up and businesses will suffer and leave. It’s a catch 22.

  7. I almost forgot; how much different is Mr. Delord’s “playbook” from Mrs. Sculley’s national conference presentation to other city management staffers last year on “how to deal with unions.”? I believe someone else is trying to make a legendary name for herself among the powers that be. Just an observation. You know what they say of people who live in glass houses.

  8. The union parasites are out in full force. How about we link police and fire pay to median incomes in the city for a person without a college degree since the majority of police and firefighters do not have a college degree? Let’s also give police and firefighters the same exact health care as all other city workers. No better and no worse. What would be more fair than that?

    The arrogance of what these public union welfare queens think they deserve and are entitled to is bizarre. You have people with masters degrees and Ph.Ds who make nowhere what these guys without any formal education and only a year of academy are making, yet they still complain that their entire families are entitled to free health care without co-pays. What welfare-heaven planet are they living on?

    The dishonest posters above complain of a net pay cut, but what they mean is that their benefits are being adjusted to what all other police agencies in the state get instead of the ridiculously generous packages our previous spineless city councils and mayors gave them for some ungodly reason.

    Police and firefighters certainly face dangers in their profession that may generally warrant a higher income than a sedentary office administrator working for the city, but not to the excessive extent the unions have brainwashed themselves into believing they are worth and entitled to.

    Perhaps the best solution is to give the unions what they want and then let the city go bankrupt when the expense of funding fire/police overwhelms the city budget. Once in bankruptcy, their contracts can be thrown out and redone from scratch.

  9. William, I retired after 31 years with the Fire Department. In all my years I never saw the door that said “Free medical insurance.” What I did get was insurance to cover myself and my family IN LIEU of other compensation. Also, I had 4 surgeries because of damage done to my body. Guess what, the City said they were not job related. I didn’t do anything physical outside of my work as a paramedic / firefighter. But I paid my deductibles and out of pocket expenses before each operation and took sick leave to mediate the harm done over my career. There is no “free medical.” Please inform yourself. Our medical is high because our Workers Compensation is LOW.

  10. What bothers me about commentary like this is that people actually believe police officers are overpaid and don’t deserve the benefits they are fighting for. Fine, cut paychecks and start charging hundreds of dollars a month for health care…you know what will happen? The good officers will quit or find other departments to work for and you’ll be left with the bottom of the barrel. Don’t like the bad apples that occasionally sneak onto police departments? That’s ALL you’ll have left if cities keep cutting benefits, salaries, and support. Officers deal with SO much crap on a daily basis, both from the criminals and crazies they deal with AND from their supervisors (who are under pressure from the city to accomplish ridiculous results). If they can’t provide for their families, what incentive do they have to stay in a hated profession where every other day they are told they are doing something wrong? My husband is stressed, frustrated, and discouraged more days than not and as tensions around the country continue to rise with more and more people turning their anger towards police, I worry about him more and more every passing day. As a LEOW, I’m proud of my husband and what he does, but I hate what our city and country has turned his job into.

    Also, those who complain about our country moving towards a police state need to realize that if cities cannot provide decent salaries to their police forces, they will cease to exist (as has happened in smaller communities). When that happens, state and eventually federal departments will take over. To keep law enforcement localized, we MUST keep local departments staffed fully and funded fully, and that means offering salary and benefits to ENCOURAGE officers to apply and stay on the department.

  11. I notice my comment about the City saying the Police and Fire, according to your last article about the July 31st deadline, will both not receive a pay increase this year, if a deal is not met my July 31st. That, to me, sounds like the City is assuming the Fire and Police are getting the same contract. Seems kind of a negligent assumption to me.

    Here’s my new comment: You seem to have a knack for bashing the SAPOA in to the ground. I see from the pictures and some of your quotes, that you were most likely at the last negotiations. During the negotiations, the SAPOA proposed a contract that would consume approx 30.5% of the Public Safety budget. Immediately following the negotiations, Mrs. Sculley put out a statement to all the news affiliates that the new proposal by the SAPOA would take the entire Public Safety budget of 66%, leaving nothing for the Firefighters. This, Sir, is and out right lie to the Citizens of SA. She then sent a memo to the City Council making the same false accusations. Now do you see why these negotiations keep getting harder and harder? I know Jason commented about you being Sculley’s puppet, and the fact that you will not let the Citizens of this great City know all sides of the story, just proves that his statement is true.

  12. “San Antonio would remain the only police union in the state and perhaps the country where members pay no monthly premiums for their rich health care plan. The free ride for dependents would end, but union members would enjoy four more years of premium-free coverage. The signing bonus and wage increases in the four-year contract are greater than most workers in the U.S. economy will enjoy over the same time period. The current offer on the table is fair to San Antonio’s police officers and it’s fair to taxpayers.”””

    Could you guys please tell the City Manager, the Mayor, City Council and the rest of you to reimbursed my Husband for the bi-weekly health care premiums that have been taken out of his check for the past several years. I always thought FREE RIDE was when some one who doesn’t pay money. Example: Sculley’s Health, Dental, Vision, Gym, Computers, and cellphn

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