Roma to mull probe into manager, police chief

The Roma City Council may launch an investigation into the city manager and the police chief after receiving a letter authored by police officers that detailed various grievances with the department’s leadership.

The letter, dated July 15, listed several concerns over the conditions of the department that the officers allege City Manager Crisanto Salinas and Roma Police Chief Jose H. Garcia have failed to address.

“The detailed summary reflects the concerns of the majority of the Roma Police Officers and state facts that have been discussed over the past years,” the letter stated. “The process by the Roma Police Officers Association for a no-confidence decision is pending to allow the City Council time to rectify all matters.”

Among the issues listed in their complaint is the lack of pay raises or a pay scale, stating that the chief and the city manager have denied their requests that a pay scale be considered.

“A pay scale will define an officer’s experience, and education, including shift-differential, certification level and other annual incentives to create compensation security for all officers,” they wrote.

They also argue they’ve lacked “adequate” firearms training over the last 10 years, noting that training schedules have shifted from twice a year to once a year. They request that the city re-evaluate studies on the how often training is recommended and make a schedule with officers’ approval.

Another major concern was over the conditions of their police units, some of which they said lacked tires, properly functioning air conditioning and required oil to be added every other day, or lacked cushions on the seats.

“Once again, this creates a burden on the officers knowing that the tires could be the cause of an accident if and when they engage in a pursuit,” they wrote. “This should give the city council and administrators pause of the consequential liability of inadequate tire conditions.”

“Is the City Manager and Chief of Police waiting for an officer’s death to reestablish the importance of vehicle proper maintenance and become a priority?”

Additionally, they wrote that they’ve requested that the department be allowed to vote for schedules that would be more productive to their duties.

“If one schedule allows the majority of the officers the ability to plan accordingly with their families, why would a police department deny them the choice?” the letter stated. “The answer is simple, the City Manager and the Chief of Police have decided that minimal overtime should be paid from the general fund. The patrol schedule they have chosen allows the administration to rearrange officers in a way that minimizes this cost.”

Salinas, the city manager, noted that the officers’ concerns were largely due to budgetary constraints which he said were out of his control.

“If I don’t have the resources, I can’t provide them,” he said.

Regarding the conditions of the police units, Salinas said each officer is responsible for the condition of the vehicle.

“If they don’t do that, well I can’t be babysitting them and tell them, ‘Hey you need to check this, you need to check that,’” Salinas said. “It’s the responsibility of the officer to report the condition of the vehicle to the supervisor.”

Compared to other police departments of their size, Salinas said they had one of the best fleets in the Rio Grande Valley.

As far as the scheduling issue, the city manager said that, again, was a problem of financial constraints.

“So you want more boots on the ground so you change your schedule to accommodate that,” he said.

“Basically, the bottom line is that we, the city, have to adjust to our resources and if you don’t have the resources, you can’t satisfy everybody.”

The city council is set to discuss the complaints in the letter with Salinas and the police chief during a city council meeting Wednesday afternoon, after which they will vote on whether to initiate an investigation into their conduct.

“It’s very concerning since the police department handles the safety of the citizens of Roma,” city council member Joel Hinojosa Jr. said. “To have all those issues, it’s very concerning.”

Hinojosa said the council wanted to hear Salinas and Chief Garcia’s side of the story during Wednesday’s meeting in hopes of reaching an agreement on how to fix the issues.

Mayor Roberto A. Salinas said when it comes to personnel matters, the council should not get involved, saying that personnel management was not one of their roles.

Regarding budgetary issues, the mayor said he understood the department lacks certain things but noted that nearly half of the general fund goes toward the police department.

“Cleary, if they need more things, I’d be happy to give them more things, but then we have to determine what departments are we going to take away from,” he said. “There’s no room in the budget to just give them more money.”

However, Hinojosa appeared more optimistic, adding that the letter came at a time when the city is just starting to work on the budget for the next fiscal year.

“We’re going to try our best,” Hinojosa said. “If the issue is financial, we’re going to try our best to find the funds to work out those issues with the police officers.”

If the council were to move forward with an investigation, Salinas said he would not be concerned.

“I don’t see, as far as any misconduct, on the part of myself or the chief,” he said. “We’re just being fiscally responsible because we know our limitations.”