By Dave Hendricks
NEAR EDINBURG, Texas — When police encounter a sticky situation — ranging from officer-involved shootings to death in custody cases — there's now an app for that, too.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which represents roughly 19,000 law enforcement officers statewide, released a smartphone application in December that allows members to quickly report critical incidents to the association's attorneys, who would represent them during any internal investigation.
"It's a dangerous profession, in that you risk your life every second," said CLEAT Executive Director Charley Wilkison, who took the association's top job last month. "And it's a dangerous profession, in that you get sideways politically in the Rio Grande Valley with the wrong people politically and you can wind up back on midnight patrol."
Wilkison visited the Valley on Wednesday night for a private meeting with local members, talking about plans to improve services and restructure the statewide organization.
Two major associations, CLEAT and the Texas Municipal Police Association, represent law enforcement officers statewide. They provide lawyers to represent officers during disciplinary hearings and death benefits for members killed on the job. Both associations also help organize campaigns for civil service and collective bargaining, which sets pay and benefits.
CLEAT formed during the 1970s, when members split from TMPA. Today, both claim to be the largest law enforcement association in Texas.
Both the McAllen Police Association and the Edinburg United Police Officers Association are affiliated with TMPA. The Brownsville Police Officers Association is affiliated with CLEAT.
"I want that CLEAT membership to mean more than just the card in their wallet," Wilkison said, adding that he plans to improve services, starting with the smartphone app. The restructuring plans also will impact the organization's approximately $15 million annual budget.
About three years ago, CLEAT hired Roberto "Bobby" Garcia, an experienced employment attorney who previously worked for TMPA and opened a Valley office. The pilot project helped CLEAT provide better member services and connect officers with attorneys when required.
"Those are the kind of things we're doing. No slowing down, pedal to the metal," Wilkison said. "We're in great financial condition, we're growing. We're going to continue to do the rights things to attract law enforcement officers, their families and their associations to CLEAT."
Copyright 2014 The Monitor
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