Organization was approved by voters in May

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Six months after voters narrowly approved the creation of a civil service for the Alice Police Department, the program is now operational.

In May, voters approved the creation of a Civil Service Organization for the Alice Police Department by a vote of 1,033 to 990.

On Oct. 23, the commission adopted its Rules and Regulations, and on Oct. 30 those rules went into effect retroactive to Oct. 1.

Alice City Manager Albert Uresti said the city has been voluntarily following many of the rules that will now be required by the commission.

"We've been pretty much following it already," Uresti said. "There's just now some things the city is required to do, and some things the employee is required to do."

One key part of the civil service commission is a requirement that all employees take standardized tests for promotions.

"One of the things it requires is that you have testing, and rank them according to how they do on the test, so that's a major thing," Uresti said.

"That's also a benefit to the city, not just the police officers. It gives them more protection as employees."

JoAnn Ramon, a representative of the human resources department of the City of Alice, said testing has been in place, but now it will be a requirement of the commission.

"We've always had an entry level exam, but now we have to have that," Ramon said. "It's basically what we've been following, although we didn't have a civil service."

One difference that will be noticed, Uresti said, is that officers who fall under the commission will receive payment for unused sick leave should they end their employment with the city. That has not been the policy of the city, although Uresti said he is considering implementing a similar policy for all employees.

"It encourages them to not abuse their sick leave, if it works," Uresti said.

The commission also outlines the offenses for which an officers can be suspended or terminated, and outlines a grievance process that allows officers to defend themselves to the commission.

Ramon said the rules adopted by the commission will ensure everyone is treated equally at the police department.

"It guarantees that all police officers are treated the same," Ramon said. "If you discipline someone for one thing, you're going to discipline another police officer for the same thing."