What is up with FOP? A message from Executive Director Kevin Lawrence

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Nelson Mandela

We would have hoped that by now you would have read or heard about the conversations that we have been having with Texas FOP for the last several years.  Unfortunately, judging by the questions and comments we have heard across the state, there still seems to be a great deal of confusion, misinformation and skepticism that need to be addressed.  So, please allow me to give you a thumbnail sketch of what is going on.  I will apologize up front because trying to reduce 30+ years of history to a page or two is not going to be easy.

The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest and, I believe, the oldest national law enforcement labor organization in the country, having originally been formed in 1915 in Pittsburgh, PA.  They currently have about 330,000 members – mostly in the U.S., but also including small lodges in foreign countries like Canada and Ireland.  Their lodge structure is based largely on the Masonic lodges.

Nationally, FOP has members in 49 states plus the District of Columbia.  (As far as I can tell, there are no current lodges in Alaska.)  The largest state lodge is Pennsylvania with over 38,000 members. The smallest is New Hampshire (42).  Texas currently ranks as the 22nd largest state lodge with about 4,800 members.

The Texas State Lodge was chartered in 1985.  Although they have never been a significant force in Texas, the fact that they have an affiliation with the largest national law enforcement group cannot be ignored.  Having a voice on Capitol Hill, the member benefits that come from having 330,000 members, and the networking opportunities by themselves are well-worth the $10 per year that it costs to be a member of FOP National.  (And yes, you read that right, $10 per year.)

Because of that national presence and networking ability, and because it has never made sense to have multiple state-wide law enforcement organizations competing with each other, TMPA has tried several times since the 1990s to negotiate some sort of alliance with FOP.  In 2012, when those efforts once again faltered, TMPA partnered with the Houston Police Officers’ Union and Dallas Police Association to form the Texas Law Enforcement Council.  Not long after that, we were joined by the Harris County Deputies Organization and DPSOA.  The hope was that TLEC could be the umbrella which FOP, up until that time, had failed to become, the umbrella under which the various law enforcement organizations in the state could work together while still maintaining autonomy.  (CLEAT was repeatedly invited to participate but so far has declined.)

A couple of years ago, there was a significant breakthrough in the talks with FOP.  No doubt events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore and others were a motivating factor.  For whatever reason, more and more stakeholders came to the agreement that working together was in all our best interests, and then progress started to happen.  Since then, we have simply been working to overcome obstacles – some structural, many others simply institutional.  One of the biggest obstacles has simply been the misinformation, misunderstandings and mistrust which often characterize feuds.  But we can honestly say that those years of work and struggle are finally paying off.

There are currently 35 active local lodges in Texas FOP. This includes the TMPA Statewide At-Large Lodge #112 (which currently has almost 500 members), and lodges formed at TMPA locals in Pasadena ISD PD (34), Baytown PD (17), Frisco PD (12), and Pearland PD (11) at TMPA’s urging.  Plano PD, Round Rock PD and New Braunfels PD are in the process of forming lodges.  We also recently completed the merging of competing lodges with TMPA-affiliated locals at McKinney PD and Irving PD. The new McKinney Police Association FOP Lodge #107 has about 200 members in it, and the Irving Police Association FOP Lodge #323 has over 400.

Until this year, 14 FOP lodges with a total of about 1,000 members participated in a legal plan managed by the Texas FOP Labor Council. All of those lodges (Irving PD, McKinney PD, Richardson, Hays County/Hill Country, Temple PD, Killeen PD, Austin, Potter County, Sachse PD, North Richland Hills PD, DART PD, Dallas Co SO, Dallas PD Executive Lodge, and Laredo PD) are now TMPA members with TMPA Legal coverage and paying full TMPA dues.  Other lodges like Harris County Lodge #39, Corpus Christi, Dallas PD, Travis County SO, have their own local legal plans.

This means that of the 4,800 FOP members statewide, about 2,300 are also TMPA members.  TMPA is urging other locals to follow the examples of Pasadena ISD, Baytown, Frisco, Plano, New Braunfels and Round Rock by forming your own local lodges.  (Contact our Executive Assistant Alicia Church or the field rep for your area and we will walk you through the process.)  TMPA also intends to continue adding more members to our At-Large Lodge.  If you are not interested in forming a lodge, please consider becoming a member of TMPA 112.

HPOU at one point had all 5,000 members in FOP, but when TLEC was formed that number dropped to less than 30. HPOU Lodge #110 is back up to 166 members, and they are ready to put all 5,000 back in when certain benchmarks are reached. The Dallas Police Association also stands ready to add 3,000 members to this effort.  (Their obstacles are even more trying than ours were, but they are working on it.)  The Harris County Deputies Organization and DPSOA are also contemplating their roles in this.

As I have said many times, this is more of a process than it is an event, and the process will likely continue for years to come.  But history will likely record 2018 as the year this effort ultimately took place.  Next July, TMPA and Texas FOP will hold a joint conference/convention at Horseshoe Bay.  Locals that are members of both TMPA and FOP will not only be electing the TMPA board, but will also have a strong voice in the election of the FOP state board.  Which is why we are going to need all hands on deck.

As always, if you have any questions, please give us a call.  And be safe.