Focusing on the Critical Election Year
To help you learn more about where and who your fellow members are, in each issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News we’ll profile one of the 14 chapters up and down the state. We hope that reading about each chapter’s challenges and achievements will bring us all closer together and inspire you, your association and your own chapter as you navigate the road ahead. This month, we feature the Bay Area Chapter.
For the Bay Area Chapter, the focus this year has been on leadership — both within the chapter and in the political arena.
“The chapter is in the process of leadership transition,” says Jason Wentz, who became chapter president in January after the previous president took on a more active at-large director position in PORAC. “I was nominated by the president of my POA (Richmond Police Officers Association) after being asked to run by several members of the chapter.” So, at the urging of many, he ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation.
“Any transition is challenging,” but the chapter has been fortunate because both incoming and outgoing leadership holders are tenured and veteran association leaders, says Wentz, a PORAC member of more than 24 years. This has made for a smooth transition, allowing the chapter to focus on the critical election year.
Located at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, the chapter is the largest in the state and has the most at-large PORAC Board members, making its sphere of influence significant, especially when it comes to endorsing pro-law-enforcement candidates and lobbying for legislation that aligns with PORAC’s goals.
“At recent chapter meetings, dealing with endorsements has been our major focus and task,” says Wentz. The chapter has been very active in the campaigns of several crucial political positions, including two district attorney races and several state positions in its coverage area, which encompasses Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
“In addition, a number of legislative bills PORAC is supporting or opposing this year originated with legislators from our area, so that means much lobbying by all our association leaders,” says Wentz. High-priority opposed bills that have originated in the Bay Area include AB 748 on Disclosure of Video and Audio Recordings: Peace Officers by Assembly Member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and SB 1421 on Criminal Procedure and Sentencing by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley).
This level of political advocacy is a testament to the chapter’s high level of engagement, which is what Wentz believes makes the Bay Area stand out. “We have a very active chapter,” he says. “Our meetings are well attended, and our large number of represented members and associations means we get a broad view of the labor issues facing California law enforcement.”
Chapter meetings are vital because they are a way for members to reach statewide leaders and effect changes in policy, Wentz says. “Input at chapter meetings converts directly, for us anyway, to legislation and policy decisions for PORAC at large.”
He stresses that because of this, chapter participation is extremely important: “PORAC is its members, and the chapter is the local vehicle for member engagement and information sharing. On a statewide level, PORAC sometimes takes full pieces of legislation from chapters, so if a local association is not involved in chapter meetings and activities, it limits their external effectiveness and limits their voice on statewide issues.”
Wentz, who also serves as vice president of the Richmond POA, enjoys seeing all the hard work put in by members of the chapter. “I like to think that our chapter sets the standard for strong leadership and involvement,” he says. “As one of the original chapters in PORAC, we have had seven PORAC presidents from the chapter, our board has a low turnover of directors and we are often looked upon as leaders who can provide institutional knowledge due to our experience and tenure.”
Reflecting on the importance of PORAC as a whole, Wentz says that the organization “is the vehicle for statewide advocacy, and without it, statewide attacks on law enforcement would be out of control.”
President: Jason Wentz
Vice President: Glen Robbins
Secretary: Erinn Riley
Treasurer: Don Mattison
Directors: Joey Schlemmer (IBT Trustee), Matt Avery, Chris Spencer
PORAC Director: Ben Therriault
PORAC Directors-at-Large: Barry Donelan (Executive Committee), Doug Knittel, Kenneth Lomba, Shawn Welch
LDF Trustee: DJ Wozniak
Number of members
Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties