67th Annual PORAC Conference of Members

The 67th Annual Conference of Members was held at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, hosted by Region I and co-chaired by Executive Committee members Barry Donelan and Paul Kelly. A total of 643 delegates representing 151 associations attended to vote on bylaws and elected officers, receive organizational, trust and benefits updates, meet with vendors and network with fellow members. To the delight of many, for the first time ever, the Conference notebook was made available in digital format, so no one had to lug around those “10-pound books,” according to the co-chairs.

This year was another busy one for PORAC, especially on the legislative front. Nearly all presentations highlighted PORAC’s ability to stand strong in the face of anti-law-enforcement groups and legislators, citing the organization’s relentless work on SB 230 and AB 392. In addition to working on use-of-force issues, PORAC also engaged with a host of other legislation affecting the profession on the state and national levels. Many presenters spoke about plans for 2020 — a critical election year — and urged members to be prepared to show up for candidates and have their voices heard and to watch for legislation that will attempt to either help or hinder the law enforcement profession.

This year was another busy one for PORAC, especially on the legislative front. Nearly all presentations highlighted PORAC’s ability to stand strong in the face of anti-law-enforcement groups and legislators, citing the organization’s relentless work on SB 230 and AB 392. In addition to working on use-of-force issues, PORAC also engaged with a host of other legislation affecting the profession on the state and national levels. Many presenters spoke about plans for 2020 — a critical election year — and urged members to be prepared to show up for candidates and have their voices heard, and to watch for legislation that will attempt to either help or hinder the law enforcement profession.

Friday, November 22, General Session

The session began with the presentation of colors by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Honor Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Vice President Damon Kurtz. Mick Boyd of the Sacramento POA read the names of officers who died in the line of duty this year. Chaplain Rodney Lowery of the Fresno Police Chaplaincy delivered the invocation.

In his welcome address, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, who took office in January, thanked PORAC for its support and endorsement, which helped him unseat the 11-year incumbent sheriff last November. “It shows what the power of people can do,” he said, using his election win as an example of the strength PORAC has to effect change in all levels of government. He said this ability to come together is especially important when dealing with the State Legislature, which in recent years has put out some “disastrous bills to make our jobs more difficult.” He encouraged members to keep up active roles within PORAC and their individual associations. He closed by saying that conferences like these are not only about learning about what’s happening within the organization; they also provide opportunities for members to foster bonds of friendship with one another. 

Approval of Minutes: The minutes from last year’s Conference were approved.

Election of President and Vice President: Brian Marvel and Damon Kurtz were re-elected by acclamation as president and vice president, respectively.

President’s Report: President Marvel gave an overview of PORAC’s major accomplishments this year, touching on advocacy, training and communication.

He reiterated that “PORAC is the voice of California law enforcement.” That voice was heard loud and clear throughout this year’s contentious battle over use of force, which culminated in the passage of SB 230 and AB 392. He said PORAC successfully pushed back against the ACLU and its attempts to criminalize officers for doing their jobs, working with its lobbyists and lawyers and a statewide law enforcement coalition to find solutions that were beneficial to both officers and the communities they serve.

Marvel then spoke about the enhancement of PORAC’s training initiatives, which have been rebranded as the PORAC Training Institute. The Association has hired a new training coordinator, Cathy Sharp, who is working with the Board and staff on assessing current training programs and developing new ones. 

He said that PORAC continues to leverage its social media to reach more people, and plans to amp up its podcast with more in-depth analysis on legislation and a new installment called “Life After the Badge.”

Looking to the future, Marvel said that ensuring the implementation of SB 230 and AB 392 will be critical, and PORAC will be working with POST on SB 230. The primaries will be in March 2020, so PORAC is pushing up its endorsement process. He encouraged members to help find cops and public safety supporters to run for office.

He thanked members for their support and reminded them that, given the political climate in the state, “It’s vitally important that we stick together now more than ever.”

Vice President’s Report: Vice President Kurtz reported that membership has grown to 75,111 members in 923 associations. He emphasized the importance of associations to help grow membership, calling members “the best recruiters out there” who are on the ground networking with their local agencies and POAs. 

Adding to Marvel’s points, Kurtz discussed changes coming to training classes, noting a brand-new advanced collective bargaining class and more officer wellness training. He also called on members to become more engaged in the political process. “You have to be at the table; you have to find a table to be at. It’s about creating leverage,” he said, explaining that being engaged at the local level is more than just meeting with elected officials; it’s meeting with other players in the community to spread PORAC’s messaging. He discussed recruiting candidates from the most local levels (such as school boards) and focusing on building a “farm team” to combat the anti-police politicians who are climbing the political ladder.

He also drew attention to Fund a Hero, an online fundraising platform launched this year that allows associations to help members in need without having to worry about hidden fees and scams.

Kurtz announced the first-ever POREF Open, a golf tournament and fundraiser that will be held in conjunction with the 2020 Symposium, taking place on April 21–23 in Palm Springs.

Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Tim Davis reported that financials are in very good shape and there weren’t any significant issues found during the recent audit and the Fiscal Management Committee’s review of vouchers and records.

Mark Sikorski of UBS Financial Services reported that PORAC accounts are doing very well and are around $14.6 million, with 75% in equities and 25% in bonds. Year to date, the bonds were up 18.48%. He also discussed the pension fund, which is over $5 million and currently pays 1.93%.

Regarding the PORAC office building, Davis said that the Board made a decision to purchase one of two identical buildings in Sacramento’s Natomas neighborhood (the IBT will be purchasing the other). Both PORAC and the IBT are actively negotiating to purchase the buildings. The Board is still deciding what to do with its current building after the new building is completed. He reminded members that the process for purchasing a new building is a long one that involves careful decision-making.

Budget Report: For 2020, the budget is projecting PORAC to have income in excess of $4 million, with over two-thirds coming from member dues. Davis said the largest expected increase in income is related to the 2020 Conference of Members, which will be held at Disneyland. He also discussed minor adjustments to both income and expenses, such as an increase for PORAC employee salaries and health insurance. He also pointed out the new $75,000 expense line for legislative legal fees, explaining that this was added at the direction of the Board so that the president can seek outside legal assistance in reviewing and crafting legislation. Also added to the budget was $50,000 per year to begin addressing the cost of a new building and to cover contracting for human resources services.

Joe Farber Award Presentation: President Marvel introduced U.S. Representative Lou Correa, a stalwart supporter of PORAC for almost 20 years, who was selected to receive the Joe Farber Award. In his acceptance speech, Correa announced that he and Representative Josh Harder had just introduced the Improving Community Safety Act (H.R. 5251), legislation crafted in partnership with PORAC that creates a task force to study violence against and involving law enforcement officers. He commended PORAC for working with both sides of the aisle and pledged his commitment to working with the Association to keep communities safe.

Bylaws Presentation: Secretary Randy Beintema reviewed the 10 proposed bylaw amendments provided in the Conference book. Some of the amendments included the addition of out-of-state limited membership that would allow RMT to recruit new members, increased dues for reserve peace officer associations and limited membership organizations, and the creation of an ad hoc ethics committee responsible for investigating any issues of alleged impropriety of PORAC personnel or others serving on behalf of PORAC.

Saturday, November 23, General Session

Joe Farber Award Presentation: President Marvel called to the stage State Senator Anna Caballero, who was received with a standing ovation. She was recognized with the Joe Farber Award for her efforts in working with PORAC and the law enforcement coalition to help pass SB 230. Caballero humbly said SB 230, from inception to passage, was truly a team effort that wouldn’t have been possible without PORAC. She thanked the law enforcement community for standing by her and their commitment to seeing the bill through.

POST Report: Executive Director Manny Alvarez gave an overview of what members can expect in 2020. POST is working to comply with SB 978, which requires publicly releasing training material online, a process that’s been a challenge, Alvarez says, because a lot of information needs to be redacted. POST released a video for AB 392 in November that outlines changes brought by the legislation, and introduced a two-hour use-of-force update course. POST is currently working with PORAC on developing training related to SB 230. He anticipates that the standalone use-of-force course will include both in-class instruction and virtual-reality scenario training. Despite AB 165 not passing the Legislature this year, POST is moving forward with gun violence restraining order training. Similarly, POST has decided to implement mental illness training for dispatchers, per AB 680, which also didn’t pass.

Alvarez noted that there is traction in the Legislature for increased funding for wellness training, something POST has been unable to get funding for. POST continues to push for legislation for rifle training for academy recruits.

He reported that POST’s current funding is at $82 million, and that $20 million of additional funding is dedicated to use-of-force training.

Bylaws: The bylaws presented the previous day were approved as a package by voice vote.

Scholarship Committee: Chairman Randy Beintema encouraged members to have their children apply for scholarships. He also reminded them to pay attention to their child’s application. Last year, 40% of the 188 applications were disqualified because they were incomplete or did not follow directions. He announced that scholarship applications for 2020 will open in December.

National Lobbyist Report: Darryl Nirenberg of Steptoe & Johnson discussed PORAC’s priorities, which included funding for DOJ grant programs (Byrne-JAG, COPS, etc.), advocating for the reform of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision, bringing attention to violence against police officers by working with U.S. Representatives Lou Correa and Josh Harder on H.R. 5251 and supporting the Back the Blue Act (S. 1480), and opposing H.R. 4359, federal legislation that attempts to change the national standard for use of force.

To promote relationships with California members of Congress, PORAC has implemented the use of scorecards and candidate questionnaires to assess legislators’ support of law enforcement–related issues and has included guest columns written by delegates in PORAC Law Enforcement News to help educate PORAC members.

Nirenberg closed by highlighting legislative successes for law enforcement, which included the passage of the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act, the Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act.

Communications Report: Public Relations and Communications Manager Chris Steele said it was a busy year for the communications team, as this was the first year PORAC handled the majority of its communications in house. He and Social Media Content Specialist Cutter Hicks have been producing and publishing a wealth of content on all of PORAC’s social media accounts, which have all grown significantly in reach and followers due to increased engagement. Steele said a new staff member is joining the team in the new year to help increase PORAC’s footprint in the digital world.

Steele also noted that the On the Job With PORAC podcast has gained significant traction, with over 6,000 downloads, and reminded members to look for new episodes each month.

He also discussed how PORAC is increasing member engagement through updated training classes, the Fund a Hero project and new events like the POREF Open.

Legislative Report: Aaron Read said that this legislative year has proved to be one of the most challenging in the history of PORAC. SB 230 and AB 392 were top priorities in a large field of legislation affecting law enforcement. “We fought against people this year who made it clear they want to prosecute police for doing their jobs,” he said.

Randy Perry detailed PORAC’s diligent work in developing SB 230 and working with legislative leaders to amend the original language of AB 392. Both bills were signed into law this year. SB 230 goes further than any bill in the country to reduce the use of force, he said, as it mandates that agencies establish policy guidelines that comply with the new state standard set by AB 392. Echoing Senator Caballero, he said the process was a team effort that involved an effective communication and lobbying strategy. He reminded members that in addition to those two bills, there are still numerous other measures PORAC is actively supporting or opposing.

Read discussed what’s in store for next year. He said some of the initiatives on the ballot include one by Assemblymember Jim Cooper to correct deficiencies inherent in Propositions 47/57 and a referendum on cash bail. PORAC is also watching the Alameda and Marin County pension cases and the Transparent CA/CalPERS lawsuit.

PORAC POWER Project: Sarah Creighton, retired assistant chief of the San Diego Police Department, talked about the success of the inaugural POWER classes that were offered in Coronado in November. She also championed Copline as a valuable resource for officers.

Retiree Medical Trust Report: Chairman Terry Moore said that the RMT continues its mission of growth, reporting that the Trust got its first association in Oregon to join this year and a second one will be on board July 2020. Previously, the Trust could only reach out to three states and they had to be contiguous, he said, but the new bylaws passed earlier that day would allow the Trust to expand.

He announced that Brian Dutton (Gilroy POA) was elected as Region I trustee.

The Trust has about 39 associations participating, and this year it increased its active membership by 33%. The portfolio has increased by 25% since last year, and as of November 1, the three accounts in the portfolio sit at $51 million. The Trust paid over $1 million to members last year.

Insurance & Benefits Trust Report: Chairman Joey Schlemmer provided an overview of IBT’s trusted vendors, including California Casualty, which celebrated its 50th year in partnership with PORAC this year.

He reported that the Trust continues to operate under an Administrative Services Only (ASO) agreement with Anthem Blue Cross. This has resulted in an average cost savings of $700 per member. Another cost-saving measure will be implemented in January 2020; the health plan will incorporate the enrollment eligibility component of Anthem’s service element.

Looking ahead into the future, he said the health plan will incorporate a Joint Administrative Arrangement (JAA) in 2022 to bring claims processing in-house, saving $2 million per year. To do this, the IBT needs to grow its staff and move to a larger building. IBT has been working with PORAC to purchase a new building to accommodate expansion.

The IBT’s disability insurance enrollment increased, with 1,110 new members and four new association participants. The Trust currently has reserves of $22 million for existing open claims. He pointed out that there are 42 members who have been found to be permanently disabled, receiving long-term benefits beyond two years, and 31 members receiving long-term benefits beyond five years. “I challenge you to find another plan out there providing those benefits for those extended periods of time,” he said.

Legal Defense Fund Report: Region III Trustee Chris Coulter reported that within the last 10 years, the LDF has grown by 57,000 members, composed of 1,344 associations, for a total membership of over 137,000 law enforcement officers. The LDF hit a milestone this year: Representation is available in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. He reported that along with this growth, the plan’s net assets have continuously increased over the last six years. The plan has spent a total of $170 million in the defense of its membership since 2007.

He said LDF anticipates that in the coming years, it will be dealing with cases arising from SB 1421. The fund is currently bringing its attorneys up to speed on how to best help officers involved in those cases.

He announced that the second annual LDF Conference will be on July 26–28 in Las Vegas.

CalPERS Report: Stakeholder Strategy Manager David Teykaerts provided an update on the pension fund. CalPERS assets at the end of fiscal year 2018–19 stood at $372 billion, and the overall fund status is 71% (the amount of money CalPERS has compared to what it needs to fund all pensions). CalPERS’ primary objective is to drive the funded status up to the high 80s and low 90s within the next 10 years, which would significantly strengthen the fund. He outlined a 10-year projection of funded status and CalPERs’ investment strategies and priorities for the future.

Saturday Installation Dinner

President Brian Marvel began his welcome address by thanking the PORAC staff for their hard work in planning another successful Conference. He also gave a special birthday shout-out to LDF Trustee Todd Frazier. He then presented awards for distinguished service to the Board of Directors, which went to Roger Winslow (Santa Clara County DSA) and Rudy Perez (L.A. School PMA). Honorary Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Tony Sanders (Tri-Counties Chapter) and Larry Seymour (Valley Chapter). After the awards presentations, Bob Bonsall, PORAC corporate counsel, swore in all the trustees, directors and Board members. Soon after, comedian Tommy Davidson made his triumphant return to the PORAC Conference. His hysterical standup routine had the audience roaring with laughter for the remainder of the evening.

Sunday, November 24, General Session

Memorial Foundation: Executive Director Wayne Quint told members that attending the annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremonies should be on every peace officer’s bucket list. He reported that the officers who were killed in the line of duty this year will be enrolled in 2020, along with one officer from the distant past. He thanked PORAC for its continued support and representation on the CPOMF board. He then asked associations to contribute to the fund, recommending that leaders budget for $2 per officer per year.

RAM Report: Chairman Bob Valladon reported that, during the annual RAM meeting, members discussed laws on carrying firearms inside and outside of California and purchasing ammunition in California, which now requires background checks. He also told members that enrolling in LDF upon retirement is a must, especially if they decide to carry a concealed firearm during retirement. So far, 9,000 retired members have signed up for LDF coverage.

SPAC Report: Chairman PJ Webb thanked region representatives and the Board for their hard work and support. President Marvel added that Webb was involved in drafting SB 416, a two-year bill that would expand workers’ compensation presumptions to all peace officers.

With no other business, President Marvel adjourned the session, concluding yet another eventful Conference of Members.

Training

The two POST-certified courses offered this year covered salient topics dominating the law enforcement profession. In “Crisis Communications: Maintaining the Narrative in the Digital Age,” Mountain View Police Department Deputy Chief Chris Hsiung discussed how agencies can utilize social media as part of their larger communication strategy, especially in times of crisis. The next day, Dr. Kimberly A. Miller’s presentation “Keeping Super Heroes Super” discussed how law enforcement officers can deal with the stress and burnout that come with the profession, focusing on healthy coping strategies, interventions and more.