Capitol Beat – Officer Wellness, Elections and the Future

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Officer Wellness Budget Proposal

Peace officers experience more trauma throughout their careers than most people do in a lifetime. What others only see in headlines, our officers will likely come face to face with during their career. Without the resources to cope and manage the stress and trauma associated with being in law enforcement, our officers’ health and well-being are compromised. This year, PORAC is standing in strong support of the Officer Wellness Budget Proposal submitted by the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). This proposal appropriates $40 million out of the general fund to support peace officer wellness and mental health programs across California.

A report from the United States Department of Justice analyzing programs from around the country has highlighted successful approaches to improving officer wellness and mental health that are proven to decrease depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) among officers. Many of these conditions have resulted in a suicide rate that may be three times the rate of the general public. The health and safety of our officers is of the utmost importance to us, and we will support any effort to improve the quality of life for the brave men and women who protect our families, homes and streets.

The $40 million proposed from the general fund will go to supplement existing funds to expand eligible programs that must meet the goal of improving officer wellness. Funds to each county will be used to support the following best practice programs that have been effective in improving officer residency and overall health:

  • Stress management training
  • Training in personal nutrition, exercise and self-care
  • Counseling with mental health professionals with expertise in first responder trauma
  • Access to self-service apps
  • Establishment of early warning systems
  • Expanding access to exercise and physical fitness
  • Development of mentorship programs
  • Access to mindfulness and yoga classes
  • Funding for Mental Health Services Units
  • Expanding access to crisis hotlines
  • Incentivized mental and physical health checks

Elections

In every election cycle, PORAC works very closely with our local associations on endorsements. We are a grassroots association, and the power of our group comes from listening closely to our members. The POAs, DSAs and chapters provide direction to the PORAC Executive Board of Directors on endorsements in their area.

Below is a survey of the results from the primary election on March 3.

PORAC chose to actively endorse in 39 of the 80 Assembly races. With the exception of Sylvia Rubio in Assembly District 57, our endorsed candidates came in either first or second, which allows them to move on to the November 3 general election. The competitive nature of the primary races requires us to research the candidates with greater intensity and understand more completely the politics of California’s neighborhoods.

Half of the 40-member Senate is up for election every two years. This year, the odd-numbered seats were on the ballot. After listening to our local members, PORAC made the decision to endorse in seven of the 20 Senate races. Working together, we successfully predicted the winner in six races.

There was one special election in Senate District 28, where former Senator Jeff Stone was appointed by President Trump to the U.S. Department of Labor. Assemblymember Melissa Melendez, whom PORAC endorsed, was one of five candidates in the race. While she received a majority of the vote, she did not receive more than 50%, which means a runoff will take place on May 12. As of this writing, the race is still too close to call for second place.

Fifty-three California congressional races were presented to the voters. PORAC membership asked for an endorsement in 20 races. We successfully predicted the outcome in 19 races.

Legislation

PORAC is following hundreds of bills during this legislative session that have a direct and significant impact on the way you do your job. The bills are consequential and, unfortunately, many are drawn from headlines rather than research. The target of these bills is the way the laws of California are enforced, which means they could impact the manner in which PORAC keeps the streets of our neighborhoods safe.

To follow PORAC’s current list of priority bills, please see the legislative bill chart in this issue, or go to PORAC.org/advocacy/legislation-overview for a link to PORAC’s interactive bill chart.

The Future 

The next couple of years are not going to be easy for any of us associated with law enforcement. Tough stories appear almost daily, and all of us read them. They impact us on the job and they impact the way we will prepare for our job. PORAC will continue to be the voice for law enforcement in California and provide the real-world insights that come from being the first line of defense.