(Photos by Cutter Hicks and Marissa Wolford)
PORAC’s 2023 Symposium is right around the corner, taking place from May 31 to June 1 at the beautiful Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey. This hallmark training event brings together members to listen, learn and participate in sessions from a series of diverse experts from varying fields on important issues affecting law enforcement throughout California and nationwide.
This year’s event features a dynamic lineup of speakers and instructors who will be covering a wide array of salient topics, including active shooter response, mental health and wellness, defensive tactics, peer mentoring and workers’ compensation. Attendees will have the opportunity to gain more than 14 POST and STC credit hours provided through the offered sessions.
“Every year, my focus is on booking hot topics and interesting training sessions for small and large agencies, as well as what training is needed for rural and urban officers,” PORAC Training Coordinator Cathy Knape says, noting that she takes members’ feedback submitted through polls and evaluations from past trainings, Conferences and Symposiums into consideration when deciding on session topics.
Knape shares that members will have many more training sessions to choose from compared to previous years’ events, which “is a plus for some of our members who attend Symposium with co-workers, so this year I’ve added two breakout sessions with two session choices per breakout” — allowing associations with multiple attendees to send representatives to each course and bring even more information home to share with colleagues. “I hope our members take advantage of these breakouts and attend more than one session on the morning of day 2, and for those attending solo, there are two very different topics per breakout.”
Another new element of this year’s Symposium is the featured Active Shooter Series, which Knape was inspired to create after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Specifically, she thought about the role civilians play in the outcome of such tragedies. “I read a lot of information on the topic and found that statistics nationwide show an active shooter incident isn’t defined by whether you live in a small town or big city, rural or urban areas, or your race, or age,” she said. “The FBI stated, ‘Unlike a defined crime, such as a murder or mass killing, the “active” aspect inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses.’ So then I asked the question, ‘Do we train civilians as well as law enforcement?’”
Knape asked domestic terrorism expert Chris Grollnek to provide a few statistics about active shooters. “California had six incidents in 2021, and in 17 incidents around the country, law enforcement engaged the shooter,” she says. “My question to officers and their departments is ‘Are you ready?’, and this is what led to our Active Shooter Series session.” The series will focus on readiness rather than preparedness, addressing how departments should respond to, react to, and recover from an active shooter or an act of mass violence.
Knape hopes this year’s offerings will bolster attendance, appeal to more members and offer them the relevant training and skills they’ll need throughout their careers. “If attendees gain one piece of new information, we have done our job,” she says. “If they take that information/training back to their co-workers and department, then we’ve done our job well.”
The following is an overview of the training sessions that will be offered at Symposium.
Trapped During 9/11 by Will Jimeno
In this riveting presentation, author and retired Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department Officer William J. Jimeno shares his account of 9/11. On that fateful day, Jimeno and fellow officers were buried alive under the rubble of the south tower of the World Trade Center for a total of 18 hours. Jimeno will detail how he and his co-worker, Port Authority Officer John McLoughlin, were located and extricated from the rubble, what hurdles he had to overcome with the injuries he sustained and his fight to survive.
Workers’ Compensation: Strategies and Critical Updates by John Ferrone
Presented by John Ferrone, partner at Ferrone & Ferrone, this session outlines important strategies for police officers entering the workers’ compensation system. It will also provide critical updates on specific issues, including PTSD, the presumptions, the alternative dispute resolution programs (ADR), return to work, 4850 benefits, the delays and solutions in getting medical treatment, civil litigation, workers’ comp fraud and PERS retirement.
First to Respond, Last to Seek Help by Dr. Stephen Odom
The repeat exposure to acute trauma that first responders face on the job eventually results in physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of the body and mind, leaving responders at risk for developing an alcohol/substance misuse issue, along with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). In this session, first responder wellness expert Dr. Stephen Odom examines causes, signs and symptoms of PTSI, how it affects law enforcement and their families, and explores what can be done to heal, prevent further damage and strengthen resiliency.
Talk, Fight, Shoot or Leave by Ken Murray
When a situation on the job takes an unexpected turn, do you talk, fight, shoot or leave? In this session, Ken Murray, the director of training for the Armiger Police Training Institute, discusses how unrealistic beliefs can take a psychological or emotional toll on officers, and how having a false sense of security based on ineffective defensive tactics can shatter the psyche of an officer who mistakenly believes that certain “moves” will bring about a swift conclusion to an encounter. Such misconceptions can have a chilling effect on an unprepared officer.
360-Degree Awareness: Close-Quarter Defense by Jeff Johnsgaard
Note: This session is 4 hours long and will include hands-on training in close-quarter defense in a vehicle for attendees who would like to participate.
Engaging in an armed confrontation poses extreme challenges, and being forced to suddenly defend yourself from an ambush attack while seated in your vehicle offers myriad complications on top of that. The number of law enforcement officers ambushed while in their vehicles is on the rise. Multiple attackers present the increased challenge of defending on multiple angles simultaneously, all while being confined to a seat. This information augments our opinion that the ability to quickly and effectively rotate and aim a pistol in 360 degrees while confined inside a vehicle is becoming a necessary technique for law enforcement officers. In this session, Jeff Johnsgaard, a 19-year police veteran and trainer, demos lifesaving close-quarter defensive techniques.
Featured Session: Active Mass Shooter Series
San Bernardino 2015 Terrorist Attack
On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were physically injured in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. In this presentation, officials with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department — Sergeant Grant Ward (SEBA), Sheriff’s Media Specialist Brittany Rios, Deputy Olivia Bozek, Deputy Shaun Wallen and District Attorney Investigator Chad Johnson — will provide an overview of the incident; law enforcement response before, during and after; and lessons learned.
Active Shooter Prevention by Chris Grollnek
Chris Grollnek, an award-winning former police investigator and one of the nation’s highly respected policy experts in the prevention of domestic terrorism, will discuss active shooter prevention as well as how to build a resilient community, addressing why we should include civilian training, plans for 9-1-1 dispatchers and more.
Mental Health During an Active Shooter Incident by Dr. Stephen Odom
Dr. Stephen Odom will close out the series by speaking on the importance of mental and emotional support before, and the recovery after, an active shooter incident.
Peer Mentoring by Ruben Pola
Certified Master Public Information Officer Ruben Pola invites attendees to discover how a formal mentoring program can directly benefit an agency’s hiring and retention efforts, and to learn how to start one at their own agency.
The Illusion of Success by Robert Navarez
In this session, Robert Navarez, Police De-escalation Training coordinator with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sheds light on his journey with anxiety and depression, describing the symptoms and the steps he took to overcome his struggles while fully engaged as a California police executive.
Change Blindness by Jeff Martin
Jeff Martin, a retired sergeant from the San Jose Police Department and a former attorney with the Berry Wilkinson Law Group, discusses the perceptual phenomenon of “change blindness,” focusing his presentation on a case study in which change blindness occurred during an officer-involved moving vehicle shooting.
Science of Fear by Michael Blasi and Guryan Tighe
By examining the role of individual and systemic fear, peace officers can understand its impact on decision-making and choose intentional responses that can better serve a peaceful resolution to the situations they are presented with. Session presenters Guryan Tighe, a fear technician and the founder of Fourage, and Michael Blasi, a co-founder and chief operating officer for Three Trees Enterprises, provide two complementary tracks that happen in parallel to support their approach: learning and unlearning.
For full training descriptions, author bios and event schedule, visit PORAC.org/annual-symposium.