Congress Active on Law Enforcement Matters

May, which included National Police Week, was a busy month on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers focused on a range of issues, including the federal budget, Iran sanctions and trade. In the wake of recent high-profile incidents in both Baltimore, Maryland, and North Charleston, South Carolina, criminal justice issues have remained at the forefront of national attention — and lawmakers are increasingly weighing in on police and community relations matters, including police militarization and the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs).

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke on May 1 about a national crisis in the relations between law enforcement and minority communities and expressed support for local police departments using federal grant money to purchase BWCs. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who represents the city of Baltimore, described police and community relations as “the civil rights cause for this generation” and stated that BWCs offer “protection for the police and the public.”

Presidential candidates have started to weigh in on law enforcement issues. Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a number of criminal justice reforms during a speech in late April. In her remarks, she called for an end to the “era of mass incarceration” and said federal funds should not be used “to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets.” She further stated that every police department in the country should have BWCs to record interactions between officers and the community.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a Republican presidential candidate and a persistent voice for sentencing reform, is the lead co-sponsor on legislation introduced earlier this year (S. 877, the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available Act of 2015 [Police CAMERA Act]) that is designed to encourage the use of BWCs by establishing a pilot grant program to assist law enforcement agencies in purchasing BWCs for officers. During their visit to D.C. for National Police Week, PORAC President Mike Durant and Vice President Brent Meyer met with the offices of Senators Paul and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the co-sponsors of the Police CAMERA Act, to discuss PORAC’s position on BWCs.

Blue Alert and Bulletproof Vest Bills Pass Senate

The Senate (on April 30) and House (on May 12) passed by voice vote the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act (S. 665/H.R. 1269), which would create a nationwide Blue Alert system (modeled after the Amber Alert system for missing children) to apprehend violent criminals who have injured or killed police officers. The legislation, introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and former sheriff/Representative David Reichert (R-Wash.) in their respective chambers, would also initiate alerts when imminent or credible threats of harm are made against law enforcement officers. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Representatives Judy Chu (D-27th District, Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-19th District, Calif.) co-sponsored the legislation, which will now head to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

On May 6, the Senate passed the bipartisan Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 125) to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, extending through fiscal year 2020 the authorization of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, which is run by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. No related House bill has been introduced at this time.

PORAC supports these bills and looks forward to continuing its work with Congress to enact legislation that enhances the safety of the law enforcement community.

Law Enforcement Equipment

On May 7, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation to reform federal programs that direct equipment and funding to local police departments. S. 1245, the Protecting Communities and Police Act, would make a number of changes in the oversight and transparency of these programs and establish a task force to assist federal officials in determining whether certain equipment is appropriate for use by law enforcement. PORAC is reviewing and will closely monitor the legislation.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) announced that they would hold a hearing on May 19 titled “Policing Strategies for the 21st Century” to “examine police accountability, aggression toward law enforcement, public safety concerns related to these issues, and solutions to address these problems.”

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism will also hold a hearing on May 19, titled “Body Cameras: Can Technology Increase Protection for Law Enforcement Officers and the Public?”. The hearing is expected to examine the use of BWCs by law enforcement officers, as well as related data retention and privacy issues. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) requested the hearing following the death of Walter Scott (no relation) in North Charleston, South Carolina. Senator Scott stated that ideally, “legislation or a grant apparatus that provides some resources for body cameras for those agencies that can ill afford it” would emerge after the hearing. PORAC met with Senator Scott and Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) offices to discuss PORAC’s position on BWCs several days before the hearing.

Department of Justice Updates

Attorney General Loretta Lynch: Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States on April 27. Ms. Lynch’s first day as Attorney General forced her to confront civil unrest and protests in Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray. In her first trip as Attorney General, she visited the city to meet with local leaders, including the Baltimore Police Department Commissioner and line officers. When meeting with police officers, Ms. Lynch thanked them for their work, stating, “You have picked a noble profession; you have picked a hard profession; but you have picked one of the best professions out there today, because you have picked the one that lets you go out there every day and say, ‘I’m going to help somebody.’”

As she leads the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Ms. Lynch’s other priorities will likely include cybersecurity, combating human trafficking, and victims’ rights. She also will likely focus on improving police morale and improving relations between police and communities.

COPS Office in focus: The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) within DOJ is responsible for supporting the community policing efforts of state and local law enforcement agencies and is tasked with advancing community policing nationwide. Importantly, the COPS Office administers several grant programs that provide critical law enforcement support. To date, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to fund the hiring of more than 125,000 officers and deputies and provides a range of resources to support community policing activities.

Since November 2013, the COPS Office has been led by Ronald L. Davis. Prior to his appointment, Director Davis served eight years as the Chief of Police for the City of East Palo Alto, and before that he served with the Oakland Police Department for 20 years. In its last two D.C. fly-ins, PORAC has had productive meetings with the COPS Office, including one meeting with Director Davis himself.

Grants

New Grant Program for Body-Worn Cameras: On May 1, the DOJ announced a $20 million body-worn camera pilot partnership program to assist local law enforcement organizations in purchasing BWCs for law enforcement officers. The program includes $17 million in competitive grants for the purchase of BWCs, $2 million for training and technical assistance and $1 million for the development of evaluation tools to study best practices. Applications are due by June 16, and more information on the grant program can be found at https://www.bja.gov/funding.aspx.

Other Grant Program Applications and Deadlines

Byrne JAG: The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is the leading source of funding for local jurisdictions and is used to support law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, planning, evaluation, technology improvement, and crime victim and witness initiatives. The Fiscal Year 2015 State Solicitation application is currently available and is due on June 16. The Local Solicitations application was not yet available at the time of this issue’s publication.

COPS: COPS grants are awarded to state, local, territory, and tribal law enforcement agencies. Types of grants include the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), the COPS Hiring Program (CHP) and Community Policing Development (CPD). These grants can assist with technical training, the development of policing strategies, applied research, guidebooks, the hiring of officers (both new and previously laid-off officers), and the maintenance of officers scheduled to be laid off. CHP and CPD materials are now available to review from the COPS Office website, and solicitations will open in mid-May.

Officer Review of Body-Camera Footage Debated in the Assembly

April and May are typically two of the busiest months of the year for the California Legislature. Every bill must go through a policy committee (Public Safety, Judiciary or Health Committee, for example) before being heard in Appropriations Committee (if the bill has a price tag), and is then debated on the floor of its respective house.

The deadline for fiscal bills to pass out of policy committees was May 1, and the deadline for nonfiscal bills to pass out of policy committees was May 15. Now, all bills heard in Appropriations Committee must be heard by May 29, and those that successfully pass out of Appropriations must pass off of the floor of their house of origin by June 6.

Due to the time constraints of such a deadline schedule, many bills are heard in special hearings and amended very shortly before being heard in their next hearing. This means that dozens of bills are amended every day and therefore must be carefully reviewed by PORAC leadership to ensure that none of the amendments would negatively affect public safety. Thankfully, our team is able to work with PORAC leadership, especially President Mike Durant, multiple times daily to work through all of these amendments.

Bills that fail these legislative deadlines become two-year bills and are dead until the second year of the two-year session that begins in January. In total, 2,560 bills have been introduced and are at some point in the legislative process. We will have a clearer picture of how many bills failed the first set of deadlines after June 5.

Below are updates on two recently amended bills that PORAC has been working on relating to body-worn cameras and CCW permits on school campuses.

AB 66 by Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego): Peace officers: body-worn cameras: AB 66 is the main body-camera bill introduced this year. PORAC has been in meetings with Assembly Member Weber’s staff for months regarding this issue.

In a special hearing of the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee held prior to the policy committee deadline, President Durant and our ARA team were in attendance to testify. President Durant was the only rank-and-file law enforcement association leader in the hearing room. He has participated in all the conversations with all the members.

This was one of the oddest hearings in recent memory and has been the talk of the Capitol in the weeks following.

The bill had been amended four times prior to the Privacy Committee hearing. PORAC had remained actively opposed, particularly to the section prohibiting officers from reviewing the body camera footage prior to writing a report on incidents involving “serious use of force.”

Based on our strong opposition and discussion with members, we believed that we had the votes necessary to stall the bill in committee, giving us time to work through those concerns. This was demonstrated vividly when many members of the committee asked pointed questions and many of the members stated that they could not vote for it.

After it became clear that Assembly Member Weber did not have the sufficient number of votes to pass the bill, Chair/Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), who has voiced support for our position on reviewing camera footage prior to writing a report, called a five-minute recess and convened a meeting across the hall that included both supporters and opponents.

We discussed our position and what was important to PORAC. Many changes were agreed to; however, we were unhappy with an amendment that said review of the camera footage would be left to local control and therefore, each local agency could decide on its own. PORAC wanted an affirmative statement in the bill allowing officers to review the footage, thus removing our need to have to negotiate with 400 cities and 58 counties over that issue.

After much debate, the committee resumed and a second vote was taken. There were still insufficient votes to pass the bill, which led to another recess, this time in the committee room, with the Chair ordering that the doors be locked by the sergeants so that no one could leave until the issue was resolved.

In the end, our amendment was accepted, allowing officers to review the footage, with a carve-out for those agencies that have current policies in place that may not allow it. Therefore, with the exception of grandfathering a few agencies, such as Oakland and Richmond, the policy in statute going forward will be that officers will have the right to review the footage.

The committee resumed again and another roll call was taken. This time, the bill received the requisite number of votes necessary to pass. The final vote was 6-0, with five members abstaining (all four of the Republican members and Democrat Jim Cooper, a retired sheriff’s deputy). Jim Cooper was an all-star in the hearing. He asked pointed questions and brought into play his 30 years of being a street cop. We also applaud Assembly Members Matt Debabneh, Evan Low, Ian Calderon and Chair Mike Gatto for their great help in making this a better bill.

There are a number of other amendments related to tightening access to recording under the California Public Records Act, strengthening protections for informants, tightening provisions dealing with recording in private homes, etc. We are continuing to work with legislators and staff to create a bill that will be workable for all of our officers on the streets.

SB 707 by Senator Wolk (D-Davis): Gun-free school zones: Initially, this legislation prohibited CCW holders and retired law enforcement officers from possessing firearms on the grounds of a K-12 school or university. After the author introduced the bill, PORAC met with Wolk’s staff to address our concerns with barring former officers from carrying their concealed weapons on campus. Should a dangerous situation occur, we want these highly trained former officers to have the tools necessary to respond. After discussions with Senator Wolk and her staff, amendments were made to eliminate the ban. PORAC is now in support of this legislation, which will be heard on the Senate floor.

PORAC in the News

PORAC continues to be the voice of law enforcement in the news media. There is no other organization that reporters turn to more often than PORAC when they are in need of a public safety perspective. Our outreach has been varied throughout the state, and we tackle issues covering a broad scope. In recent months, PORAC leadership and advocates have been published in papers from Ventura to Santa Cruz to Sacramento on issues ranging from pensions to endorsements to Proposition 47.

Ventura County Star, Timm Herdt, “Bill Governing Use of Police Body Cameras Advances After Compromise”: The Ventura County Star printed a piece regarding the most recent body-worn camera hearing, in which Aaron Read & Associates advocate Randy Perry’s testimony was highlighted: “Lobbyist Randy Perry, representing the Peace Officers Research Association of California, an umbrella organization for police unions across the state, argued such a requirement could result in officers being ‘potentially disciplined if they have some discrepancies.’ He noted that the U.S. Justice Department has recommended that officers be given the opportunity to review videos before writing reports, a procedure that would lead to more accurate reporting. ‘Accuracy is the most important part of a fair judicial system,’ he said.”

CalBuzz, Mike Durant, “Why Unions Back Bonilla Over Glazer”: Our team was approached by the Susan Bonilla for Senate campaign to clarify organized labor’s support for Bonilla over opponent Steve Glazer. A piece penned by President Mike Durant was featured in CalBuzz, an online blog frequented by those in the political world.

Sacramento Bee, Chelsea Irvine, “Another View: Prop 47 Gun Provision Must Be Fixed”: PORAC was one of the main opponents to Proposition 47, which passed by a wide margin after an extraordinarily well-funded campaign of half-truths about the flawed initiative. Subsequent to the passage of Prop 47, numerous bills have been introduced to address the most egregious flaws. One such bill, AB 150 by Assembly Member Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), amends the law to make theft of any firearm a felony. The Sacramento Bee published an op-ed from a social justice advocate praising Prop 47. In response, our MPC team drafted a piece from our staff, as consultants to PORAC. Employing a female voice not extensively heard in law enforcement, we utilized our staff’s experience of witnessing a violent crime likely perpetrated with a stolen firearm.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Mike Pruger, “Public Pensions Are Not in Crisis”: Our team was approached by Santa Cruz Deputy Sheriffs’ Association President Mike Pruger regarding a piece that ran in the local Santa Cruz paper warning of the “pension crisis” happening in California. Again, the facts of the piece were skewed and the realities of public employee pensions were omitted. We worked with President Pruger to craft a response that was clear and noncombative while expounding on the facts of the issue — the collectively bargained concessions already made by the DSA and why reasonable public employee pensions are critical to the recruitment and retention of quality officers.

Body-Worn Cameras

Body-worn cameras have been the talk of the Capitol in recent months, and those discussions have become even more common as video of additional incidents has been made public throughout the nation.

Recently, our team at MPC interviewed San Diego Police Officers Association President Brian Marvel regarding San Diego P.D.’s implementation of a body-worn camera program. We will be breaking the interview into multiple segments, highlighting the various issues involved in the successful use of body-worn cameras. These segments will give policymakers and the media an important firsthand look into San Diego officers’ experiences with this new technology. We thank President Marvel for traveling to Sacramento to share his experiences and insight.

PORAC TV

Our team at Marketplace Communications continues to work with PORAC leadership to create PORAC TV segments that keep members informed on the wide range of PORAC’s activities on their behalf. Recently, we recorded President Mike Durant regarding PORAC’s efforts to ease the strain between law enforcement officers and those they serve. While we understand that many are frustrated, President Durant explained in his vlog that PORAC is willing to work together to create a sense of community that can be lacking in some areas. This was a no-nonsense, one-cop-speaking-to-the-community piece. If you haven’t seen the video, you can view it on PORAC’s YouTube channel (www.YouTube.com/PORACalifornia), Facebook (www.Facebook.com/PORAC) and Twitter pages (www.Twitter.com/PORACalifornia) for updates as these segments go live.

Furthermore, during the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremonies in Sacramento in May, we had the opportunity to interview members of PORAC’s Board of Directors to create a historical archive of these officers’ experiences, both on the frontlines and in their efforts with PORAC. Each Board member had a distinct experience to share with us, highlighting the issues in their areas of expertise and their local jurisdictions. We will continue these video archive sessions as Board and Executive Committee members are available.

We Will Never Forget

2015 California Memorial Ceremony

The State Capitol was the setting for the 39th annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony on May 3 and 4. Officers and law enforcement supporters honored the 13 officers killed in the line of duty in 2014 (and five from previous years) and paid respects to those officers’ surviving family members.

The History of the California Memorial (Part 2)

Click Here for Part 1 of this article.

Rick Baratta

A New Chapter, Another Memorial

In 1986, Governor George Deukmejian called upon Senator Robert Presley to again sponsor legislation establishing a suitable memorial to peace officers who died in the line of duty.

The establishment of the nine-member California Peace Officers’ Commission from this legislation developed into a new chapter in the memorial story. Just as the task of raising money to build the original memorial years before was a huge undertaking, the commissioners had to set their sights on building a memorial monument that would stand for many years to come.

Appointments to the commission were made from various cross-sections of the law enforcement community. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and Senate Pro Tem David Roberti selected two members each, with the governor presenting a list of five peace officers as commissioners.

The nine-member group consisted of eight peace officers and one police widow: Dick Moore, chief of Atherton P.D., and Phil Jordon, a police officer with the City of Vallejo, were elected chairman and vice-chairman respectively. Lieutenant George Aliano of the Los Angeles Police Protective League was elected secretary, and Bob Applegate of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, a state traffic officer, was named to serve as the commission treasurer.

CA Memorial

Other commissioners representing large associations were Sergeant Jim Vogts, State Marshals; John Duffy, Sheriff of San Diego County; and Art Brown, Deputy Sheriff and a member of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs; Mrs. Sammy Hoyt, widow of Deputy David Hoyt, Lake County Sheriff’s Department; and Senior Officer Gil Coerper, Huntington Beach Police Department, along with Jordan, represented PORAC.

The executive officer was a unanimous selection: Al LeBas, retired division chief with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement liaison for Governor Deukmejian. LeBas was responsible for the general accounting of funds, scheduling of meetings, and a great deal of coordinating between the commission, the state, private agencies, and the sculptors and artists who submitted designs.

During the term of the commission, general expenses of members proved to be very low. Each member’s own organization took turns hosting meetings; since all meetings were kept to one day each, the only major expense was airfare. The commission was also fortunate to have the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) organization provide the accounting services.

The Design

The first major agenda item was the design of the monument. The group was presented with five designs. Each had unique qualities and reflected the sculptor’s thoughts about the death and history of the peace officer. Each sculptor/artist was also asked to present a financial estimate of the proposal and ideas on funding the project.

The design selected provided the viewer with a simple view of California law enforcement and its history, as well as the tragedy of losing an officer in the line of duty. The artist selected gave the best overall image of the project and an outstanding financial package as well. Vic Riesau, retired LASD Division Chief turned sculptor, was very generous with ideas and very receptive to thoughts from the commission. His funding package was very acceptable because it provided the necessary plan to raise money to build the monument, while allowing each major contributor the opportunity to possess one of 500 numbered two-piece replicas of the statue.

The Fundraising

The legislation required that the monument be in place in three years. The legislation was also specific about duties and responsibilities of each commissioner and established a sunset clause, December 31, 1988. This was extended to December 31, 1989.

A massive publicity and marketing campaign was started next. Law enforcement agencies in California were notified, as well as POAs, DSAs and many other statewide associations. It was initially hoped that all money raised would come from peace officers themselves.

After the design was circulated throughout California, many groups began reserving one or more of the 500 two-piece sets. Photos of Vic Riesau’s design were published in many statewide publications, giving the contributors a view of what they were supporting.

The effort to keep this a “cop­-funded only” project fell short, however. Even with the generous support of second and third donations from several associations, the commission had to turn to “in kind” and “at cost” contributors from the private sector.

Added costs of several unanticipated changes in the project made the May 1988 deadline even more difficult. As dedication day neared, the contributions slowed, but many major contributors increased their donation to reflect newly designed “silver shield” and “gold star” categories. Bronze plaques on the back of the monument commemorate their support.

Peacekeepers Honored

The weather was also a major factor in May 1988. The day before the dedication ceremony and enrollment of officers who died in the line of duty during 1987, heavy rains threatened to spoil the many months of preparation. Workers spent many hours toiling over every detail, working late into the night, knowing that at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13, several thousand people would be looking at their craftsmanship.

That dedication and support was truly reflected when Governor Deukmejian released the cover from atop the monument. At that moment more than 2,500 people, some seated and some standing, just stared at the three figures looking out into the grassy and tree-lined park. For a few brief seconds there seemed to be total silence, followed by thunderous applause.

As the woman and child figures and each individual plaque bearing hundreds of peace officers’ names were unveiled, the pride and sense of honor that began to emerge from everyone present was almost overwhelming. As families, friends and many peace officers began to push forward with the hope of getting a closer look, some had smiles, some had tears, while others just stood and stared.

At that moment, all of California had their memorial to honor their keepers of the peace. Just about everyone had to reach out and touch a leg, shoe or hand of the three-figured statue, or the woman and child sitting on the park bench a few feet away.

The speeches, handshakes and kind words of sympathy all but faded from memory, but the sense of unity and oneness remained as uniformed officers and deputies, wives, mothers and fathers, children and friends slowly moved about.

The Peace Officers’ Memorial Commission is now a vested part of California history. Its task is finished. Hopefully, the public, as well as the more than 60,000 peace officers in California, are grateful for the long hours and attention to detail shown by all of those involved with the project.

About the Author

An expert on the history of PORAC, Rick Baratta has been a life member since 1956 and has served in many capacities, including as General Manager and PORAC LE News Editor from 1976 to 1989.

The Meaning of the Memorial

In 1987, Rick Baratta reflected on the memorial’s significance in a speech at the annual memorial ceremony:

It’s a good job, really. Except for the wear and tear on the soul, and a little more — always a little more, as the list of names attests. An average of 15 officers a year will be killed enforcing the people’s law in California, for the laws they pass two by two we pay for one by one.

Although death may be the final commitment to our code, it is not the only commitment nor the only cost. Leonidas never asked his soldiers to spend 20 years holding the Persians back, but society expects the peace officer to stand in arms over 20 years holding back the jungle.

And each generation of peace officers will toll their 300 — or be tolled. More than half of each generation of peace officers will never reach normal retirement, for the wear and tear and strain will take them out. Like ToffIer’s “planned obsolescence,” they will become society’s “throwaway” cops.

No bells will toll for them. Their names will never be recorded. No solemn ceremonies will be held. They are the discards and rejects of our profession, whose human frailties could not weather the unendurable stand in arms.

Still, the shield the peace officer wears today stands as the shield of the Spartans stood between their people and their people’s enemy. And I tell you, their task is noble. Their task is august, and the names we place each year in the memorial book of the dead attests that they are pledged to that final commitment. And their word, pledged and kept, is a measure of their worth.

A New World in the Media

The world of news media is fluid. How news is reported and shared is constantly changing, and the incidents in South Carolina and San Bernardino can be seen by millions within hours. Twitter and Facebook have created real-time news at a speed that was never thought possible. Reading the morning newspaper to rehash yesterday’s news is out, and following reporters on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit is in. Hashtags are statements. What one person tweets right now has the possibility to be retweeted a million times within a matter of minutes.

Camera phones capture police interactions every day. The majority of those interactions are never seen by the public, because nothing out of the ordinary happens. Officers do their jobs with care and integrity through difficult situations, proud to serve and protect.

Anyone who chooses the law enforcement field knows that the incidents that receive media coverage are the exception, not the rule. PORAC’s more than 67,000 members interact with members of their communities thousands of times each day. The great majority of those instances end without fanfare, and both officer and citizen are able to quickly and safely go about their business.

But as we have seen in recent days and months, when a bystander armed with a camera phone catches an officer using force, odds are that the footage will be shared with the local news, and if it proves to be provocative enough, national media will be quick to pick it up. The blogosphere will also go wild.

In this time of digital sharing culture, it is critical to remember our training and our commitment to our communities. There will be stories, some bad and some open to interpretation, but none of it changes our belief in service.

While Twitter hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe went viral within hours of the news of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s deaths, becoming combative will only create tension within the community that will be very difficult to resolve responsibly.

Everyone who has lost a family member understands the anguish that runs parallel to the emptiness created in death. When that loss of life is caught on film and shared far and wide, it is obvious that that loss can only be harder to come to terms with. As we saw with the young officer gunned down in Arizona whose body-camera footage was released and viewed by millions of strangers, such public display of a person’s final moments can be devastating.

PORAC as an organization has been a leader in bridging the gap that exists between law enforcement and those we serve. There has never been a more important time to focus on that aim. The work that PORAC members do on a regular basis is critically important. It is unfortunate that a strain has been created, but you must continue to be understanding of the concerns of your neighbors, while striving to provide the best service possible.

Media outreach on behalf of PORAC’s membership continues to change with the times. PORAC leadership has been a key stakeholder in discussions among policymakers regarding law enforcement involvement in the community, interactions with those suffering from mental illness, the use of body-worn cameras and a plethora of other issues. While many of these topics stir up intense emotions among all parties, you should be proud of your leadership for being at the table for this important dialogue. Our team will continue to support the efforts of PORAC leadership and members at large as we regain ground that has been lost due to a very few incidents overshadowing the work done by California law enforcement officers.

Make sure to follow PORAC on YouTube (www.YouTube.com/PORACalifornia), Facebook (www.Facebook.com/PORAC) and Twitter (www.Twitter.com/PORACalifornia) for updates.

If you have any questions regarding PORAC’s outreach efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (916) 448-3444, or TMcHale@AaronRead.com and Chelsea@MarketplaceCommunications.com.

The History of the California Memorial (Part 1)

Rick Baratta

Peace Officers Memorial Day

In 1970, California had done little to honor the final sacrifices made each year by its fallen peace officers. The federal government had already declared May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, but recognition by the state had not followed. Finally, at the urging of Abraham Sussman, who had been instrumental in campaigning for the national memorial day, the issue was brought to the attention of the state and PORAC.

Under the presidency of Kenny Joseph of La Mesa, PORAC encouraged Senator Jack Schrade, Chairman of the important Senate Rules Committee, to introduce a resolution that would officially establish May 15 as California Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which May 15 occurs as Peace Officers Week. Senate Rules Resolution Number 137 was adopted on May 20, 1970. The resolution concluded: “RESOLVED, That a suitably prepared copy of this resolution be transmitted to Mr. Kenneth W. Joseph, president, Peace Officers Research Association of California.”

PORAC was therefore instrumental in establishing California Peace Officers Memorial Day, but more than this seemed necessary to emphasize the significance and importance of the occasion.

Another Resolution Needed

In 1975, Joe Aceto of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was elected to the presidency of PORAC. Aceto, along with PORAC Director Walter Colfer, also of San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, met with Rick and Don Baratta to discuss the issue of a memorial. Rick Baratta, former chief of police, was then a consultant with POST and a liaison to PORAC. Rick’s brother Don would later write articles for the PORAC Law Enforcement News.

It was decided at this meeting that another resolution should be introduced, calling for a memorial containing the names of California peace officers slain in the line of duty to be erected in a “prominent location near the entrance of the State Capitol.” Walter Colfer wrote the resolution and Senator Robert Presley, former undersheriff of Riverside County, introduced it as Senate Concurrent Resolution 94 on April 6, 1976. It passed without opposition. In the resolution, the memorial was not specifically described. This was done purposely so that there would be no controversy to impede its successful passage.

CA Memorial Dedication

The First Memorial

Before the year was out, Rick Baratta was employed by PORAC as the General Manager, and Joe Aceto won another term as President. One of the first orders of business was to raise money and construct a memorial to comply with the Senate Resolution. Rick and Don Baratta designed the memorial, and PORAC asked the state’s police departments and associations to send in the names of officers who had died in the line of duty, and to contribute money to build the memorial.

The names came pouring in, some from the last century, a total of nearly 1,000. The money came in a bit slower, from donations of a single dollar to $1,000 each from the California Association of Highway Patrol Officers and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

The design of the memorial called for the names of the officers to be recorded in a large leather and vellum book, flanked by two large medieval swords. Dave Keenan built the memorial case. Dick Calonder handcrafted the book, and Brenda Walton painted the illuminated design and inscribed by hand the names of the officers who had died in the line of duty. Swords of the designated type were not available, so Don Baratta carved them from wood and had them cast in bronze and plated. He also carved the handles of the swords from rosewood.

California Memorial

 

During the construction of the memorial, it became apparent that a committee should be established to handle the continual policy decisions that were necessary. Joe Aceto asked Senator Presley to chair the committee and appointed Gene Muehleisen, past President of PORAC and former Executive Director of POST; Sammy Hoyt, widow of former PORAC President Dave Hoyt, who had been murdered by an escaping prisoner; and the Reverend Frank Nouza, PORAC Chaplain and graduate of the Oakland Police Academy. The committee developed the guidelines for the inclusion of names in the memorial book, as well as the process employed for keeping track of those peace officers who died during the year.

The first memorial was finally built and mounted on a wall at the entrance of the east wing of the Capitol. An article in the PORAC Law Enforcement News described the initial dedication ceremonies:

“On Friday, Oct. 14, 1977, the California Peace Officers’ Memorial was dedicated with dignity and care near the governor’s office and the legislative chambers of the State Capitol.

“Governor Jerry Brown accepted the impressive monument from PORAC President Joe Aceto and Senator Robert Presley of Riverside. Father Frank Nouza, PORAC chaplain, gave the Invocation.

“The memorial, a huge book bound in leather, contains the handlettered names of more than 1,000 state and local officers who have been killed since 1850 while performing their duties in California. There are pages enough to stretch forward to the twenty-first century. Two glistening swords flank the book and a taped message tells the visitors what it’s all about.

“The memorial was placed, not without purpose, near the legislative chambers, and part of the tape-recorded message states: ‘This memorial was deliberately placed in the pathway of our legislators to remind them that every law they pass must be paid for.’” (Ten years later, the tape recording was removed during restoration.)

Since then, memorial ceremonies have been conducted at the State Capitol each year by PORAC. Initially, they were conducted in the foyer of the east wing of the Capitol, but they were soon moved to a large committee room and eventually the Senate chambers. The surviving family, department administration and association officers for each honoree are invited, along with the governor and other dignitaries. A luncheon for all the families and guests is hosted by PORAC each year. Different associations, such as the California Association of Highway Patrol Officers, have assisted in the ceremonies, since PORAC has always been obedient to the direction of the resolution “That such a monument be a perpetual memorial to all California Peace Officers.”

Watch for Part 2 of this article, covering the history of the current memorial, in the June issue.

About the Author

An expert on the history of PORAC, Rick Baratta has been a life member since 1956 and has served in many capacities, including as General Manager and PORAC LE News Editor from 1976 to 1989.

The Meaning of the Memorial

In 1987, Rick Baratta reflected on the memorial’s origins and significance in a speech at the annual memorial ceremony:

In the early ’70s we were first developing the idea of the Peace Officers’ Memorial. We had searched assiduously for a concept or a theme that would describe and reflect the importance of what we were attempting: recognition for those of us who had been killed enforcing the people’s law. Finally we recalled an incident in history that occurred over 2,000 years ago.

It was in a valley called Lacedaemon, and the people called themselves Lacedaemonians; Greece knew them as Spartans, the scattered. The Spartans had created a military society and a moral code that exalted bravery: to be good was to be strong and brave, to die in battle was the highest honor, to survive defeat was a disgrace and to surrender was unheard of, just as today cowardice is unheard of among peace officers. “Return with your shield or on it” was the Spartan mother’s farewell to her soldier son. Flight with the heavy shield was impossible.

In 480 BC, Persia invaded the Greek city-states with an army of well over a million. King Leonidas led 300 Spartans and several thousand other Greeks against the invading army. He had taken only fathers so that no family line should die out.

The Greek army halted the Persians at the Pass of Thermopylae and delayed them until nearly surrounded. Leonidas sent the other Greeks away to save them and with the remaining Spartans held the pass, outnumbered 3,000 to one. Ten days after the battle began, the last Spartan fell.

They were entombed there and over the tomb was placed the most famous Greek epitaph: “Go, stranger, and tell the Lacedaemonians that we lie here in obedience to their laws.” This epitaph was also placed on the California Peace Officers’ Memorial as a reminder to the makers of the people’s law that someone has to enforce the law and that task has been given to the peace officer.