MIKE DURANT PORAC President
San Jose Police Officer Michael Katherman
On Tuesday evening, June 14, while attending a PORAC Bay Area Chapter meeting in Martinez hosted by Contra Costa DSA, all of us in attendance learned of a horrific motorcycle accident involving San Jose Police Officer Michael Katherman. A few short hours before our meeting began, he was involved in an on-duty vehicle collision while riding his police motorcycle. Sadly, Officer Katherman did not survive the accident and joined the honor roll of California peace officers killed in the line of duty.
The following week, representatives of PORAC and several thousand other law enforcement officials attended the memorial services for Officer Katherman at the SAP Center in San Jose. It was, by far, one of the most memorable services I have ever attended. Some of his closest friends since childhood spoke, along with his father and college roommate.
Michael Katherman loved life, his wife, April, and their two children, and he loved being a motor officer for the San Jose Police Department. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet him. Clearly, he touched many lives. Please keep the Katherman family, as well as the San Jose Police Department, in your thoughts and prayers.
A hard-won victory for law enforcement occurred last month as the highly anticipated Senate Bill 1286, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was held on suspense in Senate Appropriations. The end result is that the cost and merits of the bill were not compelling enough for it to be considered on the floor of the Senate.
We previously reported that this bill would have allowed easy public access to police personnel and other records. PORAC, along with our legislative advocates at Aaron Read & Associates, legal counsel and other rank-and-file law enforcement organizations, established a working group to strategically tackle each detail of this legislation. Our team spent countless hours meeting with members, discussing the real-world implications, working out our key opposition points and developing an alternative solution to this risky and inherently unpredictable bill.
The intention of our strategy was not to close off all communication between the public and law enforcement. We want clarity, just not at the expense of officer safety. We believe there is a reasonable and thoughtful approach to issues such as the release of information, investigations and complaints. The working group unanimously agreed that Senator Leno’s bill went significantly beyond transparency and would take away the privacy rights of victims, complainants and law enforcement officers. In effect, this breach of privacy could create a dangerous environment for anyone involved in an incident.
During the intensive lobbying, advocates for the legislation contacted law enforcement leaders several times to request that we consider a compromise in the form of amendments to make the legislation less onerous to law enforcement. Senator Leno did not come to law enforcement prior to the bill being introduced to discuss our thoughts and concerns, so we did not accept or offer any amendments to the bill. We strictly opposed what we felt was a disingenuous situation engendered by the author.
Many legislators shared their concerns about voting against the bill. Finally, legislative leadership contacted PORAC to inform us that SB 1286 was held — effectively killing it. This demonstrates just how important it is for us to stay engaged politically and continue working with our advocates to educate policymakers on the issues important to PORAC.
The discussion of transparency in law enforcement is not going to disappear. We see it everywhere in the news and social media. And we will continue to engage in the discussion openly and honestly in both the state and federal arenas. The support of our members allows us to continue using our voices to enhance the safety of our officers and represent the courageous men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect others. Once again, it was PORAC and our representatives who, in the end, defeated this provocative but poorly created bill.
Each year our PORAC Scholarship Committee reviews several hundred applications during the days of the Peace Officers’ Memorial events and in conjunction with our May Board of Directors meeting in Sacramento. During our local chapter meetings throughout the summer, PORAC presents several college scholarships to the children and dependents of our members. This year, your Scholarship Committee reviewed more than 180 applications and awarded 25 scholarships to very deserving students. PORAC is very proud of the families of our future generation. As parents, each of us wants the very best for the future of our children and instills our high standard of values in each of them. Thanks to each of your children for participating in our PORAC Scholarship Program. We congratulate you on your accomplishments!