In early February, your PORAC Board of Directors met in Sacramento to address the many issues before them, including several bills related to peace officer transparency (in response to SB 1286, which PORAC and other law enforcement groups killed last year); school safety; penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol; as well as a possible fix to AB 953, the Racial Identity Profiling Act (RIPA). Randy Perry and Aaron Read gave our Board a complete report on the many law-enforcement-related bills that have already been introduced this session.
As reported last month, PORAC has been very involved in the RIPA process and participates on the appointed board that makes recommendations to the Attorney General, who will ultimately decide what should or should not be included in the RIPA guidelines.
Last month, PORAC participated in the RIPA Board meeting held in Fresno at the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation. The location of the meeting was completely inappropriate. First, we were not in a state facility with magnetometers! Then, there were more than 50 protestors present inside the meeting room carrying signs, chanting and continually interrupting the process and discussions of the board. At one point, PORAC was able to put a motion forward to eliminate the unique identifier of each officer. The motion was seconded and passed on a vote of 16–0 with one abstention. As the meeting progressed and we reached the end of the agenda, the member who had abstained from the earlier vote made a motion not to request additional information from the Attorney General and to include the unique identifier in the proposed regulations. That vote was seconded and passed by a vote of 13–4 with all four law enforcement representatives voting against the motion. As that vote was being counted, the dozens of protestors in the audience broke out in a loud chant and roar of applause. As you can clearly tell by my description, the meeting had turned into a circus. The coup de grace was a request by representatives of the RIPA Board to include a person’s form of religion as one of the proposed regulations. That, too, passed along the same lines as earlier.
PORAC, our Legal Defense Fund and Randy Perry have been working tirelessly on the various components of RIPA and vetting the best possible language to consider, should we need to move forward to more clearly define the AB 953 legislation.
Two years ago, PORAC LDF provided similar assistance in crafting legislation related to body-worn cameras. We had been working with the Legislature for the previous several years to craft language that would be beneficial to law enforcement while being open and transparent with the communities we serve and protect. This year, there has been no language brought forward to implement a statewide system on the use and implementation of body-worn cameras.
It is our hope that PORAC and PORAC LDF will have similar success on the issue of the RIPA regulations. This type of teamwork between PORAC, PORAC LDF and all of our panel attorneys is why we are the most recognized law enforcement organization in California. No other organization is working to this extent to provide the best possible solutions to safeguarding the benefits of our members. Needless to say, we anticipate this to be a very busy year defending public safety.
Last year, Assembly Member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) proposed legislation to remove local district attorneys from reviewing any officer-involved incidents of death or great bodily injury. He had not reached out to any law enforcement groups to provide feedback on his proposed legislation. That bill was killed by PORAC and other law enforcement groups. This year, Assembly Member McCarty requested a meeting with PORAC as well as the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. In listening to Assembly Member McCarty during the meeting, it was clear that he is looking for law enforcement to be held accountable to someone other than local district attorneys. He recommended that investigating law enforcement officers’ uses of force in California should follow what other states are doing by having the Department of Justice in California review those cases. PORAC and the CAHP disagreed, explaining that this review is one of the primary responsibilities of the district attorney. We also let him know that current law allows for the DOJ to come in and take control away from the local DA if there appears to be any collusion, malfeasance or abuse by the local agency or DA.
To close, I would like to remind all of our members to check the box. It is tax time for all of us and our California Peace Officers’ Memorial Fund needs your assistance. This year while you are completing you California tax returns, please take a moment to donate to the CPOMF. With all of our members throughout PORAC, we can make a difference to the families of our fallen heroes. Check the box — it’s that simple!