Last month, Brent and I traveled to our nation’s capital for a fly-in to meet with members of the California Congressional delegation and other policymakers. As the new PORAC president, I, along with our federal legislative advocates at Steptoe & Johnson, thought it was important that I introduce myself to lawmakers and outline our legislative priorities for the year, which were determined by the Board of Directors.
As soon as we landed, we hit the ground running. Before heading into back-to-back meetings, we were debriefed by the Steptoe staff. Darryl Nirenberg and Eva Rigamonti brought us up to speed on the status of several law enforcement–related programs and grants, and gave us an overview of the administration’s current policy priorities. As always, the Steptoe team did a wonderful job scheduling meetings with our representatives and providing us with the information needed to have productive conversations with lawmakers. I want to thank them for making my first fly-in as president run smoothly and efficiently.
Over the course of two days, Brent and I attended meetings with the offices of 10 legislators and several other policymakers, covering a long list of priorities that PORAC has identified with Steptoe as the most important to law enforcement in California and throughout the country. Of those priorities, we are actively lobbying and will take positions on legislation related to the following: preserving law enforcement pensions, fully funding COPS grants and other Department of Justice (DOJ) initiatives, dismantling human trafficking networks and assisting victims, and addressing gang proliferation and associated violence and crime. In addition, there are other issues of interest that we are monitoring and tracking, such as labor issues and the opioid epidemic, respectively.
One of our first meetings was with Russ Washington, acting director of the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. Since its establishment in 1994, the COPS program has been responsible for advancing community policing nationwide and supporting the community policing activities of state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies through annual grants. Agencies in California and throughout the nation have benefited from COPS grants, as they have contributed to increases in hiring, technical training and the development of special task forces. Despite all the good that has come from such federal funding, President Trump’s budget request for 2019 did not address funding for the program, even though it had received $221.5 million in the 2017 fiscal year. Needless to say, our meeting with Mr. Washington was imperative to discuss the importance of funding the program. In our conversation with him, Brent and I shared examples of how these funds assist our agencies. We also discussed having more California law enforcement representation on panels, speaking at hearings and providing our expert opinions on the future of policing in America.
Brent and I also met with eight California representatives and our two senators. In each meeting, we reiterated PORAC’s position of actively maintaining and expanding funding for federal law enforcement initiatives, especially for grant programs that have been eliminated or have experienced funding cuts. In addition to COPS, we wanted to draw our representatives’ attention to other programs and grants crucial to the advancement and success of the law enforcement profession, such as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne-JAG), the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program and the Body-Worn Camera Implementation Program. It is important that our elected leaders hear from public safety on the importance of these programs.
PORAC supports these programs because they are essential to ensuring that state and local law enforcement can effectively protect their communities. These programs are especially important given the difficult times our profession is under — with intense media scrutiny, lack of public support and so forth. Furthermore, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently confirmed that law enforcement is the most fatal profession in the nation, with officers three times more likely to sustain nonfatal injury than all other U.S. workers. With the uptick of mass shootings nationwide and release of inmates with violent pasts under Proposition 47 in California, the statistics make sense and offer a hard look at how dangerous our profession is and how support from our government is needed to give us the resources and tools to dismantle and take on such threats.
Overall, I feel that our fly-in was successful in that we not only put these issues at the forefront of our representatives’ minds, but also reminded them, and stressed, that PORAC is always available as a reliable resource on law enforcement–related issues. For more details on the trip, check out Steptoe’s coverage on page 28.
We would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Police Officer Greggory Casillas of the Pomona Police Department. Casillas was shot and killed while in pursuit of an armed suspect on March 9. The 30-year-old was sworn in as a Pomona officer in September 2017 and was nearly finished with field training at the time of his death. At the time of this writing, so far this year, 16 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have been killed by gunfire. We hope that such tragedies remind our lawmakers about the dangers associated with being a law enforcement professional. Every day, public safety tries to make our communities safer. Rest in peace, Officer Casillas, your sacrifice will never be forgotten. Fallen Officer Donations
Stay safe and God bless.