Legislature Recesses for 2015
September marked the end of the first half of the 2015-16 session at our State Capitol, and the legislative battles are reflective of the different year we’ve experienced. The conversations and challenges that began with Ferguson echoed in the Capitol. While past years have been monopolized by budget battles, this year the talks have been significantly more personal.
Events throughout our country have shined a spotlight on policing, and everyone with a voice and an outlet is quick to scrutinize the dynamics of our every encounter. Of the thousands upon thousands of incidents cops deal with every day, only a very few are inspected. The media homes in on those occasions where a two-dimensional view of a confrontation leads viewers to believe an officer acted outside the oath. The challenges of resolving this problem are daunting.
Body cameras, racial profiling, grand juries, civilian oversight, mental health and implicit bias are just a few of the issues legislators brought forth this year. Thankfully, PORAC has the most experienced team at Aaron Read & Associates fighting for us on the front line in Sacramento. Analyzing hundreds of bills each day, our advocates at ARA offer insight that only decades under the Capitol dome can provide. For nearly three decades, the ARA team has been PORAC’s voice in the Capitol. In the past couple of years they have used the messaging capabilities of Marketplace Communications, their sister company, in helping PORAC navigate these troubled times.
Months of meetings and dozens of strategy sessions happen throughout the year, where your PORAC leadership places the concerns of the rank and file in priority discussions with policymakers in California. Educating our elected officials starts long before they run for office, and continues through their races and after they are elected. We are proud that PORAC has remained the leading voice for law enforcement, and that we are the first organization legislators turn to for input on public safety issues.
Over the next few months, our ARA advocacy team will be providing an in-depth summary of this year at the Capitol, as well as a preview of what to expect in the year to come. All of us at PORAC thank the ARA team for their efforts and look forward to another successful year.
OpenJustice Website Launch
For months, Attorney General Kamala Harris has been reaching out to law enforcement leaders throughout the state to collect information to improve reporting of criminal justice data. AG Harris reached out to PORAC for information on what is currently collected and how the system can be enhanced, in an effort to address the shared concerns over transparency in law enforcement.
Your PORAC leadership worked with our team at ARA and our public relations team at Marketplace Communications to draft a blueprint of what should be collected and made accessible to the public. This was sent to the AG, as well as Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez, the author of AB 71, which expands the parameters of data collection in California.
Vice President Meyer attended a briefing on September 1 with Harris’ top staff and other law enforcement leadership regarding the launch of the AG’s new OpenJustice website. PORAC’s reporting framework suggestions were applauded by the AG’s staff, and it was apparent that PORAC was the only law enforcement group in the state to provide such in-depth background to her office.
The website, http://openjustice.doj.ca.gov, was launched on September 2 and houses three different public safety metrics:
- Law enforcement officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty
- Deaths in custody, including arrest-related deaths
- Arrests and bookings
We feel the frustrations of our neighbors and want to be part of the solution. Solving the problem begins with having the data to know how to approach positive resolution. OpenJustice will give us a more detailed road map so we can be pragmatic moving forward. PORAC will continue to work with AG Harris and her staff to address concerns over transparency, while ensuring that the privacy of officers remains our top priority.
Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor
This month, we thanked two brave officers who went above and beyond the call of duty: San Bernardino Police Department Officer Marcus Pesquera and Sonora Police Department Officer Ryan D. Webb.
On August 22, 2014, Field Training Officer Gabriel Garcia and his trainee, Officer Marcus Pesquera, were on patrol together in San Bernardino. At the time, Field Training Officer Garcia was a six-year veteran of the Department. Officer Pesquera was a recent Academy graduate and had been in training for one and a half months.
Due to recent stolen vehicles and other serious crimes in the area, the officers exited their vehicle and approached the subjects on foot. Officer Pesquera heard Training Officer Garcia say words to the effect of “come over here” and “let me see your hands,” and immediately heard a gunshot. Unbeknownst to Officer Pesquera, Training Officer Garcia had been gravely wounded by suspect gunfire.
Officer Pesquera communicated to the dispatch center, via his radio, that his partner was down and he was engaged in a gunfight. He reloaded his service weapon several times and continued to engage the suspect until he neutralized the threat to both himself and his fallen Training Officer.
Training Officer Garcia was rushed to a local hospital, where he received emergency medical treatment for serious head and chest injuries. Training Officer Garcia is continuing to recover from his injuries.
On November 11, 2014, Officer Ryan Webb, an eight-year veteran of the Sonora P.D., was dispatched to a call of a man with a gun attempting to enter an occupied residence. As Officer Webb responded to the call, dispatch advised him that the suspect had driven away from the area and described the vehicle. Officer Webb spotted the vehicle and a pursuit ensued. A short time later, the suspect yielded in downtown Sonora, exited his vehicle and began shooting at Officer Webb. Officer Webb returned fire, and was hit by gunfire near his duty belt and lower torso.
The suspect returned to his vehicle and fled the scene. Despite being injured, Officer Webb pursued the suspect, as no additional officers had arrived. The pursuit ended at the same downtown location of the earlier gun battle. The suspect exited his vehicle with a gun in his hand. After repeated commands by Officer Webb and others to surrender, the suspect raised the gun and began firing at Officer Webb and other law enforcement personnel, who returned fire, ending the violent confrontation.
PORAC congratulates each of these heroes. To all of you, thank you for protecting our communities, families and everyone in our great state.