I write this month’s message in the wake of yet another tragic loss of an officer close to home.
On June 19, Sacramento Police Department Officer Tara O’Sullivan was killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic violence call in north Sacramento. The 26-year-old officer had just graduated from the police academy and was still in field training when she was fatally shot trying to help a woman retrieve her belongings from her home. Described by her colleagues as a person with honor, integrity and commitment, O’Sullivan no doubt had a bright future ahead of her, but this senseless act of violence cut her promising career short. Her death marks the second young officer fatality in the Sacramento region this year after Davis Officer Natalie Corona was shot responding to a car crash in January. PORAC expresses its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer O’Sullivan. We will never forget.
O’Sullivan’s passing comes about a month after we joined law enforcement at home and in our nation’s capital for Police Week ceremonies honoring the fallen, including eight California officers who died last year. And here we are again, affected by another loss in our own state, the third this year. As I mentioned in last month’s article, our profession remains one of the most dangerous out there, and studies have confirmed that ambushes and unprovoked attacks against officers are on the rise. It is increasingly evident that we have become targets for a lot of people — and it doesn’t matter if we’re on duty or off. Less than two weeks before the incident in Sacramento, in Los Angeles, Deputy Joseph Solano was off duty when he was fatally shot and died from the injuries he sustained in a seemingly random attack.
These devastating incidents are why it’s important that we advocate for legislation that helps peace officers better protect themselves and the communities we serve. Our top priority and most pressing bills are SB 230 and AB 392. Currently, each bill has been passed out of its respective house of origin to the other house, where they will go through the public safety and appropriations committees. Once they’ve been approved by the committees, they will be sent to the floors of the Senate and the Assembly for approval — which we anticipate will happen — and the governor will sign both pieces of legislation into law.
I know the battle over use-of-force legislation has been a long and bitter process at times, but ultimately, these two bills will place California at the forefront of this issue, making us leaders in the nation to minimize use-of-force incidents. What makes this legislation so important — one that other states can follow — is that it ensures that all peace officers will get the training they need, along with the funding and tools to facilitate that training, which has woefully lacked in the past 10-plus years. It finally appears that the elected officials are putting money toward something that has only been getting lip service. We’re still determining an implementation timeframe for the training components outlined in SB 230, but as of now, we’ve asked for two years. We hope the Legislature asks POST what they recommend. We must allow departments and agencies ample opportunity to meet these new standards in training. Hopefully, in August we’ll have additional information and updates regarding both of these bills.
Speaking of training, the 67th Annual Conference of Members is right around the corner. Conference is not only a great time to attend informative training sessions, meet face-to-face with your fellow members across the state and network, but it’s also the perfect time to get educated about what’s happening in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. I anticipate plenty of productive conversations about use-of-force legislation along with other bills we’ve been supporting or opposing. It’s important to get a handle on the laws that could potentially affect our profession, for better or worse. In addition, we will be highlighting the free training on wellness PORAC is offering statewide via the $200,000 grant we received from POST. I highly recommend that as many members as possible attend Conference, as you’ll be able to hear firsthand about the issues affecting you.