Brian R. Marvel
Traditionally, May is the time of the year when the law enforcement family from across the country comes together to honor all the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their communities. It is a month marked by hundreds of solemn yet heartfelt ceremonies, including national observances on Peace Officers Memorial Day and throughout Police Week. However, the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Along with school and business closures, events of all kinds are being canceled, and sadly included among them are peace officer memorial ceremonies.
Although the state and national memorials have been canceled, on May 13 the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum is planning to hold a virtual Candlelight Vigil and reading of the names that will be added to the memorial this year (visit nleomf.org for more information). The California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) leadership and the board have decided to honor both the 2019 and 2020 fallen in May 2021. This was by no means an easy decision, but under the circumstances, it was the right course of action to take for everybody’s safety.
Despite this development, we believe it is important to make sure that we still recognize and memorialize our fallen officers and deputies. That is why PORAC is dedicating this issue of the magazine to the California officers — five who made the ultimate sacrifice in 2019 and two from the distant past — who were to be honored in public ceremonies in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Our goal is to create a commemorative issue in remembrance of Sergeant Steve Licon, Deputy Brian Ishmael, Officers Natalie Corona, Toshio Hirai, Andre Moye Jr. and Tara O’Sullivan, and Correctional Officer Armando Gallegos Jr. We want to acknowledge the sacrifices they made on behalf of their respective agencies and communities, and most importantly, we want their families to know that they are still in our thoughts and prayers and that they won’t be forgotten this year, next year and years into the future.
Hopefully with this small tribute to their sacrifice and memory, on May 4 at 10:30 a.m., we can all take a moment of silence to memorialize them. Please visit our social media sites on that date and time for a tribute video in their honor.
Since our last issue, PORAC has been working extremely hard on making sure that first responders have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). I have fielded numerous calls from Board directors, chapter presidents and individual members asking for more PPE. We worked diligently to find suppliers who had PPE on hand and were willing to sell it to first responders. We also pressed the Governor’s Office and legislators about placing first responders on a high-priority list to receive PPE and ensuring that there was an adequate supply coming in on a regular basis. We experienced some success in certain areas, but unfortunately, at the time of this writing, we have been unable to confirm whether all the agencies in need were adequately supplied.
On top of that, we have been pushing for expedited testing for first responders who are showing symptoms or have encountered individuals infected with the coronavirus. First responders encounter the most vulnerable populations in our society each day. Because of this, and since many health experts have reported that a high percentage of people are infected yet asymptomatic, we feel that it is important that there is adequate testing for all first responders. The state should have stepped up and made first responder-only testing sites a priority, like what we saw in Washington state. Sadly, it befell association leaders to facilitate this. Even as I write this, test kits are still not readily available, and California ranks 48th in the nation per capita on testing. It seems every path we try to get the testing sites as a priority, we receive pushback, or it ultimately leads to a dead end. Despite all the hurdles, we are remaining steadfast in our efforts to ensure first responders are not left out of our elected officials’ responses to the pandemic.
As we work behind the scenes to help create safe and protected working conditions, we are also keeping members informed with an array of COVID-19 resources available on our website (PORAC.org/covid19), social media, podcasts and e-newsletters. Also, in this issue, you will find an in-depth article on the various benefits and protections available to law enforcement (see page 20). Even though COVID-19 has not yet been recognized as a workers’ compensation presumption, rest assured that there are ways for you to take care of yourself and your family should the need arise.
Stay safe and healthy.