Brian R. Marvel
I never would have thought in a million years, or at least in my lifetime, that I would see the U.S. Capitol building breached by a mob of malcontents whose sole intent was to disrupt the process in the peaceful transition of power, something our country has done for over two centuries. Needless to say, it was very disconcerting and unfortunate to see the actions that were taken on January 6. Since then, I have heard a lot of comparisons between what happened at the Capitol and what happened in 2020, with the many protests that devolved into riots and people engaging in the destruction of private and government property. I do not view the two as similar, which I am sure some people will disagree with my view, but the reality is that the Capitol is sacred ground; it’s the seat of power for our nation. It is our temple that represents the foundation of our democracy, freedom and who we are as a people. The people who stormed the Capitol blatantly showed their disrespect for our country, its laws and its ideals.
They also disrespected those in law enforcement, who abide by the rule of law, the courts and the Constitution that we all swore an oath to uphold. These individuals assaulted, attacked and injured our brothers and sisters of the U.S. Capitol and Metro Police. Over 50 Capitol Police officers were injured in the riot, with 15 being transported to the hospital and, sadly, the death of Officer Brian Sicknick. In addition, an officer had to use lethal force and Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood took his own life the following day.
Investigations into the breach have begun. Hopefully soon, we will have a much better idea of how it all happened, who was involved and what the charges are going to be for those individuals who felt they could desecrate the Capitol. As part of this, PORAC has sent a letter to Senate and House leadership and the California delegation asking that there be a full accounting and investigation into why Capitol Police leadership were seemingly unprepared for such a breach and why the rank-and-file officers defending the Capitol were left so vulnerable to being attacked. Ultimately, with this investigation request, we ask that rank-and-file members, who specialize in riots and demonstration containment, be well represented on any forthcoming investigative commission or panel to ensure that there is a fair, impartial investigation into the events that unfolded. We will keep our members apprised of our efforts in this matter as more information becomes available.
HELP Is Available for PORAC Members
With the COVID-19 vaccine slowly being administered to frontline and essential workers nationwide, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic. But we have a long way to go, as ICU beds continue to fill up across our state and COVID-related deaths continue to rise.
More than 100 public safety officers have died in the line of duty from COVID. I know over the last couple of years we have reminded our members about our Hazardous Exposure Listing Program (HELP). Now, more than ever, this program should be utilized by every PORAC member to document all of their exposures and potential exposures to individuals who may have COVID. This free program was designed to protect your rights and benefits if anything happens to you on the job (e.g., exposure to hazardous substances and infectious diseases, etc.). HELP ensures you have a record outside of your employer’s system that you can rely on. For more information about this invaluable resource, visit PORAC.org and click on the HELP banner image.
Legislation at the State and Federal Levels
As we head into the new two-year legislative cycle at the federal and state levels, I want to update our members on some of the issues that will be a priority for us this year. On the federal side, with the change in the legislative makeup of the 117th Congress, we have a great opportunity to successfully see the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The bill to accomplish this, H.R. 4540, the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act, unfortunately did not make it out of the 116th Congress. But I will say, in the last 12 years that I’ve been actively involved in legislation, it was the furthest I’ve ever seen a bill like that go. I think we have a good prospect for getting this measure passed in this new Congress. The other big bill we believe has a great chance of passing is S. 2552/H.R. 4527, the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, which would lower the Medicare eligibility age for public safety officers to 60. We hope that over these next two years, we can advance these bills and see them successfully across the goal line. It would be very advantageous for all our members to reap the benefits that these two bills would provide.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the Executive Committee will be unable to do our annual D.C. fly-in to advocate for the new bills in person. We have modified our game plan and have virtual meetings with our California delegation and other congressional leaders. This will also give us a chance to have other association leaders attend and participate in these critical meetings. We will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement groups in California and across the nation so that we
present a unified voice, pushing in the same direction to see these bills succeed.
Locally, here in Sacramento, we are reviewing approximately 40 public safety bills. This is just the tip of the iceberg; during the last two-year session, we monitored 463 bills. As most people know, several notorious bills did not make it out of the Legislature last year, but without fail, they were immediately reintroduced on December 7. We will continue to actively oppose these bills. February will be an extremely busy month as we will be monitoring new bills that are introduced, conducting meetings and testimonies virtually and working with the newly appointed California attorney general on priorities for public safety issues.