BRIAN R. MARVEL
September 10, 2021, marked the end of the first year of a two-year state legislative session. Needless to say, we were in the breach again. Police reform and public safety issues were a key focus among legislators, who introduced over 44 bills proposing new public safety and law enforcement policies.
Throughout the legislative process, PORAC knows how important it is that we have a seat at the table, and we do everything we can to ensure our voice is heard. We are pleased to report that we had a successful session, working with many of our state leaders and lawmakers to advance sound, effective policies, implement amendments or otherwise recommend that particularly problematic legislation be held back to allow more time for adequate research and vetting.
Our highest-priority bill this year was Senate Bill 2 (Bradford), which will establish a state licensure program for the review of sustained findings of serious misconduct for the purpose of determining whether an officer’s license to practice law enforcement should be suspended or revoked. For the past few years, PORAC has been working to establish a fair and unbiased licensing program that law enforcement could support and, since the start of this session, we have known that a licensing bill was going to pass. From all the updates, fact sheets, articles, activation emails and more that you’ve seen from us this year, you likely know how involved we were on SB 2. PORAC has been working with the author as best we could, along with the bill sponsors, legislators, Governor’s Office and Senate President Pro Tem’s office, to secure necessary amendments to SB 2 since the bill was first introduced as SB 731 last year. Thanks to the work of PORAC’s advocacy team, the bill is a far cry from where it was when we started negotiating, and we feel strongly that PORAC’s primary concerns have been addressed. In fact, the bill is poised to provide California with arguably the highest threshold in the nation for revocation. While we successfully secured all our priority amendments, flaws in SB 2’s approach to establishing an officer licensing program remain. We should be able to clean up these areas of concern as needed, either administratively with POST or through additional legislation next session. However, I want to reiterate that SB 2 is still a flawed bill.
There were several other bills that, when first introduced, presented some very serious concerns for PORAC in terms of how they would impact rank-and-file officers. Working with lawmakers throughout this legislative session, we were pleased with the changes our advocacy team was able to secure that allowed us to move off our active oppose position and go neutral on many of these higher-priority bills. These include, but are not limited to: AB 26 (Holden) and AB 48 (Gonzalez), which look at use-of-force policies; AB 89 (Jones-Sawyer), which addresses minimum qualifications for peace officer recruits; and SB 16 (Skinner) on the release of peace officer records. Additionally, several troublesome bills were responsibly held back as two-year bills at PORAC’s request, allowing us more time to collaboratively work with our lawmakers to ensure only effective and meaningful policies are put forward — ones that all Californians can support, including law enforcement.
Unfortunately, with so much of our work on defense in recent years, necessarily responding to the litany of legislation that comes our way, police unions, associations and other law enforcement advocates often get a bad rap that all we do is kill bills. Nothing could be further from the truth. And while a handful of reporters are always going to focus on controversy and try to frame the narrative as an us-versus-them issue, know that PORAC has developed a stellar reputation with lawmakers in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. That is precisely because we don’t sit idly by — we engage. For years, we have been proactively proposing solutions that we know from our 68 years of experience will be effective while also working to find common ground with those we disagree with. PORAC exists to serve you, our members. It is our goal to protect your rights, pay and benefits, and to advocate for the resources and policies you need to carry out your duties safely and effectively. And while it can be hard to see PORAC working with people and organizations that are highly vocal in their criticism of law enforcement, our goal is best served when PORAC is willing to listen, collaborate and work out our differences through the democratic process. PORAC is about creating good policy, not about creating headlines.
With a successful legislative session in tow, I would like to acknowledge the incredible work done by our advocacy partners. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I do not believe there are any other advocates in California equal to our lobbying team, Aaron Read & Associates (ARA). Randy Perry, Aaron Read and Michele Fuller of ARA worked around the clock this year to ensure the voice of the law enforcement community was heard and spoke up on tough issues for our members. We would not have had the successful session we did without their hard work, and for that, a special thank-you. I also want to thank our Board of Directors, chapter presidents and you, our members, for your help and support this year as we fought some of our hardest legislative battles yet. Lastly, I want to thank the PORAC communications team, along with our partners at Fiona Hutton and Associates (FHA), consisting of Kendal Klingler, Ian Anderson, Sierra Layton and Jon Koriel, who worked at all hours to assist in crafting messages, talking points and information handouts to keep everyone informed. I understand the importance of communicating with the membership. We have an awesome team.
Ours is the most legislated profession in California, by far, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. Between our advocacy, legal and communications teams, with partnership and direction from PORAC’s leadership, we are confident that we can handle whatever comes our way as we continue to fight for you. When the next part of the legislative session rolls around in December, PORAC will be where we always have been — in your corner, ready to go.