It would be naïve for any of us in law enforcement to believe that the entire landscape, both legislatively and in terms of media outreach, has not been changed dramatically since the tragedies in Ferguson and New York. Almost every encounter between law enforcement and private citizens is being viewed in some quarters as bullying or strong-arm tactics by officers. All of us should recognize that we have entered an age when we need to reacquaint ourselves with those we have sworn to protect and serve, and to educate policymakers and our own neighbors that we became law enforcement officers because of our great respect for working with our community.
The Political Landscape
This year we are facing a staggering number of legislative bills. To date, there have been 1,584 Assembly bills and 844 Senate bills introduced since January. This means that PORAC and our advocates at Aaron Read & Associates have sifted through nearly 2,500 bills, a staggering number only compounded by the fact that we are in the first months of the first year of a two-year legislative session. Our teams at ARA and PORAC have spent countless hours discussing which pieces of legislation are relevant to you and which issues PORAC should actively engage in. This is not a task that ends with the first discussion. Bills are amended over the course of months, and the analysis continues with those changes; on many occasions, this happens numerous times throughout the course of the legislative session.
We have had the opportunity to write opinion pieces and appear in legislative hearings to explain very clearly that law enforcement absolutely wants to be part of the solution. Our teams at ARA and Marketplace Communications are there at every turn to ensure that PORAC is the law enforcement voice that policymakers and the media turn to first. We are listening to individuals from all quarters. Every person we have contact with is important, and the safety of our members and the citizens we have sworn to protect is paramount to us.
Recently, we saw both Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio above the fold in several newspapers, announcing their plans to move forward with an initiative on pension reform in 2016. We caught word of this information immediately and have been watching their every move. PORAC, along with our advocates at ARA and many other stakeholders like Californians for Retirement Security, are already beginning to strategize about how best to neutralize these two outspoken critics. This is just the beginning.
PORAC in D.C.
Last month, your PORAC Executive Committee traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with our federal legislators to discuss the priorities for public safety in California. During our meetings with congressional delegations, PORAC was able to demonstrate and explain how certain pieces of legislation will affect law enforcement in California and throughout the country.
With our recent support of the use and implementation of bodyworn cameras, we were able to provide a clear perspective on how these cameras can be beneficial to public safety, as well as lending additional transparency for the citizens we serve.
We also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders from the Department of Justice COPS program to provide insight on how fully funding the COPS program, Byrne-Jag and HIATTA will benefit public safety in California and throughout the country.
One of the more notable meetings we had was with Representative Eric Swalwell. Representative Swalwell, who is on the House Judiciary Committee, was very interested in working with PORAC on how best to utilize the funds for the various grant programs offered to public safety. On the last evening of our visit, he contacted the leadership of PORAC and offered a Capitol tour to the delegation of PORAC representatives. The visit was filled with lots of historical facts and information. PORAC greatly appreciated Representative Swalwell taking the time to meet with our members late into the evening.
PORAC would like to thank our federal advocates, Eva Rigamonti, Jason Abel and Darryl Nirenberg from Steptoe & Johnson. They put together one of the most streamlined, organized and successful trips that has even been planned for PORAC.
Next on Deck
This month, many of us will come together in Santa Barbara for our annual Training Symposium. Our training staff, led by Claude Alber, has put together one of the best schedules of events and speakers addressing many issues we will be facing in the coming year and beyond. All of us at PORAC look forward to interacting with you during this training. Remember that many of your PORAC officers and Executive Committee members will be in attendance throughout the event. If you have any specific issues, please take the time to meet with us so we can assist you as well as your association.