Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
From Day One in the Academy and the nearly 20 years since, I’ve known that our profession is under the microscope. We are big targets; easy to see coming. The police stand out, so it’s easy for some people to spot us and wait, ready for us to make a mistake. We are frequently called into situations where our presence isn’t welcome, and where the people we are sworn to protect are less than cooperative. And today, the microscope on us has grown more intense and powerful.
Cameras are everywhere — on every smart phone, on many of our vehicles and clipped to our uniforms. We work in an environment where our workday practices and habits are recorded, downloaded, shared, televised and available for endless replay and analysis by amateurs and professionals, media, and friends and critics alike. Few professionals are subject to more scrutiny. Being the adult in the room is nothing new for law enforcement officers. It’s in our fabric. Every police officer, sheriff’s deputy and public safety official knows the stakes when they put on the badge and go to work. The microscope just comes with the job. Still, as the public’s microscope has grown more intense, so has the need for law enforcement professionals to band together and rely on each other for support and assistance. That’s why networking is a fundamental cornerstone to PORAC’s mission.
When I travel around California each month, I get the opportunity and great privilege to meet with our members. Truth be told, I love it! In any given training course or chapter meeting, I really try to emphasize the importance of networking. I think it’s one of the best, yet most understated, benefits of PORAC. In today’s environment, one where we can expect to be recorded in every aspect of our job, on every street corner, and each time we make a contact, I truly believe that networking is more essential than ever to our professional veracity.
Now, I know some of you may be wondering if I am overstating the importance of networking here. It’s really just information sharing or communication, right? Yes. But, it’s more than that, too. We deploy it across several levels at PORAC, so let me discuss how those levels differ, how they work to provide real value to members, and how we can improve in the years ahead.
One important level of networking relates to PORAC’s interaction with elected officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. In nearly four years here, I’ve learned there can be significant differences of opinion and political philosophy between the elected officials who represent us in California and those who represent us in Washington.
These differences can be complex, opaque and frustrating. They can also be intimidating to newcomers who don’t understand how high-stakes politics work under the Capitol domes in Sacramento or Washington. Once I learned how to navigate those differences, I knew that the importance of networking would always be linked to the relationships that the PORAC team has built among elected officials.
Public officials count on the consistency and professionalism of PORAC’s message and presentation. They’ve learned to trust our word, and I’m proud of our ability to work with elected officials regardless of individual political backgrounds and perspectives. Even when we disagree with the “electeds,” we express our differences respectfully.
Relationships and the ability to network must transcend an occasional dispute. It’s the long term that matters, and it’s an open line of communication that gets us there. Know that PORAC will never waver from its core positions on behalf of you. I’m very proud that our core values are something our members and elected officials can always count on.
However, networking isn’t just political. It works within our organization, too. While many of us share the same goals, there are times when our Central California associations may have slightly different interests than those in Northern or Southern California. As with politics, these differences may not be obvious to a newcomer. They may not always make sense.
I’ve seen many instances within our organization where the ability to come together and network allows for greater understanding of common goals, even when the commonality isn’t apparent. And our networking isn’t just social. It’s not just about getting along with people and sharing ideas. At its core, networking is about adaptability — about having the experience to understand where an association is coming from, to adapt that perspective to the larger or smaller association, and then figure out how a derivative of that issue can empower everyone to improve the association for its membership.
More than anything, networking is about working together for a common purpose. Police academies have been teaching this for generations — hammering home the point that we can’t be islands, that we must work as a team to build trust from within, and that we can improve ourselves from the perspective of one another.
The microscope that hovers over law enforcement has never been more powerful. That’s why we need each other — the network of law enforcement professionals that is PORAC, working together and always looking out for each other.
Thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!