Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
Effective Political Advocacy Starts With Strong Relationships
So, when the president or vice president needs to quickly make PORAC’s voice heard in the California State Assembly, how does it happen? We hop into the car, take a drive over to the Capitol, catch the elevator to the sixth floor and pay a visit to the office of Assembly Member Jim Cooper. We’re lucky, because Assembly Member Cooper’s door is always open to PORAC and its members. The relationship already exists there, so we can get right down to business. We don’t have to spend time explaining law enforcement policy positions, because Cooper is one of us — a retired captain with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
It’s a huge benefit for PORAC to have former cops serving in the Legislature. We may not always agree on every policy point, but that’s OK. We can be confident about having our voices heard. Of course, there are far more legislators in Sacramento and Washington who aren’t retired law enforcement professionals, who don’t understand our agenda from the inside, and who may lack even the most basic understanding about how public safety officers work.
Not long ago, a prominent elected official asked me why, in officer-involved shootings, police weren’t trained to tactically “wound” the suspect. Everyone in law enforcement has heard that question from civilians — movies make it look so easy — but I was really surprised to hear it from a veteran lawmaker. After carefully explaining what happens when an officer is compelled to use deadly force, I was reminded of why advocacy is so important for the members of PORAC.
In Sacramento and Washington, the word “advocacy” is synonymous with lobbyists. PORAC has always had the best and most experienced lobbyists on retainer. We count on them to accomplish much of our heavy lifting: They track, promote, shape and work to defeat some of the thousands of bills introduced each year by the State Legislature and Congress.
The duties are somewhat different for the PORAC president and vice president, though. While we aren’t lobbyists, we are the very best advocates for our members. More importantly, we are law enforcement professionals, people who know firsthand what it takes to work the streets and protect the citizens who send elected officials to Sacramento and Washington. State legislators and congressional representatives often seek us out precisely because we know what it means to do this job. When politicians speak to us, they aren’t just getting talking points from a lobbyist or paid spokesperson. They are hearing directly from the people who respond to the calls for service. That real-world credibility is crucial to PORAC’s mission and success. And it’s something I take very seriously.
PORAC is the largest statewide law enforcement organization in the United States. This prominence gives us an advantage that we often leverage, both in our state and national capitals. We spend significant time at the State Capitol, and that’s why we make at least two trips each year to Washington (and frankly, I’d like to do even more to raise our D.C. profile). In my time here, I’ve been working diligently to expand PORAC’s footprint and influence with lawmakers — not just to improve our advocacy on behalf of members, but to resist any effort that would seek to weaken and divide us.
It may seem obvious, but it’s something we can’t forget. Sacramento and Washington are full of advocates — thousands of them — and many are dedicated to actively opposing law enforcement. If PORAC doesn’t speak out, the void will be filled by those working against us. Fortunately, our organization has established solid credibility over the years with elected officials. Politicians know well our reputation as an advocacy organization, and they respect that. They also know we can be counted on to return that respect by making strong, legitimate arguments for our positions.
And we appreciate something else: Even elected officials with law enforcement backgrounds must represent their districts holistically, always mindful of the political and cultural diversities that exist in every community. Our advantage in Sacramento and Washington is founded solidly on our experience and reputation. Experience has taught me that politics must be understood in layers, and those layers aren’t readily visible to the inexperienced, untrained eye.
The complexities of our advocacy require not simply just knowing people like Assembly Member Cooper, but knowing his colleagues — people who may lack comprehensive understanding about what California’s law enforcement professionals need to accomplish their mission and keep communities safe. I suppose that if every elected official came from a law enforcement background, the jobs of PORAC president and vice president would be easy. But the reality is that often we need votes from those politicians whose image of public safety is largely formed by the media, movies and television. That’s why PORAC never takes shortcuts in providing credible and experienced advocacy. And now, more than ever, we need that.
Thank you for your membership. Have fun and stay safe!