Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
The latter part of February and the beginning of March were busy months for Brian and me, as we represented and spoke out on behalf of our membership in our nation’s capital and in Los Angeles County.
Focusing on Federal Funding
Brian and I recently concluded our spring advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., where we had in-depth discussions with lawmakers about funding law enforcement initiatives and supporting our officers. In his message, Brian covers most of the details from our trip, and I think an important takeaway from his article is that while PORAC advocates on your behalf day in and day out, our members (You!) still need to be engaged on state and federal legislation that can affect our agencies and the future of our profession.
For instance, the next retirement bubble is right around the corner for law enforcement in California, meaning that agencies will soon be hard-pressed to find candidates to fill the shoes of outgoing officers. As we all know too well, recruitment, retention and training are among the most underfunded programs in law enforcement, and it’s an enduring problem that has been affecting agency operations nationwide. PORAC has been at the forefront of this issue, advocating for more resources for our officers on the state and national level, but in spite of our efforts, departments are having a difficult time attracting prospective candidates due to the lags in pay, attacks on pensions and constant media scrutiny that loom over our profession.
What role can the federal government play in putting more officers on the streets and creating more long-term careers in law enforcement? The answer is simple: Federal funding equals more resources. On a structural level, funding can effect a culture change within this profession overall through revision of policies (e.g., use of force and dealing with mental illness), continuous training (POST), use of body-worn cameras, leadership development and much more. Those changes (while only a small example of what can be done) have the potential to attract prospective officers. One of the programs championed by PORAC during the fly-in was the funding of Byrne-JAG grants, which can be utilized for such hiring and training initiatives.
So, it’s important to stay on top of the issues and to be engaged in this dialogue. We encourage our members to write to us and sound off about the issues affecting your departments and how we can better advocate for our membership.
Supporting School Police
On February 23, I spoke alongside my PORAC Board member colleagues and our allies in education at the Rally in the Valley to Support Safe Schools in L.A. County.
The event was a response to a United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) anti-police demonstration, “Making Black Lives Matter in Schools,” which called for the removal of Los Angeles School Police Department officers from L.A. schools. In their promotion of the demonstration, UTLA incorrectly labeled school police as racists in their policing of students (e.g., random searches of minorities only, metal detectors in low-income schools, etc.) and said that their presence on school campuses was unnecessary. Not only was their protest misinformed and misguided, but it was also damaging in that it attempted to divide rather than unite. The negative discourse that UTLA was spreading added to existing anti-police rhetoric and distracted from the conversation that we should be having on how to keep our children safe in a time when school shootings have become the norm.
When I took the podium, I was adamant in saying that there’s no worse idea than taking police out of schools, especially since a week before the rally, our nation experienced another tragic and deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The bottom line is that school police play a crucial role in keeping our children safe. They are not malevolent forces who are there to harass or cause our students problems — like all law enforcement, they are there to serve and protect. And while their main objective is to foster safe and nurturing learning environments for our children, they also work alongside teachers to have a positive impact on students as mentors, counselors and problem-solvers.
I spoke of a couple of brief occasions when I spent time on a local high school campus filling in as a school resource officer (SRO). It was there where I learned the important role SROs play on campuses. Arming teachers while eliminating school police is the wrong idea. No one seems to be thinking ahead on this issue, as arming teachers and school employees would increase school district liability, call for ongoing firearms training for school staff and distract teachers from what they are supposed to do — teach! There would also need to be funding for such a measure. If school budgets for basic educational resources are already stretched well-beyond what’s needed to provide top-notch instruction for our children, what makes legislators think there will be money for the additional burden of giving guns to teachers?
Instead of considering the notion of arming teachers, we should be advocating for more police presence on our campuses and investing in the hard work that our SROs do in the unique role that they fill. PORAC stands with school police and will continue to champion their vital work of keeping our children safe. Click Here for a recap of the Rally in the Valley on PORAC’s YouTube channel