Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

SB 230 and Advocacy

With the recent legislative activity regarding criminal justice reform at the state capitol and in Washington, D.C., I think it’s important to discuss advocacy and what that means. Every year, whether it’s at the local POA, DSA or here at PORAC, we as association leaders advocate for our members. This often means meeting with our elected officials and lobbying on your behalf to push through legislation we want or to kill legislation we don’t. We meet with all our elected representatives regardless of how we may personally feel about them. It is our responsibility to advocate for the membership and it takes numerous meetings and much persistence to succeed. Gone are the days when we could simply say this issue supports public safety and we would get the support we needed. 

Scrutiny and negative opinions of law enforcement have grown in recent years. Social justice organizations with a dislike for law enforcement have strong lobbying efforts here at the capitol. In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union was the No. 2 contributor to political campaigns; only big oil spent more money. We recognize that if we refuse to speak to our elected officials, we ensure that our voice will not be heard. Think about it this way, if we don’t speak to them, how can we get them to understand our issues and ultimately agree with us? By ignoring our elected officials, we would only make it easier for them to vote against us. The saying “You are either at the table or on the menu” has never been more accurate.   

Politics can be extremely divisive among our members. We tend to cling to a political party and our views of any particular elected official has more to do with the party affiliation letter behind the name rather than what he or she has done.  As elected representatives of PORAC, we cannot take a partisan approach to our mission because our issues in law enforcement are not partisan. My personal politics do not influence who or what I advocate for. I advocate for the good of the membership. These issues are thoroughly vetted with our Board members, who represent law enforcement across the state of California.

This year, one of our focal points will be use of force. In 2018, California law enforcement saw an unprecedented number of bills that were anti-law enforcement in nature. The worst was AB 931, which sought to limit the ability of law enforcement to use deadly force and to make officers criminally liable in those instances where it was used. It would have changed the standard applied by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor.  A similar bill, AB 392, has been introduced this year. This was no surprise to PORAC. We, along with a coalition of other law enforcement advocates, have developed legislation that addresses the issues that face law enforcement today. PORAC and our coalition partners have developed a comprehensive bill to address use of force and its causes: SB 230. Read the entire bill at www.porac.org/2019/02/porac-use-of-force-legislation-bill-language.

We cannot put all of society’s pressures onto law enforcement and expect that we have all the answers. We cannot truly address the issues surrounding use of force without addressing the events that led up to that use of force. Many of these incidents involve mental illness and substance abuse. SB 230 will address many of these issues, from requiring use-of-force policies and training to making sure that law enforcement has the wraparound services and resources to deal with these situations. It is our hope that by developing strong training and providing the proper resources, violent confrontations will have a peaceful outcome. 

This brings it back to advocacy. If we are to succeed in passing SB 230, we will all have to be strong advocates. We need all our members in law enforcement to help educate the public on the issues. Reach out to your elected representatives and let them know how they can support law enforcement. Let them know that backing SB 230 is how they can help.