Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As we move into the summer months, there seems to be some movement toward a degree of normalcy. Businesses are starting to reopen and, hopefully, this means getting back to work for those who have been laid off. No one could have predicted the pandemic or the effects it would have across this nation, but the challenges to law enforcement are at the forefront for us here at PORAC. We continue to push legislatively for better testing of first responders and workers’ compensation protection should you be infected. With the governor’s executive order on workers’ compensation and the pending AB 664, I am confident we will be able to provide appropriate protection for our first responders.

Unfortunately, while there is positive news, there is also very concerning news. While everyone has focused on the pandemic, our legislators have been hard at work attacking the criminal justice system here in California. This is not a new attack, but what is different is how the “reform” is happening. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” our California lawmakers are taking full advantage of this crisis. With the pandemic at the forefront, a zero-bail policy was instituted, meaning the automatic release of most criminals arrested. Also, the early release of inmates in prison and county jails was instituted using the pandemic as the reason, stating the health of inmates as a concern. While many in law enforcement are aware of these actions due to media coverage, there continues to be a reshaping of the criminal justice system that seems to be flying under the radar.

With budget shortfalls looming, the governor has proposed the closing of two prisons in the state, which will result in the release of more felons into our communities. As if this wasn’t enough, the governor has created a “Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code.” You can find more information at clrc.ca.gov/CRPC.html. The committee is tasked with revising the penal code, specifically the reduction of prison sentences for most crimes. I would encourage everyone to watch the recorded meetings and voice your opinions to your state representatives.

Meanwhile, back in our local communities, our police officers and deputies are being asked to enforce stay-at-home orders. This is a no-win situation for our law enforcement community. Many people in our communities have become impatient with the speed at which the opening of businesses has gone. With so many at risk of defaulting on loans or simply being able to feed their families, tensions are high. Asking our officers and deputies to enforce what amounts to code enforcement violations is a recipe for disaster. If there is a new shutdown in the fall, it will put our members in a very tenuous position.

At PORAC, we are asking our police chiefs and sheriffs to focus on protecting our communities from criminal activity. Cities and counties should use other means of enforcement for businesses operating outside of state and local directives. The shutdown has created a financial crisis in this country that will renew the cry for pension reform and, most likely, budget cuts that will affect all our members. Just as it was in the last recession, we will again rely heavily on our communities for support in our local budget shortfalls. Will that support remain if we are active in shutting down our local businesses?

We will remain vigilant in protecting our members and providing quality services. Our training classes are set to resume soon to better assist you in the challenges to come.  Look for a newly developed peer support class later in the year and an advanced collective bargaining class. This class will be focused on current events and negotiating in a down economy. As always, feel free to contact President Marvel or me if you have any questions or concerns. Stay healthy and stay safe out there!