Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

To say 2020 has been life-altering would be an understatement. We began it with a sense of optimism: After three years of negotiations on use-of-force reform in California, we had landed on a solution that we felt addressed the needs of the public and law enforcement with AB 392 taking effect in January and SB 230 set to go into effect in 2021. But by March, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full effect and we all experienced a complete shutdown of our country. Now, in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, we find ourselves in a national battle over extreme reforms to law enforcement at a national level.

I don’t have to write an article about the actions of the officers in Minneapolis; it goes without saying that we as law enforcement officers condemn what occurred. The media and some of our elected officials have used this incident to fan the flames of fear and anger across the country. To say there is an epidemic of police brutality is a gross exaggeration of the numbers. Law enforcement has millions of contacts a year, and a minuscule amount turn into violent encounters. The actions of the suspect are rarely taken into account and often dismissed entirely. This rhetoric has turned to calls for the elimination or defunding of law enforcement across the nation. For those of us who have sworn to protect the communities we serve, we find these arguments offensive and frightening at the same time. It’s rarely acknowledged that we live in the communities we serve. We know these proposals put our own families at risk as well as the public.

We have seen the evil that lurks in our society. We use metaphors to refer to our fellow officers as “sheepdogs” protecting our flock from the wolves that prey on our communities. In 25-plus years in law enforcement, I have worked in three different agencies and a multitude of different communities with different racial and socioeconomic demographics. In every instance, I can tell you the officers in those communities took their jobs as “sheepdogs” to heart. It didn’t stop when they logged off and went home — it is always on their minds. So much of what we do for our communities goes unrecognized because we don’t do this job for the recognition. Officers give every day to the communities they serve, on and off duty.

President Marvel and I have been lobbying nonstop with our elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. We’ve done countless interviews with the media, all in an attempt to force dialogue and rational discussions about police reform. I know that many of our members want to see us out front of the camera with an angry message. I have to tell you we are angry too. We would love to publicly show you and our supporters the anger and disgust we feel about how law enforcement is being depicted. Saying these things may make us feel better, but ultimately, we feel it would only embolden our elected officials to move forward with legislation without our input and dialogue to ensure the reforms are reasonable. Brian and I are using every opportunity to insert PORAC into the discussions being held at the state and national levels. I am very proud of my law enforcement profession, but this does not mean I am proud of some of the things that have been done by those in our profession. It’s not an either-or proposition. Similarly, the calls for defunding the police and funding other programs are not an either-or proposition.

I believe that society must decide what it wants from our profession. All of society’s problems are set at the feet of law enforcement to fix, often with no resources or training to do so. By and large, we do a pretty good job, but in the end, we are still human. The image of a police officer is glamorized in society through Hollywood and other media as the hard-nosed cop, edgy and ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. We rarely see a softer side of the law enforcement officer depicted in the media. I guess a real look at police work would be too boring for today’s Hollywood. With numerous positive reactions in the public and hours of report writing, it doesn’t fit the agenda of today’s political climate. We all know that in reality, we have to have the ability to be the “edgy cop” in one moment and then be Andy Griffith in the next.

Brian and I will continue to fight for our profession alongside all of you. Thank you for all of your support, and stay safe out there!