Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
From Washington, D.C., to Long Beach, California, I logged more than my share of miles last month. I travel a lot, but that is not saying much, given my responsibility for recruiting and retention. And when I travel, I tend to be fairly identifiable as being affiliated with the law enforcement profession. My travel-wardrobe choice gives it away: usually a comfortable pair of tac pants, and any variety of police-related polo shirts. In addition to all the other benefits that accompany it, the attire usually makes for a particularly efficient transition from Point A to Point B, helping me stay on time to my destination. As such, and especially on airplanes, many fellow travelers are pretty quick to thank me for my service or say that they appreciate all I do for them. Like I suspect all of us would feel, this causes me that slightly uncomfortable moment at first, as there’s not much more to say other than “Thank you” or “It’s my honor.” It does ultimately leave me with a sense of pride in our profession. Except for that modest moment of regret for “flying the colors,” accepting the compliment on behalf of the law enforcement profession is an honor.
In the 16 months since Ferguson, Baltimore and other events, I think that the public’s support of law enforcement is strong and continues to grow. Social media pages reveal a cellphone-photo-happy public that is quick to record police officers’ and sheriffs’ deputies’ kindnesses (and moments of silliness!) in their communities, despite others’ desire to goad them into losing control in a stressful moment of the job. Recently, a wave of “pay it forward” type moments ranging from selfies of thank-you signs to Starbucks gift cards left on patrol car windshields demonstrates that most people appreciate their cops. A review of my Facebook news thread today shows a list, too long to include here, of the many folks in California who appreciate all that you do and who are not afraid to say it. In fact, a complimentary beverage from a kind Southwest Airlines flight attendant keeps me hydrated on my trip back across the country today.
Amid those fleeting moments of basking in the internet glow of random pro-police strangers, the reality is that there is still much work to do with our elected representatives. This was one of the main objectives of our trip back East in September, which is chronicled in pictures within this month’s issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News. Our group did a great job communicating the needs of peace officers to everyone we met with. Of note, we met with staff to the co-chairs of the Law Enforcement Caucus in the U.S. Congress. Our main point, one that was refined and repeated over the course of our two-day visits to over a dozen offices, was to see a much higher and more prominent visual support of law enforcement officers by our representatives. Simply declaring their support to groups like ours just isn’t enough anymore. “Our country needs to consistently see and hear that our national leaders support their law enforcement officers,” stated President Mike Durant at one of our meetings. “We want to see that you stand with us.” This message was well-received and noted, with several members of Congress committing to join the Law Enforcement Caucus.
But I don’t think that we can stop there. Locally, I believe that you — our law enforcement association leaders — can make great strides in helping to reinforce this message by actively engaging your city council members and county supervisors. While this may start with just a simple meeting to keep them informed on issues that are important to your association, having these folks at your events (promotions, fundraisers, public activities, etc.) and promoting an active, positive dialogue about the importance of what you do is key to the foundation of a long, productive relationship. Doing so is not only an investment in your own community and for the betterment of your members, it helps improve an image that doesn’t get enough polishing or respect.
Unsure about how or where to start? Attending PORAC’s Political Action course or consulting with fellow association leaders at your chapters’ monthly meetings are good places to begin. Hearing about what is going on and how it affects your association is helpful, but knowing how to apply it to move your organization ahead is what will make the real difference when the going gets tough.
I genuinely believe that 98% of the public supports what we do and why we do it. They may not always show it as much as we’d like, but if Facebook or Twitter are any indication of what people actually think, there are a lot of good people out there who depend on your willingness to show up and pin that badge on each day. Despite the craziness of the work we do and the one-dimensional perspective of the media that reports on it, the work that you do is honorable and can only be done by a small and special cadre of individuals — you and your brother and sisters who stand with you!
So with that, I stand with the members of PORAC’s Board of Directors in fraternal support of what you do, and anticipate welcoming you to our 63rd Annual Conference of Members in Monterey, which is just a few weeks away. A time for training and conducting the important business of our Association, our Conference’s most important function is bringing as many of our members together as possible to share their experiences, network and collaborate on ideas to improve conditions for peace officers in California, which undoubtedly moves us forward in representing you and our profession.
Have a safe trip to the Central Coast, and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you there!