With fear and uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic causing panic-buying and empty shelves in stores around the nation, PORAC’s Inland Chapter quickly sprang into action as many of its associations experienced the depletion of valuable items like hand sanitizer, critical to the health and safety of officers and non-sworn personnel who come in contact with countless people on a daily basis.
In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, we have seen an incredible response from our communities, peacefully joining together to address racial division within our country. Critical discussions are happening all over the world about how to break patterns and create change. Because of this, we have seen a major push for police reform that would greatly impact how our members do their jobs.
The United States and the law enforcement community were irreparably changed on May 25, when George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis Police Department officer, sparking large-scale and continuous protests in hundreds of cities across every state in the country. This sickening and unnecessary death has started a nationwide discussion on how America conducts policing, and how the country can move forward and create a more just and equitable society for Black Americans.
Every day when a police officer wakes up, they have no idea what to expect. Over the past decade, law enforcement has taken blows due to a few critical incidents. Civil lawsuits have resulted in millions of dollars being paid out. Since 2014, there have been 17 notable incidents involving Black citizens. In most cases, the officers received minimal to no consequences when they were in the wrong. I’m speaking about places where the law enforcement training and accountability standards are far lower than they should be, unlike in California.
Following nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the Los Angeles City Council introduced a motion to cut $150 million from the LAPD budget — a decision so apparently spontaneous and unilateral that the association representing the department’s command officers had to hear about it on Twitter, without any opportunity to discuss or address the issue.
By the second week of May, Assembly and Senate members returned to Sacramento to continue the work they began before recessing per the governor’s stay-at-home order on March 16. However, with many professions, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way the California Legislature will be doing its job, which in turn, has changed the way we do ours. While many of the processes for submitting position letters have remained the same, we are experiencing major shifts in the way we meet with legislators, staff and stakeholders on bills and the way we testify in hearings. Due to the guidance on physical distancing, the committee hearings are extremely limited for the press and the public.
On March 6, 2020, one of the great pioneers in California law enforcement advocacy and PORAC history was laid to rest. You’ll find a special feature in this month’s issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News on page 16 memorializing the contributions and legacy of Rick Baratta, which included some extensive time as a member of PORAC’s leadership.
It’s with great sadness we say goodbye to Rick Baratta, a life member since 1956 and cornerstone of PORAC. Rick not only spent many fruitful years as PORAC’s general manager and editor of this very publication, but was critical in helping implement many of the programs used by California law enforcement officers today. Rick passed away peacefully at his home in March after battling a series of illnesses. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth; three children Richard, Brian and Judy; grandchildren; brothers Kenneth and Peter; and German Shepherds Chooch and Charlie.