Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Safety was top of mind as we honored our Fallen at the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in May. This was especially so for me because I had been invited to represent PORAC at the meeting of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Officer Safety and Wellness Group in April in Washington, D.C. There, law enforcement officers, executives and support services representatives — such as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services — gathered to discuss officer safety and wellness.

The group reviewed the results of “Making It Safer: A Study of Law Enforcement Fatalities Between 2010 – 2016,” which was prepared by NLEOMF. I was startled by most of the findings.

First, some good news. The report, which can be viewed online at nleomf.org/officer-safety/cops, found that the number of police fatalities dropped 10% in 2017, to 129, from 143 in 2016.

Other news, unfortunately, wasn’t as optimistic. Here’s what I learned:

  • 22% of officers killed in line-of-duty deaths in 2016 were not wearing body armor.
  • 52% of officers who died in line-of-duty auto crashes in 2016 were not wearing a seat belt.
  • Suspicious person calls were the second-leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in 2016. Domestic dispute calls were the first.
  • 5% of the officers listed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial died in “blue on blue” shootings, whereby they were mistakenly or accidentally killed by another law enforcement officer. (This occurs two or three times a year on average, mostly in training incidents.)

These are sobering and alarming statistics. Imagine the number of officers who’d still be alive today if preventive measures were in place and enforced. The working group discussed potential solutions, which recommended:

  • Agencies should require all officers in uniform, even those working the front counter of the police station or transporting prisoners, to wear vests.
  • Agencies should enact and enforce seat belt policies.
  • Agencies should conduct scenario-based training wherein officers are seated in a vehicle or perceived low-threat location (coffee shop or restaurant) and must respond to an unsuspecting ambush/assault.
  • In cases of suspicious person calls, officers should, when possible, request and wait for backup to arrive before making contact with a suspect.
  • Agencies should institute recognition signals or code words so that uniformed officers know who plainclothes or off-duty officers are.

 We also discussed the alarming rate of law enforcement officer suicides each year. The number — as compiled by Blue H.E.L.P. and Badge of Life, organizations that offer support to officers and their families and collect suicide data — is estimated to be 144 last year, compared with 119 officers killed in the line of duty. Separately, the Badge of Life, which has been tallying police suicides since 2008, says that the rate for police suicides is higher than that for the general population: 16 per 100,000 people, compared with 13.5 per 100,000.

The COPS Officer Safety and Wellness Group discussed these potential recommendations:

  • Chiefs and executives should foster an environment that removes the stigma associated with mental health issues and actively encourage officers to seek help if they feel they need it.
  • Sergeants and first-line supervisors should look beyond their day-to-day responsibilities to identify officers who may be in crisis.
  • Offer team-inclusive training on dealing with and working through issues together.
  • Expand peer support response teams (both in large agencies and regionally for smaller agencies).

It’s sad enough when officers lose their lives in the line of duty, but for them to take their own lives is unconscionable. We must do more to make it acceptable for officers to seek help for mental health issues, to let them know that they are not alone and that it’s OK to ask for help. If you feel like you are in crisis or think that someone you know might be, don’t hesitate to get help or intervene. We owe it to ourselves and each other to not suffer from the effects of this profession. The California Peace Officers’ Memorial Week and National Police Week remind us that our lives matter and that while we carry on for our Fallen, we still must watch out for ourselves.

Thank you for your membership. Have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Like many of you, we at PORAC have been closely following the repercussions of the March 18 shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police officers. The event and its fallout are especially immediate for those of us here in the capital city, but the effects are reverberating throughout law enforcement.

Once again, the media has framed this as a negative story critical of police killing an unarmed black man, despite unprecedented release of body-worn camera video by Sacramento P.D. Less than a week after the shooting the department released footage from the two officers involved, video from the helicopter that directed the officers to Clark, audio of the initial 9-1-1 call reporting a subject breaking car windows, and audio from the police dispatch. A second batch of footage was released on April 16, including 23 in-car camera videos and 28 body-cam videos, two 9-1-1 call audio files and the rest of the video from the helicopter. Despite every effort at transparency and repeated calls for calm to allow the numerous independent investigations to continue, violent protests broke out in Sacramento and continued for weeks, disrupting a City Council meeting, shutting down freeways and blockading entry to the Golden 1 Center for NBA games. As usual, the intense focus has zeroed in on the actions of the officers, not the suspect. My opinion — biased as a Sacramento police officer, of course, but I can attest to having the same training that the involved officers did — is that their response was textbook and professional.

What Sacramento P.D. did after the shooting was the right move, demonstrating its willingness to be transparent with the public and offering insight into the procedures officers have to follow when making split-second decisions in life-and-death situations. The investigation is ongoing, even as you read this. Unfortunately, despite these attempts to show the other side of the story, unbalanced narratives were still broadcast far and wide by the media. Now this tragically negative anecdote is fueling a number of misguided and unnecessary bills in the Legislature. It is crucial for PORAC to stay on the front lines of this policy fight and the many different battles being waged within it.

One of these is AB 284, which originally proposed to take the investigative authority for officer-involved shootings away from district attorneys and create an independent unit within the state Department of Justice to handle such cases. Stating that OIS investigations should largely stay local, Attorney General Xavier Becerra himself successfully lobbied to scale back the bill to require a two-year study before establishing any sort of new investigative unit. Given the public response to the Clark shooting and his desire to be re-elected this year, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if he changed his position back to supporting the bill in its original form. Regardless, AB 284 clearly isn’t needed: In fact, we know that the attorney general already has the authority to review these matters, and the Sacramento police chief and district attorney have already invited  Becerra’s office to independently oversee the Clark investigation.

In the same field but on a different front, AB 748 from Assembly Member Ting would require the release of body-worn camera recordings as public records immediately upon request, or after 120 days if immediate release would impede the investigation. Again, this legislation is unnecessary as a response to the Clark shooting; Sacramento City Council policy already mandates release of all video associated with a critical incident within 30 days, and the Sacramento police chief released the footage in this case just three days after the incident. And finally, we have another impending battle regarding the yet-to-be-introduced “Right to Know” legislation, SB 1421, which would eliminate many of the confidentiality protections that members of law enforcement have within the Peace Officers Bill of Rights. This is just a retread of Senator Leno’s SB 1286, which, as you may recall, PORAC killed in 2016. It is no coincidence that the newspaper publishers and other media have been inciting their one-sided version of the Clark story, which powers the momentum behind such legislative measures that could benefit them for decades to come and feeds the news cycle at the expense of public safety.

In addition to continuing to work closely with our political advocates at Aaron Read & Associates to combat this latest wave of attacks in the war on law enforcement, PORAC recently brought together LDF attorneys to brainstorm ideas for how we can legislatively address the current climate and reinforce our positions in the future. Rest assured that we will remain vigilant in defending against irresponsible legislation that negatively impacts our profession, and proactive in putting forward real-world, commonsense solutions that make our state safer. We believe it’s possible to enhance public trust, accountability and transparency while also protecting the rights and safety of our officers who risk their lives each and every day in the service of their communities. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, I fear that things will get worse for cops before they get better — both on the streets and at the State Capitol.

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

The latter part of February and the beginning of March were busy months for Brian and me, as we represented and spoke out on behalf of our membership in our nation’s capital and in Los Angeles County. 

Focusing on Federal Funding

Brian and I recently concluded our spring advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., where we had in-depth discussions with lawmakers about funding law enforcement initiatives and supporting our officers. In his message, Brian covers most of the details from our trip, and I think an important takeaway from his article is that while PORAC advocates on your behalf day in and day out, our members (You!) still need to be engaged on state and federal legislation that can affect our agencies and the future of our profession.

For instance, the next retirement bubble is right around the corner for law enforcement in California, meaning that agencies will soon be hard-pressed to find candidates to fill the shoes of outgoing officers. As we all know too well, recruitment, retention and training are among the most underfunded programs in law enforcement, and it’s an enduring problem that has been affecting agency operations nationwide. PORAC has been at the forefront of this issue, advocating for more resources for our officers on the state and national level, but in spite of our efforts, departments are having a difficult time attracting prospective candidates due to the lags in pay, attacks on pensions and constant media scrutiny that loom over our profession.

What role can the federal government play in putting more officers on the streets and creating more long-term careers in law enforcement? The answer is simple: Federal funding equals more resources. On a structural level, funding can effect a culture change within this profession overall through revision of policies (e.g., use of force and dealing with mental illness), continuous training (POST), use of body-worn cameras, leadership development and much more. Those changes (while only a small example of what can be done) have the potential to attract prospective officers. One of the programs championed by PORAC during the fly-in was the funding of Byrne-JAG grants, which can be utilized for such hiring and training initiatives.

So, it’s important to stay on top of the issues and to be engaged in this dialogue. We encourage our members to write to us and sound off about the issues affecting your departments and how we can better advocate for our membership.

 

Supporting School Police

On February 23, I spoke alongside my PORAC Board member colleagues and our allies in education at the Rally in the Valley to Support Safe Schools in L.A. County.

For a recap of the Rally in the Valley, head to PORAC’s YouTube channel

The event was a response to a United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) anti-police demonstration, “Making Black Lives Matter in Schools,” which called for the removal of Los Angeles School Police Department officers from L.A. schools. In their promotion of the demonstration, UTLA incorrectly labeled school police as racists in their policing of students (e.g., random searches of minorities only, metal detectors in low-income schools, etc.) and said that their presence on school campuses was unnecessary. Not only was their protest misinformed and misguided, but it was also damaging in that it attempted to divide rather than unite. The negative discourse that UTLA was spreading added to existing anti-police rhetoric and distracted from the conversation that we should be having on how to keep our children safe in a time when school shootings have become the norm.

When I took the podium, I was adamant in saying that there’s no worse idea than taking police out of schools, especially since a week before the rally, our nation experienced another tragic and deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The bottom line is that school police play a crucial role in keeping our children safe. They are not malevolent forces who are there to harass or cause our students problems — like all law enforcement, they are there to serve and protect. And while their main objective is to foster safe and nurturing learning environments for our children, they also work alongside teachers to have a positive impact on students as mentors, counselors and problem-solvers.

I spoke of a couple of brief occasions when I spent time on a local high school campus filling in as a school resource officer (SRO). It was there where I learned the important role SROs play on campuses. Arming teachers while eliminating school police is the wrong idea. No one seems to be thinking ahead on this issue, as arming teachers and school employees would increase school district liability, call for ongoing firearms training for school staff and distract teachers from what they are supposed to do — teach! There would also need to be funding for such a measure. If school budgets for basic educational resources are already stretched well-beyond what’s needed to provide top-notch instruction for our children, what makes legislators think there will be money for the additional burden of giving guns to teachers?

Instead of considering the notion of arming teachers, we should be advocating for more police presence on our campuses and investing in the hard work that our SROs do in the unique role that they fill. PORAC stands with school police and will continue to champion their vital work of keeping our children safe. Click Here for a recap of the Rally in the Valley on PORAC’s YouTube channel

 

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

As Brian details in his President’s Message this month, we’re excited to be bringing you some updates to this magazine that we hope will keep you even more interested and informed regarding the work of PORAC and the latest law enforcement topics. As I continue to focus on recruiting new members to join our organization, it’s an invaluable asset to have professional communications platforms that clearly and effectively express what PORAC is all about.

Some might wonder why, in this paperless age of tablets and smartphones, our printed magazine is so important. Can’t we just post some articles online or send out an email? We believe you deserve more than that. Staying connected with you is one of our primary goals, but the ever-growing size of our membership, the vast geographical expanse of California and the diversity of associations we represent mean that we need to use every item in our communications toolkit to make sure that as many members as possible can hear us and respond. 

For up-to-the-minute breaking news alerts, interactive multimedia storytelling and informal exchanges, nothing beats social media — but not everyone is glued to their phone all the time, plus the brief format and constantly changing algorithms make it very difficult to ensure everyone gets the message. Our website is the one-stop shop for anyone seeking information about PORAC and serves as a library of all the resources our members need, from Symposium registration (remember, our special room rate expires March 24!) to the scholarship application (deadline is March 30!) to the monthly calendar of chapter meetings and events. The web is great for providing this type of information, and our app is an even easier way to find all that and more in a pocket-portable format — but it’s still up to each individual to navigate there and click the right buttons. Although the magazine comes out only once a month, it’s a sure way to get the updates you need, along with longer and more in-depth analysis of the complex issues facing law enforcement today, directly into your hands. Even better, it’s packaged in a form that’s easy to keep and refer to later, or pass along to colleagues, family members, legislators and anyone else who should be seeing all the terrific things PORAC is doing.

Since each medium has different uses and advantages, they’re at their best when they all work together toward a coordinated, comprehensive messaging strategy.  As we work on enhancing the magazine, a major goal is to more closely integrate it with our social media to give members a seamless connection to PORAC across all our communications channels. 

One way we plan to do this is through a new contest coming soon! Sharp-eyed readers may notice that our familiar “Find the Bear” challenge has been retired from this issue in preparation for our forthcoming “On the Road With PORAC LE News” contest, which will offer members a chance to win cash by posting the photos that you take with the magazine in creative locations. In addition to engaging with PORAC’s social media, you’ll also have a fun way to witness our publication out in the real world, showing the range and reach of our membership around the state and beyond.

In preparation for the new contest, and to make sure you don’t miss out on any part of our campaigns, be sure to follow PORAC on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Social media works best when it’s participatory, so join the community and help us expand the conversation by liking, tagging, sharing and responding to the posts that speak to you.

As we continue our efforts to leverage all available media and grow our social presence, I’m also excited to tell you that we’re going to explore an area where PORAC has not ventured before: podcasts! While these are nothing new, they are more popular than ever and certainly a new frontier for us. No longer will issues be limited to the page or the screen in front of you — they will be brought to life through commentary offered by Brian and me; interviews with members, subject-matter experts and politicians; and candid discussions with newsmakers relevant to our time. I am certain that you’re going to thoroughly enjoy the new dimension and perspective that these podcasts will offer you. We recently met with Marketplace Communications to begin planning this next move, and we’ll keep you posted as we progress.

As always, thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

With so much going on in our profession today, it can be difficult to keep up with it all. So often, if it’s not condensed into 140 characters or less, it isn’t important enough to grab my attention and I just miss it. Where I used to get the newspaper and a cup of coffee is now where I pick up my to-go order and quick-charge my device. We are all on the move.

The original minutes for the January Board of Directors meeting ran to many thousands of words, but we had to cut them down to 2,400 to make them fit this publication while still making sense. Brian and I get roughly 800 words each month to pass along to you what we feel is most important to know. And in our technology-driven world, these print articles are considered long reads. More and more now, we are trying to condense a whole lot of information into smaller and smaller chunks for you. We know that information is coming at you so fast that even when you do actually get to read it, you rarely get the flavor of the discussion that paved the way for any action to be taken.

PORAC is doing its part, though. We are always improving the website, as well as increasing the amount of information we push out to you via Constant Contact, the PORAC Online Membership System (POLS) and our mobile app, which was introduced to you during the 2017 Conference. But we won’t be successful without you, and it is essential that we have the most up-to-date contact for you — be it as the leader of your local association or as a member who wants to stay informed.

That said, have you paid your dues yet? If you haven’t, this could be the last issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News that you ever receive. But it’s about more than just paying the bills on time. Keeping current (or ahead, for some of you) ensures that your respective chapters have money to operate and participate in all the things that they do. It also guarantees that you have access to the benefits of membership that are offered by the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Insurance & Benefits Trust (IBT) and, if you have it, the Retiree Medical Trust (RMT), all of which you retain by remaining a member in good standing with PORAC.

There is a big pension fight ahead this year, and you may have noticed a $2-per-member monthly dues increase at the start of the new year, which was implemented by the membership to help fund the fight. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact your chapter director/president or regional Executive Committee member, or call me at PORAC Headquarters.

No sooner does our Annual Conference mark the end of the year than it is time for our Annual Training Symposium, which is quickly approaching. This year’s Symposium will be held at the DoubleTree Hilton Resort Palm Springs, located in Cathedral City, on April 10–11 (Tuesday–Wednesday). As usual, the PORAC “mini-conference” addresses the current trends and issues related to the rights of peace officers, as well as offering a thoughtful discussion on the FLSA, recent legal decisions related to pensions and information that you need to be aware of concerning the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME case litigation, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. Our statewide advocates from Aaron Read & Associates will also review the most recent legislation moving through the State Capitol.

While you don’t necessarily need to send a whole contingent of representatives from your association to the Symposium, I would strongly ask you to consider having at least one person participate and bring back the information to your fellow members and co-workers. I can assure you that it will be worth the relatively low cost. In addition, Symposium is a great opportunity to network with other PORAC leaders to address issues that you might also be facing within your local association. The Executive Committee (which includes your region’s representatives) will be there, so please make plans to join us and introduce yourself. After listening to your feedback at last year’s Symposium, we’ve made a few changes that I think you will enjoy. And we look forward to the opportunity to visit with you. Go to www.porac.org/events/symposium for more information and to get signed up before our special room rate expires on March 24!

Finally, speaking of networking, it has been really exciting to see a growing number of new faces at the chapter meetings as we get into 2018. These meetings are the ideal place to address local association issues, build support for your local elected officials and hear important updates from your specific region’s representatives. Take advantage of this monthly occasion to strengthen your ability to lead your association! A calendar of all meetings can be found on our website or mobile app.

Thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Happy new year! Hopefully 2018 welcomed you with great health and in the afterglow of bright and festive holidays with your families! While the close of our Annual Conference seems to mark the end of the year for us here at PORAC, December in the State Capitol is just as eventful as any other month — save for the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, which, for me, come as a welcome break from the craziness of the traveling season.

As the year ended, PORAC took a significant step in addressing the ongoing impact of Proposition 57, as the Board of Directors acted to support the Keeping California Safe Act of 2018. This effort, a partnership of citizens, business owners and law enforcement, is the latest in the campaign to reverse the accumulation of effects stemming from AB 109 and Proposition 47, which have eroded the already-thin blanket of public safety in our state. The Keeping California Safe Act will hopefully be on the ballot later this year, and you should take a hard look at supporting it locally.

By now, you’ve probably already received the first-quarter invoice for PORAC dues, and noticed a monthly increase of $2 per member for the start of the new year. If you hadn’t heard, the delegates at the 2017 Annual Conference of Members voted in favor of changing the PORAC Bylaws to create a mandatory assessment that will be used to address anticipated reform initiatives targeting our pensions, expected later this year. Unlike the previous three years of the dues assessment, there is no opt-out provision. As in previous years, however, you may make a lump-sum contribution from your association’s general fund or PIC account, but you should consult a PAC attorney to determine what is in the best interest of your specific association. Don’t hesitate to contact your chapter director/president or regional Executive Committee member, or get in touch with me at PORAC Headquarters.

Whether it’s addressing statutes that adversely impact our working environments or our retirement security, PORAC remains committed to being at the forefront of the issues that are important to peace officers in California. We stand ready to be the voice of reason and thoughtful debate on ideas and proposals that affect you and your quality of life, be it on the job or for you personally as a vital member of this profession. Though it is widely well-known, remember that no other organization exists with the resources and reputation to effectively accomplish these tasks than PORAC — a fact best demonstrated by our actions, rather than our words.

PORAC will continue to maintain its presence at meetings of your chapter’s representatives throughout our organization and across the state. But just being there isn’t enough. Though it may seem to you or your association like just another meeting to attend, showing up and staying involved in your chapter serves as an invaluable source of information to your members, as well as helping to build a strong foundation in your organization. President Marvel and I are always prepared to pass along the latest information about PORAC’s initiatives or direction when we are there. Even more importantly, we are there to collect any local insight that you may have on issues that likely impact the rest of law enforcement in the state, as well as answering your questions. This sharing of information is vital to PORAC staying effective for you.

PORAC also distinguishes itself from others by the training that we offer each month. We are eager to continue improving and adapting it, as needed, to ensure that you always get the most useful, up-to-date and effective programs out there so that the leadership of your association can adapt as the landscape changes. As our point man on recruiting and retention for PORAC, I see this as a valuable means to meet and discuss where our organization is, as well as what is meaningful to our membership. If you have an interest in attending any of the training offered by PORAC, a complete calendar of the year’s courses can be found on page 38 of this issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News or at PORAC.org/calendar. Questions or inquiries about our training may be directed to Training Manager Claude Alber at training@porac.org, or by calling the PORAC Office.

Finally, the start of a new year is a great opportunity to remind you that if your association’s contact information or elected officers/representatives have changed, you need to update this information with us so that the right people get notified. You can always do this electronically, or by contacting Angie Gonzales at the PORAC Office or at membership@porac.org.

Thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

All Hands on Deck: Fighting for Our Pensions

As I write this month’s message, it appears that Governor Jerry Brown’s commitment to public safety isn’t what it used to be. He recently filed a petition that moves well beyond his 2013 pension reform package. This latest move seemingly challenges the “California Rule” while attempting to make the case for the state government abdicating the promises made to its public employees.

Let’s not forget that it was the Governor himself who sold his reforms with the argument that if public employees didn’t contribute more to fund our benefits, modify them for future employees and eliminate key benefit enhancements, the public would impose draconian changes themselves, much to our detriment. Stakeholders came to the table. We debated the extent and level of the pain that past, present and future employees could withstand. And in the end, we helped conceive the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA). Governor Brown signed the bill. That signature seemed to end his quest for changes to public worker benefits. While future employees would find themselves working for a slightly lower benefit over a longer period of time with more skin in the game (that is, greater employee contributions), the concessions maintained a promise to current and past employees. It protected what they had earned.

Since then, a lot has happened. The anticipated devastation of the Friedrichs case never occurred, due to a shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court. But the issue has now refocused public employees on the case of Janus vs. AFSCME, which will be heard by a nine-member Supreme Court and most likely will determine the legality of mandatory union fees. As we anticipated in Friedrichs, the Janus case is expected to be the Achilles heel of public sector union funding, given the conservative anti-union majority on the bench today.

Word has also come that former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed is, once again, openly making his case for another anti-public employee pension reform campaign. Reed is apparently arguing that the expected court decision (a loss for the unions) would be the ideal opportunity to strike — since it would be much tougher for unions to collect political action money from members to fight back. None of this should surprise you. We’ve known it was coming. The only question has been when.

Since the start of the year, leadership in PORAC has been discussing these possibilities. While we did have a little time to breathe, we understood that we would need to take a more active role in funding our fight. We’ve always known that a serious campaign fund will require sacrifice on our part, especially if we hope to contribute equally with our labor partners in a fight that we’ll stand shoulder to shoulder in.

We’ve paid close attention and done well to stay actively involved in Californians for Retirement Security (CRS). And over the last four years, we’ve amassed a small, dedicated pot of money to seed the campaign that will be aggressively waged on your behalf. One dollar in 2014. Two dollars in 2015 and 2016. Though voluntary, it was a good start. But that’s all it is… a start.

This time, it will be different. Our efforts must be more structured and our resolve more unified. We must be ready for the worst. That’s why, at the Conference of Members last month, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a $2 per capita dues increase, intended to continue until at least 2019. The dues collected in this assessment will be specifically allocated to protect and defend members’ pensions impacted by any California pension reform initiative. Although similar, this assessment also differs from the last, in that as it will run for at least two years and will be mandatory for all, with member associations being permitted to make a lump sum payment, if they choose, rather than absorb the increase in monthly dues.

The Board of Directors understands this increase may be difficult for members of your association. But when you consider what is at stake here, $24 per member per year is a small price to pay when it comes to holding onto what we were promised way back when we took this job. It also demonstrates our solidarity and loyalty to each other, and sends the message that we will bring an aggressive fight to the ballot box, irrespective of whether the people we once called friends try to undermine us.

PORAC will continue to be on the frontline of this battle, keeping you informed and up to date on the key issues facing our profession. Be sure to stay connected to porac.org and use the new PORAC app. Please keep in contact with your region and chapter representatives to ensure that you aren’t caught off guard about this critical issue. And if you have questions or concerns, seek out your local leadership, attend a chapter meeting and stay informed to get the facts.

Thank you for your membership. Have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Ready to Defend Our Rights and Benefits

There’s no way to sugarcoat the modern reality faced by law enforcement professionals: We are under attack. It’s not just hardcore criminals and sociopaths who are relentless in their assault on and disregard for public safety officers. It’s also the media, some elected officials and, sadly, a growing chorus of the uninformed public. PORAC saw this coming, and we’re doing something about it. We’re not waiting for this to blow over. We’re not hoping the situation will somehow magically improve itself. We are continuing, though, to proactively make sure that law enforcement maintains a powerful presence when major political and economic policy decisions are made in Sacramento. We’re making absolutely sure that your voice is heard.

In my four years as PORAC’s Vice President, the attacks on law enforcement have become more pervasive than at any time in the last half-century. Society has become more fractured and tribalistic, with law enforcement caught squarely in the middle. To make sure that elected officials, policymakers, community thought leaders and the media understand our duties, limitations and expectations, we’ve taken steps to aggressively deepen our footprint in Washington and Sacramento. I’m extremely proud of PORAC’s approach, which has expanded the platform onto which our collective voice is being heard, especially at the federal level.

From the U.S. Capitol to Sacramento, we began to widen our representative base and strengthen our voice in 2013, long before the media portrayal of incidents in Ferguson, Baltimore, Baton Rouge or Tulsa fostered an atmosphere in which law enforcement officers are instantly placed under suspicion and presumed guilty, long before any facts are examined. We will always be an easy target, because when people need help, they call us. We are the first responders, no matter the situation. However, our critics want it both ways. They expect us to protect them, remove the threats to their lives and maintain the peace, yet they want us to keep order in a prescient and gentle fashion, even if it means sacrificing ourselves along the way.

A big part of our work is making sure that state and national authorities understand how we work, how we train and how we make decisions. There is no doubt that PORAC is the working cop’s best defense in ensuring that people know your side of the story. I’ve learned that when civilians — including elected officials and their staffs — understand the logic behind our actions, they are far more likely to comprehend and support the outcomes. We are not always perfect, but even with our imperfections, not a day goes by that law enforcement professionals aren’t risking their lives on behalf of their communities. We recognize the risks, but we never want anyone to take them for granted. That’s why I’m quite proud of our efforts to improve our communications, image and messaging over the past several years. These projects didn’t happen overnight, but with our website redesigns and improved social media, I think we are on the right track.

It’s not wise to assume the public and elected officials will realize how and why we work so hard. We must continually remind them, and then consistently reinforce our message with facts and stories that illustrate the importance of what this profession does across California daily. Accordingly, we have significantly improved the work we’ve done, both internally and externally, on media outreach. While this has grown exponentially from where we were, we must continue to travel every avenue of opportunity to keep the public and those who support us informed about what really goes on in their communities.

These efforts have paid off, reflected by the dividends that we continue to see:  PORAC recently surpassed 70,000 members, making us by far the nation’s largest statewide organization representing law enforcement professionals. That’s an increase of over 4,000 members and approximately 100 new associations in the past four years — an accomplishment that validates the support and trust granted us by every individual member. I’m proud of those numbers and the work that was put in to get there. Our growth amplifies the essence of what PORAC is all about — the importance of unity and advocacy, and our ability to bring peace officers together from an incredibly diverse array of agencies from across California.

But our work is not done; in fact, far from it. Next year, we will likely face another attempt at rolling  back pensions and retirement benefits, probably in the guise of a “reform” initiative presented to voters. A strong organization with experienced leadership will be needed to lead the campaign against draconian cuts directed at your retirement security. With our expertise in Sacramento, PORAC will undoubtedly be at the forefront, fighting to protect the future that every peace officer was promised and counts on.

This will be the biggest fight of 2018, and I look forward to leading the organization as we defend the rights and benefits of PORAC members and their families. Until then, thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Ask your average citizen about law enforcement training, and you’ll likely elicit a response chock-full of images of cadets with fresh haircuts, firearms ranges and traversing the trials of the police academy. But ask those of us who’ve been there and made it through … we know better.

In today’s highly complex and constantly evolving world of law enforcement, training never stops. Some of it is annual, most of it perishable, but all of it is necessary. The last sergeant I worked for lived for roll-call training moments; he made it challenging, but fun — and never passed on the opportunity to clown himself for the sake of making a serious training point. Whether it’s a shift briefing update on the penal code or a new local ordinance, a quick refresher on clearing a room or instructions on the finer points of the felony traffic stop, cops crave additional training.

Like lawyers, doctors and teachers, modern law enforcement practitioners spend their careers in professional development and continuing education. Countless hours are devoted to making sure we are equipped with the latest strategies, from tactics to technology. But mostly, we do it to stay sharp … and alive!

Professional development and career training are a key focus of PORAC’s mission. Although it is probably one of the least publicized parts of our work, training is incredibly important to our members and PORAC’s contribution to healthy, active and alert member associations. And we dive deep when it comes to training. Over the last year, I’ve been fortunate to serve as the chairman of PORAC’s Training Committee. It’s been instructive, and I appreciate the mission-critical importance of helping to develop POST-certified training, as well as the unique opportunities it has provided for diverse subject matter to be presented to our members.

As law enforcement professionals, we all possess qualities that define the word “leader”; otherwise, we wouldn’t succeed very long on the job. Most cops are born leaders in one fashion or another, but that instinct must also be developed and refined. The skills that go into building leaders aren’t inherent. They must be learned, trained on and practiced. It’s here where I believe PORAC excels. We recognize that as leaders emerge in our associations across California, they often rely upon their experience as they interact with department heads, local elected officials and fellow members. But that experience can be supplemented with skills developed over generations — strategies involving negotiation, organizing and relationship building. All are unique skills that, if not refreshed and updated, can become dull and without benefit to the members. And I’m not talking about just an elementary review of the basics, either. I’m talking about valuable career development, skills that test and improve a leader’s knowledge and understanding of the challenges that face our profession.   

In my work with our Training Committee, I’ve been busy in recent months working with our staff to review and assess PORAC’s training needs. Several important themes have already emerged. When I began to gather inventories of existing training, I very quickly learned that many of our members are eager for new courses that push them to higher levels of professionalism. I’ve been greatly encouraged by the importance our members place on training and development. It’s also been encouraging to see that the emphasis on training isn’t just limited to our local association leaders. PORAC members from all corners of the state, large and small agencies, ranging from those recently out of the academy to cops with decades on the job — all of them have expressed interest in training and professional development.

While we all know that professional skills are perishable, we also understand that funding education for law enforcement is a necessary expense. Across California, elected officials, city managers and police administrators are always looking at our agency’s training budgets to assess the potential to save money at our expense. They convince themselves that a commitment to professional development doesn’t provide a qualitative value. Cuts always seem to be the first option. Rest assured that PORAC will continue to fight on your behalf to prevent that from happening. We know POST-certified training can’t be treated as a leverage point in budget discussions, yet every legislative session finds us doing our best to beat back reductions in POST’s budget. Professional development extends its value far beyond the skills it helps to create in PORAC members — vital skills that play out in every contact we make, in every call for service we answer and with every law enforcement professional we represent. Needless to say, this is why an emphasis on training is so essential to PORAC. And it’s also why we will continue to be relentless in advocating for more of it for each one of you.

Thank you for your membership, have fun and stay safe!  

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Benefits: PORAC’s Got Your Back

Take a moment to look at our website, porac.org. At the top of the page above our organization’s name and logo are three weblinks. They direct visitors of the site to PORAC’s Legal Defense Fund, Insurance and Benefits Trust, and Retiree Medical Trust. The location of those links — higher than anything else on the PORAC webpage — is neither an accident nor a coincidence. The benefits provided by PORAC are an essential service of the organization. All three trusts are where your PORAC membership pays real dividends. They belong at the top.

As the Vice President of PORAC, I serve as a trustee for two of our benefit trusts: the Insurance and Benefits Trust, and the Retiree Medical Trust. I also work closely on our recruiting and retention efforts with the trustees who oversee the Legal Defense Fund. My position allows me to understand not just the importance of benefits, but precisely how our trusts work. Along the way, I’ve learned why PORAC benefits provide members with some of the best law enforcement coverage to be found in the entire country.

It’s not bragging to say that PORAC benefits, like those offered by PORAC LDF, are considered the best available to peace officer associations nationally. We hear this all the time. The experience I’ve gained while serving as a trustee has convinced me that, while PORAC provides many important services to members, there is nothing more valuable than taking care of our members through our trusts and the benefits they provide.

I’ve also learned it’s not easy to manage our trusts, which are run for cops by cops. Your independently elected trustees strive to always provide the most coverage and benefits, which can be a complicated task given the various levels and cost of benefit products available to large associations. Another critical part of this work involves making sure the trusts remain financially sound. And a delicate balance is required, as trustees measure benefits against cost, maximizing one while responsibly holding the other under control.

Our Insurance and Benefits Trust delivers exactly what we promote. PORAC members can obtain coverage through our sponsored health plan, plus long-term disability, life, accidental death and long-term care insurance plans. We also provide access to dental and vision care, as well as home and vehicle insurance coverage. Unlike most trusts, ours doesn’t stop working once members sign up and secure insurance for themselves and their families. The IBT trustees, backed up by the incredible benefits staff, stand ready to guide members through coverage questions or unexpected problems, with an emphasis on customer service.

The Retiree Medical Trust is one of the fastest-growing benefits we offer. Funded while you are still working, the goal is to help you address the rising costs of health care before finishing your law enforcement career. The Trust facilitates your ability to make tax-free contributions while still working, then use those benefit dollars to reimburse qualified medical expenses in retirement without being burdened by taxes.

As benefits go, PORAC’s Legal Defense Fund stands in a class by itself. With membership nationwide, the Legal Defense Fund protects more than 120,000 public safety professionals in 42 states and four U.S. territories. In operation now for more than 40 years, it is the oldest and largest legal defense plan for law enforcement in the U.S. To assist you, PORAC LDF maintains a legal panel of attorneys, who bring unmatched authority and credibility to the defense table should you need it. And there is no limit to their advocacy. When a panel attorney needs support for their defense, PORAC LDF can provide it, sparing no expense to ensure that use-of-force experts, investigators and/or technical specialists are there to give the member the very best representation. Together with the trustees, PORAC LDF’s professionals walk members through the entire process, explaining each step and advocating the best possible legal strategy for them.

When I was sworn in as a police officer almost 20 years ago, benefits — and their quality  — were the furthest thing from my mind. We all came into this profession excited about the work, thinking little about suffering a major injury or actually having to file an insurance claim. Retirement was some distant concept that the old guys talked about over breakfast. And like you, I felt righteous, believing that Internal Affairs was just a place that the “bad” cops ended up. Today, my rookie naiveté gives me pause to smile. After working patrol and a handful of specialty assignments over the past 19 years, as well as having responded to countless critical incidents and members’ calls to IA, I understand the need for the best benefits. My experience — both as a police officer and as a trustee — has taught me to be thankful that when it comes to benefits, PORAC has our back.

Thank you for your membership. Have fun and stay safe!