Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

Why PORAC?

My primary role as PORAC vice president is to recruit and retain members. Often, I am asked, “What are the benefits of PORAC?” I think the No. 1 thing I point out is, “PORAC is cops looking out for cops,” or as Past President, Ron Cottingham always said, “PORAC has your six.”  With our membership at over 75,000 now, we bring a strong voice to issues here in the state as well as nationally. It’s because of our diverse membership that we are able to give a voice to the issues of the smallest associations with fewer than 10 officers to the large associations with more than 1,000. The resources we provide for our membership are simply the best.  Because we are made up of working officers, we are always striving to offer a better benefit to our members. Whether it’s providing legal defense through the PORAC Legal Defense Fund Trust (LDF), disability or medical insurance through the Insurance and Benefits Trust (IBT), retiree medical savings through the Retiree Medical Trust (RMT) or providing additional retiree benefits through our Retired Associate Membership (RAM) program, we provide benefits that are second to none.

It’s easy to point out the programs and the benefits but where I think PORAC really shines is the ability to provide learning and networking opportunities to the members. Whether it’s at a specific training class or at a larger function like the PORAC Conference of Members, PORAC provides a venue where association leaders can discuss issues specific to their organizations and issues related to all of law enforcement. Bottom line: PORAC tries to provide every association with the resources to be successful. The only thing that gets in our way sometimes is our own egos. We tend to have strong egos in our profession and we are often unwilling to deviate from our belief that we can do it better than everyone else in the room. But we should take a step back and recognize we are all leaders in our own way with something to offer. There’s an old saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” PORAC stands united with our member associations from small to large, ready to defend our chosen profession.

As I write this article, we are preparing for our annual legislative day here in Sacramento on May 7. Every year in conjunction with the California Peace Officers’ Memorial ceremonies, we follow up with our legislators on issues related to law enforcement. For those who are paying attention, we will hit the capitol with our message regarding the current proposed legislation on use of force. AB 392, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, is a dangerous bill that does nothing to promote better outcomes. It only seeks a higher standard as it relates to deadly force in order to provide a pathway to prosecute law enforcement. Conversely, SB 230 —  authored by Senator Anna M. Caballero and sponsored by PORAC — has reasonable amendments to the laws regarding use of force by bringing the language up to current legal standards and requiring all agencies to have minimum requirements in their prospective agency policies/procedure manual. You can help us by speaking to your local elected officials and state representatives about these two bills. Tell them they need to support SB 230 and oppose AB 392. Here is a link to email your state representatives: www.porac.org/sb230.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, we are here to represent you, so feel free to contact President Marvel or me. Thank you and be safe out there!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

SB 230 and How You Can Help

If you are starting to notice a little redundancy in our articles regarding the debate between SB 230 and AB 392, we apologize. This issue dominates President Marvel’s life as well mine, and for good reason. We must commit our time and resources to this issue now more than ever. Currently, we are facing an unprecedented assault on the character of law enforcement. The mainstream media and our elected officials are doing their best to depict law enforcement as a callous establishment that shoots and kills persons of color without any accountability. This depiction of the men and women of law enforcement is extremely offensive to those who have served and continue to serve the profession with honor and integrity. This depiction couldn’t be further from the truth, but the truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The reality is that you have a greater chance of dying in a house fire or on an operating table than you do being shot by a police officer. If you follow the commands of the officer, your chances of being shot become almost zero. For whatever reason, the mainstream media and our elected officials have chosen to make law enforcement the enemy and make martyrs out of those who prey on our society. We are the thin blue line that stands between the public and those who prey on our communities. I fear the day when there are so few of us left to do the job that we are unable to keep our communities safe. If AB 392 passes as written, that day would be all but a foregone conclusion.

If we haven’t driven the point home, it’s time for you to get involved. We know from our everyday interactions with the general public that we have their support. Unfortunately, this isn’t being conveyed to the elected officials. We need you at the local level to help defeat AB 392 and support SB 230. PORAC recently sent out a digital activation alert that includes an FAQ and a link (www.porac.org/sb230) to send a letter of support for SB 230 to your representatives here in Sacramento. We need you to help get the general public’s support and encourage them to reach out to their representatives. The representatives in Sacramento must hear our supporters just as loud as those who hate us. We need you to meet with your local elected officials and garner support in the city and county governments. If possible, get them to make a resolution in support of SB 230. AB 392 only lays the financial burden and civil liability back on the local governments. Build coalitions with other groups outside of law enforcement, such as the building trades or your local chambers of commerce. Use your social media platforms to push out positive messages and generate support for SB 230. If possible, put together lobbying trips to meet with your representatives in Sacramento or in their district offices.  

If AB 392 passes, our law enforcement officers will no longer be judged by what a “reasonable officer” would have done in a similar situation. In the new standard, officers will be judged by information not known to them at the time of the incident and will be criminally prosecuted if their actions are deemed not necessary. I know most people are typically apathetic to politics and generally don’t pay too much attention until something is passed or it’s time to vote. We can’t wait for this to happen. We need a true grassroots effort to defeat AB 392 and to push back on the narrative that negatively depicts law enforcement. It’s time to rally the troops and fight back against this false narrative.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there!  

 

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

SB 230 and Advocacy

With the recent legislative activity regarding criminal justice reform at the state capitol and in Washington, D.C., I think it’s important to discuss advocacy and what that means. Every year, whether it’s at the local POA, DSA or here at PORAC, we as association leaders advocate for our members. This often means meeting with our elected officials and lobbying on your behalf to push through legislation we want or to kill legislation we don’t. We meet with all our elected representatives regardless of how we may personally feel about them. It is our responsibility to advocate for the membership and it takes numerous meetings and much persistence to succeed. Gone are the days when we could simply say this issue supports public safety and we would get the support we needed. 

Scrutiny and negative opinions of law enforcement have grown in recent years. Social justice organizations with a dislike for law enforcement have strong lobbying efforts here at the capitol. In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union was the No. 2 contributor to political campaigns; only big oil spent more money. We recognize that if we refuse to speak to our elected officials, we ensure that our voice will not be heard. Think about it this way, if we don’t speak to them, how can we get them to understand our issues and ultimately agree with us? By ignoring our elected officials, we would only make it easier for them to vote against us. The saying “You are either at the table or on the menu” has never been more accurate.   

Politics can be extremely divisive among our members. We tend to cling to a political party and our views of any particular elected official has more to do with the party affiliation letter behind the name rather than what he or she has done.  As elected representatives of PORAC, we cannot take a partisan approach to our mission because our issues in law enforcement are not partisan. My personal politics do not influence who or what I advocate for. I advocate for the good of the membership. These issues are thoroughly vetted with our Board members, who represent law enforcement across the state of California.

This year, one of our focal points will be use of force. In 2018, California law enforcement saw an unprecedented number of bills that were anti-law enforcement in nature. The worst was AB 931, which sought to limit the ability of law enforcement to use deadly force and to make officers criminally liable in those instances where it was used. It would have changed the standard applied by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor.  A similar bill, AB 392, has been introduced this year. This was no surprise to PORAC. We, along with a coalition of other law enforcement advocates, have developed legislation that addresses the issues that face law enforcement today. PORAC and our coalition partners have developed a comprehensive bill to address use of force and its causes: SB 230. Read the entire bill at www.porac.org/2019/02/porac-use-of-force-legislation-bill-language.

We cannot put all of society’s pressures onto law enforcement and expect that we have all the answers. We cannot truly address the issues surrounding use of force without addressing the events that led up to that use of force. Many of these incidents involve mental illness and substance abuse. SB 230 will address many of these issues, from requiring use-of-force policies and training to making sure that law enforcement has the wraparound services and resources to deal with these situations. It is our hope that by developing strong training and providing the proper resources, violent confrontations will have a peaceful outcome. 

This brings it back to advocacy. If we are to succeed in passing SB 230, we will all have to be strong advocates. We need all our members in law enforcement to help educate the public on the issues. Reach out to your elected representatives and let them know how they can support law enforcement. Let them know that backing SB 230 is how they can help.

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

One of the major benefits of PORAC membership is the ability to connect to other associations and network with colleagues on the challenges we face in law enforcement labor. Whether it’s at the bargaining table or in the political arena, having a group of our peers who can share experiences to help us with our own individual and association challenges is invaluable. PORAC strives to offer multiple opportunities for our members to meet and exchange information. From monthly local chapter meetings to our many training classes throughout the year to the annual Conference of Members, our goal is to make sure you have the tools you need to be successful. One of the best opportunities we provide in this area is the yearly PORAC Symposium, which is rapidly approaching.

The 2019 Symposium will be held at the Monterey Marriott April 9–10 (Tuesday and Wednesday). As always, we’ll present speakers and training opportunities designed to help you increase your knowledge about the pressing issues that affect our members now, as well as those that may loom in the future. This year’s event is focused on the theme of officer safety and wellness, a topic that seems particularly crucial as we mourn the deaths of 10 law enforcement officers nationwide within the first four weeks of January — five killed by gunfire, three struck by cars and two from heart attacks. This represents a huge increase in line-of-duty deaths compared to the same period in 2018 and a grim start to the new year. From ambush killings and traffic accidents to cardiovascular issues and PTSD, there are many physical and emotional threats facing our profession right now, and our training sessions will explore a variety of these issues as well as how we can best protect ourselves and others.

In addition to gaining knowledge from the experts, Symposium attendees will get to connect socially with their fellow members from around the state. PORAC is sponsoring a networking session for professional development on Tuesday evening, a great chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones while swapping stories and tips. These events truly demonstrate the beauty of PORAC — that there is strength in numbers when we join together for a common cause and share what we’ve learned with one another.

And what better way to achieve this than on a visit to the beautiful Central Coast of California? Especially if you haven’t experienced a Symposium before, I encourage you to join us this April. Even if your association can’t send a large contingent, it can be highly beneficial to have at least one representative participate and bring back what they’ve learned to share with the rest of your members and colleagues. Online registration is now open and it looks likely to be another sold-out event, so go to PORAC.org/events/symposium to sign up before our special room rate expires on March 15. I hope to see you in Monterey!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

This will be my first article as the vice president of PORAC, so I thought I would take a moment to tell those who don’t know me a little about myself. I was born and raised in California. Growing up, I lived in several communities and ultimately graduated high school from Nordhoff High in Ojai, located just outside of Ventura, in 1989. I then joined the Navy and became a Navy diver.

I spent my time in the Navy predominately in Norfolk, Virginia, and Sasebo, Japan, diving on submarines and surface ships performing repairs and maintenance. After leaving the Navy, I attended Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy and was later hired by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department in December 1994. In June 1998, I lateraled to the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department, and later to the Fresno Police Department in 2004.

I have worked a variety of assignments with three different departments, which gives me the ability to look at issues with a variety of perspectives. In 2008, I became active as an association leader. This was the start of the Great Recession and I became engrossed in what seemed to be constant negotiations with the city for concessions. I spent four years on the Fresno POA Executive Board before being elected to the first vice president position in 2012, and in 2016, I became FPOA president. It was during my time as FPOA vice president and president that I became active in PORAC, being elected as Region II Insurance and Benefits trustee in 2013 and later as its chairman, all of which has led me here today to represent you as your next PORAC vice president. I am looking forward to working hard for you and to a new partnership with PORAC President Brian Marvel.

As we head into the new year, I know there will be multiple challenges, none more challenging than what we face in the new California Legislature. With the Democratic supermajority, it will take an “all hands on deck” approach if we are to be successful. Brian and I will be here in Sacramento lobbying on behalf of PORAC and the law enforcement community, but that won’t be enough. We need everyone to be involved in this effort as we move forward. We need association leaders at the chapter level to be meeting with your elected officials and their staff at their local offices. When the call goes out, we need all of our members and their family to send letters to your representatives. Together we can change the narrative, but it will take all of us to make sure our voice is heard. I have a motto: “You are at the table or on the menu.” I believe we can do this with all of your help.

Lastly, as I start my new role as vice president, I have been asked what will I do differently, which is a bit of a loaded question. I am careful not to make any bold statements of change since I have not sat at the desk or walked in the shoes of those who have come before me. What I will say is I am committed to working hard for the membership of PORAC and to its mission. I will always be open to new ideas and I am not afraid to make changes as they are needed. My broader goal is to grow PORAC and to provide the best possible service to our members.