Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As we move into the summer months, there seems to be some movement toward a degree of normalcy. Businesses are starting to reopen and, hopefully, this means getting back to work for those who have been laid off. No one could have predicted the pandemic or the effects it would have across this nation, but the challenges to law enforcement are at the forefront for us here at PORAC. We continue to push legislatively for better testing of first responders and workers’ compensation protection should you be infected. With the governor’s executive order on workers’ compensation and the pending AB 664, I am confident we will be able to provide appropriate protection for our first responders.

Unfortunately, while there is positive news, there is also very concerning news. While everyone has focused on the pandemic, our legislators have been hard at work attacking the criminal justice system here in California. This is not a new attack, but what is different is how the “reform” is happening. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” our California lawmakers are taking full advantage of this crisis. With the pandemic at the forefront, a zero-bail policy was instituted, meaning the automatic release of most criminals arrested. Also, the early release of inmates in prison and county jails was instituted using the pandemic as the reason, stating the health of inmates as a concern. While many in law enforcement are aware of these actions due to media coverage, there continues to be a reshaping of the criminal justice system that seems to be flying under the radar.

With budget shortfalls looming, the governor has proposed the closing of two prisons in the state, which will result in the release of more felons into our communities. As if this wasn’t enough, the governor has created a “Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code.” You can find more information at clrc.ca.gov/CRPC.html. The committee is tasked with revising the penal code, specifically the reduction of prison sentences for most crimes. I would encourage everyone to watch the recorded meetings and voice your opinions to your state representatives.

Meanwhile, back in our local communities, our police officers and deputies are being asked to enforce stay-at-home orders. This is a no-win situation for our law enforcement community. Many people in our communities have become impatient with the speed at which the opening of businesses has gone. With so many at risk of defaulting on loans or simply being able to feed their families, tensions are high. Asking our officers and deputies to enforce what amounts to code enforcement violations is a recipe for disaster. If there is a new shutdown in the fall, it will put our members in a very tenuous position.

At PORAC, we are asking our police chiefs and sheriffs to focus on protecting our communities from criminal activity. Cities and counties should use other means of enforcement for businesses operating outside of state and local directives. The shutdown has created a financial crisis in this country that will renew the cry for pension reform and, most likely, budget cuts that will affect all our members. Just as it was in the last recession, we will again rely heavily on our communities for support in our local budget shortfalls. Will that support remain if we are active in shutting down our local businesses?

We will remain vigilant in protecting our members and providing quality services. Our training classes are set to resume soon to better assist you in the challenges to come.  Look for a newly developed peer support class later in the year and an advanced collective bargaining class. This class will be focused on current events and negotiating in a down economy. As always, feel free to contact President Marvel or me if you have any questions or concerns. Stay healthy and stay safe out there! 

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

May is a time for law enforcement and our communities to remember those we have lost and for the names of those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be enshrined on memorials so that we never forget.

Normally at PORAC, we are preparing for the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremonies and our annual Legislative Day at the Capitol. Instead, these events have been canceled and we are going on more than six weeks of sheltering in place. Although this year’s events have been canceled, we at PORAC will still take the time to honor our fallen officers. At the same time, we will continue to push for better protections for the officers still on the job. PORAC continues to lobby our state and federal leaders for better resources for first responders. Our priorities include making sure first responders have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and priority COVID-19 testing and making sure those who have been infected with the virus have a workers’ compensation presumption.

The disconnect with most elected leaders regarding what we do in law enforcement remains constant. This is why it’s so refreshing when you have elected officials like Assemblymember Jim Cooper, a former captain with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. It’s nice to have an elected leader who “gets it” when we approach him with our issues.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have remained focused on representing our members so that they can focus on keeping our communities safe. It’s our goal that we provide you with the best possible benefits here at PORAC.

As soon as the shelter order is lifted, PORAC and its staff are eager to get back to the business of representing our members. We will turn our focus to training classes that have been postponed and on this year’s Conference of Members at the Disneyland® Hotel. We have a number of training classes that we think will benefit the members; visit PORAC.org/training to see a list of trainings available. We are also in the process of developing a peer support class and an Advanced Collective Bargaining class. The Advanced Bargaining class will be held in October here at PORAC Headquarters in Sacramento. The class will cover issues related to negotiation in times of a down economy, which we are already hearing about due to the impact the current economy is having on contract negotiations.  

Although it was disappointing that we were forced to cancel this year’s Symposium, we have already begun planning for the 2021 Symposium, which will be held at a location in Dana Point overlooking historic Doheny Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We will once again host the POREF Open in conjunction with Symposium. After a few months of limited travel, I know I am ready to get our training and event schedule back to normal. I hope to see you at one of these events in the near future. 

Stay safe and healthy out there! 

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

March started like any other month for us at PORAC. Our staff was focused on their normal duties, but mostly on Symposium, which was approaching fast. It’s important to us at PORAC to provide our members with a meaningful experience, whether it’s at a training class or a larger event like Symposium or Conference. This year’s Symposium would have culminated in our first golf tournament, the POREF Open, benefiting the Peace Officers Relief & Education Fund.

While at PORAC it was business as usual, President Marvel and I traveled to Washington, D.C., for our annual fly-in with the Executive Committee, ready to take our advocacy efforts to the nation’s capital. We began our trip with an Executive Committee meeting to conduct normal PORAC business such as approving membership applications, and to prepare for our meetings with our congressional and Senate leaders. At that point, on Tuesday, March 10, the coronavirus (COVID-19) was more of a white noise in the background. Although everyone was aware of the virus, there was not a noticeable worry felt by any of us in the room.

By the end of our trip, there was talk of shutting down the Capitol, and many of the elected officials were no longer meeting in person. My flight home on Friday the 13th was filled with people wearing latex gloves and protective masks, a stark change from the trip out on Monday. And as I write this article, we have a statewide order to “shelter in place” and people are desperately hoarding toilet paper for some reason. PORAC has had to cancel Symposium, the POREF Open and training events. To say it’s been a surreal month would be putting it mildly.

Although we are a nation in crisis mode, at PORAC we are still focused on representing our members. We know that it’s our first responders who will be leading us through this difficult time. Our elected officials and others will steal the spotlight, but it will be you who will provide a calming presence in our communities — a familiar face there to say, “Everything is going to be OK.” At the end of the day, our first responders will always answer the call. That’s why at PORAC we are busy communicating with the Governor’s Office and at the federal level for the protection of our members. We are requesting additional resources for agencies to provide personal protective equipment to our law enforcement and firefighters. We are pushing for additional presumptions for workers’ compensation as it relates to the coronavirus so that our members are covered if they contract it. Our members will be at a higher risk, and that needs to be recognized.

When the dust settles and a sense of normalcy resumes, we will continue to provide our usual services. Our training will resume and, although the 2020 Symposium is lost, we can focus on our upcoming annual Conference of Members in November at Disneyland. When we can meet again, I hope to see you at one of our events.

As always, if there is a way PORAC can assist you or your association, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to President Marvel. Thank you for your service, and stay safe out there!

PORAC COVID-19 Resource Page

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

By the time this article reaches you, the March primary elections will have taken place. In previous issues of the magazine, President Marvel and I have written articles on the importance of being engaged in the political fray at the local level. I wanted to take a moment to reiterate the importance of engaging at the local level. PORAC’s advocacy starts with you, the individual member. For us to be successful in our lobbying efforts at the state and federal levels, we need the help of our members and their local associations in the districts. This election cycle will be as important as ever. No race is as important as the Los Angeles County district attorney’s race. It will take a concerted effort to keep this office from falling to a candidate like George Gascón. His progressive, anti-police agenda has handcuffed San Francisco law enforcement from protecting the city, and he seeks to do the same in Los Angeles. 

Often, politics become a heated topic among the member ranks as those argue why the associations endorse certain candidates and whether we should be involved. I have said it a thousand times, “You’re either at the table or on the menu.” Sitting on the sidelines gains you no favor with any candidate. It’s important to remember that when it comes to association and PORAC endorsements, there is typically a strategy involved. In most cases, many individuals vote on a straight party-line based on their chosen party with no regard for the viability of the person they are voting for. At the PORAC level, we cannot be beholden to a party line. Instead, we look for candidates who are more on the moderate side and are supportive of law enforcement and the benefits we receive. Unfortunately, those candidates are somewhat rare, and we are left trying to keep the bad ones out. If we had 100 candidates like Assemblyman Jim Cooper, I wouldn’t have to write articles about the minefield of Californian politics. In the end, I’m asking that you get involved rather than get angry. There’s enough anger in politics without us adding to it. 

At the risk of being redundant, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the first annual POREF Open Golf Tournament on April 23. The event will be held in conjunction with our annual Symposium in sunny Palm Springs. This will be our first fundraiser for PORAC’s relief and education fund. It will be a good time for all, with tons of swag. If you don’t play golf, that’s OK; it’s a best-ball tournament. In the end, it’s more about the cause and the people you are with. Our goal is to make sure everyone has a good time, and the money raised will go to relief efforts and our scholarship fund.  Symposium & POREF Open Registration

Lastly, remember to take a look at our Fund a Hero page. If you see a Fund a Hero fundraiser on your social media, make sure you like and share it. Thank you, and be safe out there!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

When I speak or write about PORAC, I often list our benefits, which can be found on our website, PORAC.org. It’s easy to point out what PORAC offers to its members and how it benefits them. The reality is that the most valuable benefit of PORAC membership is the members themselves. I am always amazed to see the amazing family we have in the law enforcement community. Acts of heroism and compassion are the norm, even in the face of adversity. I feel a sense of pride knowing I get to represent such an incredible group of people. Even though law enforcement seems to be the focal point of negativity from the media and our elected officials, rest assured that PORAC will continue to push back against this narrative and highlight the amazing job our members do every day.

A testament to the compassion of the law enforcement family has been shown in the recent introduction of our Fund a Hero program. We have had a handful of campaigns for our member associations and have raised around $85,000 so far. We will continue to work on improving ways we can help our members in need. It’s disappointing that we still see instances of fundraising platforms that take more than they advertise and make it difficult to get the money to the designee once it is raised. PORAC’s Fund a Hero program makes no profit and disperses funds quickly so that those in need are taken care of. If you see a Fund a Hero campaign on your social media feed, make sure you like and share it. Help us spread the message so that the campaigns can be more effective.

Meanwhile, registration for the 2020 Symposium is open at PORAC.org/events/symposium. Scheduled for April 21–23 in beautiful Indian Wells, Symposium is a pared-down version of our annual Conference that is more focused on training and education instead of bylaws and elections. Symposium is an excellent place to network with your peers in law enforcement labor and meet with panel attorney firms and vendors. This year’s list of presenters will cover a wide range of topics, from a legal defense case overview by Allison Berry Wilkinson to Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Darling’s discussion on crisis management. He will discuss what it was like to be inside the presidential bunker in Washington, D.C., during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Finally, you will hear from retired Phoenix Police Officer Jason Schechterle about his horrible on-duty accident and his inspirational story of perseverance.

This year’s Symposium will culminate with the first annual POREF Open Golf Tournament. We hope you come out and enjoy the event, even if you cannot attend Symposium. The tournament will be held on the Firecliff Course at the Desert Willow Golf Resort. I had the opportunity to tour the course during Conference, and I was not disappointed — it is truly one of the prettiest courses I’ve seen. For avid golfers, this course will be a treat, with a chance to win $25,000 with a hole in one. For normal hackers, as the majority of us are, this will still be a fun event. There will be vendors on the course with plenty of activities, like an air cannon to shoot your golf ball down the fairway. The day will end with a raffle of cool prizes. The proceeds will go to POREF so that we can continue to help in times of crisis and provide quality scholarships. I hope to see you out there.

Take care and be safe!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As we enter the new year, it’s a chance to start fresh, and we all have hopes of a quiet year here in Sacramento. Unfortunately, we know we will have similar challenges to face in the coming year here at the Capitol. The trend of attacking law enforcement from both the media and from the Legislature does not seem to be waning. It appears there will be additional battles to be fought both in the Legislature and in the court of public opinion. We are hearing rumors of a bill focused on the ability to revoke POST certificates for officers as part of discipline. It’s legislation like this and last year’s use-of-force legislation that makes it so vital to have a strong presence in the Capitol.

As effective as PORAC is at the Capitol, we still need your help at the local level. We know through polling that our communities overwhelmingly support law enforcement. Unfortunately, this support does not always show in the mainstream media or at the ballot box. The vocal minority is ruling the day. We can change this narrative by simply being more engaged in our communities.

I know most officers choose not to be engaged in the political process, and I don’t blame them. In this era, people are attacked for having an opposite opinion. Who wants to be attacked for their opinion? Many political candidates are registering as independents as the environment becomes more divisive. We can make a difference and change the false narrative. If we as representatives took the time to write op-ed articles to our local papers and speak of the good our officers do every day, we could challenge the narrative that is being pushed by the mainstream media with respectful rebuttals. Take the time to educate your friends and neighbors on the issues, and we will see a difference.

Lastly, we need to start focusing on candidates who are about common sense. We must look at candidates based on their stance on issues rather than the political designation. As easy as this may sound, it is hard for people to vote for someone in the opposite party they identify with. If we don’t work together to change the narrative on law enforcement, who will do this job in the future? We all have seen the challenges in recruiting new officers. Candidates who are passionate about the profession are dwindling, and many do not see this as a long-term career. It is up to us to push back and protect this noble profession. PORAC will be there fighting back, and I hope you will be, too.

On a lighter note, I want to point out that PORAC has several upcoming trainings, and I hope you take advantage of what we have to offer. In April, we will be back in Palm Springs for the annual Symposium, which will culminate in our first-ever golf tournament, the POREF Open. This will provide additional resources to our relief and scholarships, along with additional opportunities for networking with our membership. Our Fund a Hero program is up and running, with several causes in need. Please take the time to visit the website at PORAC.org/fund-a-hero and support our members in need if you are able. I look forward to this new year and the challenges it may bring. Thank you and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

With the completion of our 67th Annual Conference of Members, we enter the holidays. This gives us time to reflect on this past year and gear up for the challenges 2020 may hold. For me, I look back on this past year as a learning experience. Even though I have been heavily involved in PORAC as an association president and as IBT chairman, you never really know what to expect from a position until you are doing the job. The year was not absent of its challenges — none more prevalent than the legislative fight overuse of force. This was in addition to all the day-to-day issues that arise from operating an organization such as PORAC. With over 70,000 miles traveled this past year, it was truly challenging to be everywhere we are needed — most of all, home.

I spoke at Conference about the increased need for officer wellness and PORAC’s desire to provide membership with resources in this area. As I spend time with my family during the holidays, I try to focus on them but cannot help being preoccupied. I am troubled by the growing crisis in our first responder community with stress-related illness and suicide.

Peer support and wellness programs are a must in this environment. It’s not hard to see why there is such a need, with the constant bombardment of negativity thrown at law enforcement these days. Whether it’s on social media or in the mainstream media, there seems to be a strategy of character assassination of our profession. To make matters worse, many of our elected officials see this as an opportunity to attack us as well. It has encouraged an environment void of respect for law enforcement and, in some cases, has led to physical assaults on our officers. Is it any wonder that there is a need for wellness programs? PORAC has started to focus in this area with POWER Project training, which emphasizes wellness and resiliency. These classes are free and will be held in various areas throughout the state. Go to PORAC.org/training/porac-power-project/ for more info. Whether it is through training, the Fund a Hero program or connecting the membership with resources, PORAC will be committed to making an impact in this area.

President Marvel and Vice President Kurtz with Mountain View Police Department Deputy Chief Chris Hsiung

Politically, President Marvel and I will remain vigilant at the state Capitol with our lobbyist, Randy Perry. We know there will be bad legislation coming, and we will be prepared to do what we can to stop it. We will continue to push legislation to benefit the membership and be a strong voice for law enforcement. We need you and your associations to help us in this endeavor. Be engaged at the local level and force a dialogue with your elected officials.
Be active in your community and push forward a positive message.

The media may not want to focus on positive stories of our members doing good in the community, but we can. Use your social media to push back on the negativity and tag #porac so we can help. We know there is still tremendous support for us in the community, but they are the “silent majority.” We need to motivate them to be more vocal, especially at the ballot box. We can be effective in pushing back on this false narrative if we work together.

I would like to end this article with a thank-you to the membership. Thank you for your continued support for PORAC and for me personally. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the profession and the communities you serve. I hope you all have a blessed Christmas with your families, and as always — stay safe out there! 

 

 

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As PORAC’s vice president, I am tasked with recruitment and retention. I often write about the positives of being a PORAC member, describing the benefits of our trusts: LDF, IBT and RMT. Another area where PORAC is truly effective is advocacy. I have mentioned this in previous articles, but it seems to be a topic that comes up often. It’s probably one of the most important roles we have in representing our member associations, and it is also one of the most misunderstood by individual members. When speaking of advocacy, we are talking about politics — which are so divisive in today’s society, and it is no different for our membership. As association leaders, we must represent our association and not our personal politics, which can be particularly difficult given the political climate. What I mean by this is that PORAC and your local association cannot be seen as Republican or Democrat. The goal of law enforcement labor has been to protect the benefits of our members, as well as to ensure safe working conditions for them. In the current environment, it is becoming increasingly challenging to do both. We often receive pressure from our members to support candidates or causes that may fit their personal politics but are counterintuitive to the overall goal of the organization. In many cases, there is a belief we should not be involved in politics at all. This is the reality of association leadership.

The reality is that politics are part of every facet of our lives. It starts at home with our family, lobbying for who sits where or who gets the last piece of cake. It carries over at work, lobbying for which assignment we get and so on. This is no different than the local association lobbying its agency or government for a better contract, or PORAC lobbying for or against legislation.

Advocacy is probably the single most important thing we do as association leaders, and it is overwhelmingly where President Marvel and I spend the most time and effort. You will often hear me say, “You are at the table or on the menu.” Advocacy is a nonstop job that doesn’t end at meeting with your elected officials. It is being involved at every level possible. Politics is about building relationships. An obvious place to start is with your relationships with elected officials, but the principle extends to other groups in your community. Who else influences your elected officials — other unions, the chamber of commerce, the Lincoln Club? Advocacy does not stop when the meeting is over; it carries over into our personal lives. It often continues after hours and on weekends, when we are with our families. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the relationships and reputation necessary for an organization to be effective in its advocacy. It can take years to build and can be lost in the blink of an eye.

This is what makes PORAC’s efforts so successful: years of intensive advocacy and building relationships, with both elected officials and other groups. The hard work of current and past PORAC leaders and our representatives at Aaron Reed & Associates has ensured that we will have a strong voice in our Capitol. We will continue to work hard and represent you, but we need your help as well. Stay engaged with your local association and at the chapter level. Ask questions and make sure you are informed before you rush to judgment.

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As vice president, I focus much of my time on the recruitment and retention of our associations. One of the “perks” of the job is getting to talk to members about PORAC and the benefits of membership. In my time as an association leader and later in my involvement in PORAC, it was always comforting to know we had protections and benefits available to us. This is where the saying “membership has its privileges” holds true. When someone asks, “Why PORAC?” it’s an easy conversation. PORAC membership gives access to several benefits available exclusively to you as a member of PORAC. Whether its advocacy by the Board, health and disability with the IBT, legal defense with LDF or retiree medical with the RMT, we strive to provide the best possible benefits to our membership. Each of our trusts is managed by active officers elected by the membership. Our trustees and directors are working cops representing your issues and concerns — we are “cops protecting cops.”

Although there are other organizations out there, it’s my opinion that none of them can compare when it comes to the exclusive benefits we provide to our 922 associations. “Exclusivity” is one of the things that makes PORAC membership so valuable. For example, only PORAC members can receive benefits through each of the PORAC trusts, such as LDF. A benefit of LDF is that other than a few select independent organizations, only PORAC members have access to PORAC panel attorneys. Our attorneys are unmatched in their knowledge and experience when it comes to defending law enforcement. Having vetted, proven attorneys available to you is an invaluable asset for our members. If I were ever in need of an attorney, I couldn’t imagine having to do a Google search or check a Yelp review to find representation. Knowing that as a PORAC member you only need one phone number to get the best attorneys available should allow you to rest easy. I could give multiple examples of the exclusive benefits PORAC offers in each of our trusts. What I’m saying is that PORAC has you covered. No other organization can provide the same level of benefits, advocacy and representation from within to shape how these benefits are given.

Another big part of my role as VP is advocacy. Along with President Marvel, I attend several meetings and events to lobby on behalf of PORAC and public safety. Now that bills AB 392 and SB 230 have been signed by the governor, we will turn our focus to the federal level. The Executive Committee will travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby our representatives on issues facing law enforcement at the national level, such as violence against police officers. PORAC is in the process of developing a bill with Congressman Correa (SD34) that will provide a study on assaults on law enforcement officers. The goal is to identify trends and provide recommendations, such as staffing. Upon our return, we will focus our efforts toward the 67th Annual Conference of Members in Palm Springs. We hope to provide all of you with a memorable experience as we conduct needed year-end business for the membership. I hope to see you there; it’s a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Take care and be safe!

Vice President’s Message

Damon Kurtz
PORAC Vice President

As we head toward the end of summer, President Marvel and I are staying concentrated on our efforts at the Capitol regarding legislation, specifically the use-of-force bills. AB 392 has passed through the Legislature after many amendments from its original form. We now remain focused on SB 230, which deals with policies and training, including funding to accomplish the training. We believe AB 392 in its present form codifies the Graham v. Connor standard. With the passage of these two bills, California will have the most extensive legislation on use of force.

Although this started as a negative, I believe that solidifying the use-of-force standard and bringing a minimum standard of training and policies to all agencies will help law enforcement be more effective going forward. This current legislation was a result of a lot of hard work and collaboration with many law enforcement groups across the state. Although we may have different memberships, we have a common bond of representing law enforcement. We are stronger together as the voice of law enforcement when we focus on the profession as a whole, rather than the individual issues of our respective associations. United we stand, divided we fall.

While Brian and I are focused on the Capitol, the PORAC staff is focused on the 67th annual Conference of Members. So much hard work by our staff goes into bringing events like this to the membership. Make sure you thank them when you see them at Conference. This year’s event will be held November 22–24 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort. The Conference of Members is probably the single best networking opportunity for association leaders and members. It provides a venue to speak with attorneys, vendors and, most importantly, other association members. It’s an opportunity to seek insight and strategies for the current issues you may be dealing with at the local level.

For some, it’s an opportunity to share their experiences with others. I have often heard people say about an event or training, “I didn’t get much out of it.” If you are an experienced association leader, I ask you to look at it from the perspective of what you are giving to the event. Your experience and advice could be the best piece of information received by another member. This is what makes PORAC so unique — its diversity of membership. We have 922 associations spanning the entire state. Our associations represent police, sheriffs, custody, probation and many more specialty groups, like school police. The Conference of Members is where all the knowledge and experience gather in one place. We provide the venue, but you provide the experience, through not only what you get but also what you put into the event. I hope to see you there.

In the coming months, you will see a more focused PORAC when it comes to officer wellness. From speakers at this year’s Conference to upcoming training, we want PORAC to be a resource for our officers’ well-being. PORAC recently received a POST grant to focus on officer wellness and will have more information on classes in the near future. Peer support and support for our law enforcement family is an integral part of what we do as association leaders. We at PORAC want to be a partner and a resource to our associations in building and maintaining peer support and officer wellness programs.

In the coming months, you will also see the implementation of PORAC’s online fundraising mechanism. This will offer associations a way to fundraise for their members who are in need of financial support. PORAC wants to provide a more cost-effective way to fundraise and limit fraud and abuse. As I’ve said before, it’s our goal to help our associations in the representation of all of our members. Thank you, and stay safe out there.