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.