As I sat down to write this, my final article for PORAC Law Enforcement News, I thought of the many people I had met over the years and how fortunate I am that many of them had become close friends. Thanks to all of you for the profession you have chosen and the tremendous valor you show on a daily basis.
As the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas was unfolding several weeks ago, I received a text from one of my closest friends, Fred Rowbotham. He and his wife were attending the Route 91 Festival when the shooting started. As the texts continued and the picture got much brighter as to the severity of the shooting, I was concerned for my friend, his wife and all of his friends who were attending. As it became late in the evening and then early in the morning, we all learned that there were multiple fatalities from what appeared to be a single lunatic with a lot of guns.
The following morning, I began fielding many media questions regarding why there were so many law enforcement personnel at the festival in Las Vegas. I was asked that question during one of the first interviews, and I had a very simple answer: There are law enforcement members around us all of the time. Whether we are at a sporting event, church gathering or even a country music festival in Las Vegas, officers are everywhere because they are part of their communities. The media couldn’t understand why so many “off duty” law enforcement members rushed into the line of fire. That too was a simple answer: It’s what first responders are trained to do. We don’t wait for the scene to be secured or the shooting to have stopped. All of us are trained to make split-second decisions every single day. Thank goodness so many first responders were present. There is no doubt the death toll would have been much greater had it not been for the quick response of the brave men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), as well as off-duty members of other law enforcement and public safety agencies, and the military — all of whom ran toward the scene. Off-duty LVMPD Officer and military veteran Charleston Hartfield was one of them, and he gave his life that day to save others.
By the end of the first day, we learned that many members of the law enforcement community and/or members of their family had been victims of this tragedy. From agencies all over California, we were hearing of heroism, sacrifice, severe injuries or even death. This was, by far, one of the worst tragedies of our time. We will continue to keep all of these members and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Closing Out a Career
After 13 years as an elected officer of PORAC, the past four of them as PORAC President, and 32 years of service with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, I am retiring. From a boot deputy sheriff working graveyards in Santa Barbara, to transportation officer, field training officer and K-9 handler (Fritz was my best partner ever), to my last positions as senior deputy and detective, law enforcement has been an honorable and rewarding career. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I respect and salute all of you who have chosen this noble profession.
As association leaders, we all know that none of us could face the challenges if we did not have the support of our families. I am truly grateful to my family, especially my wife, Roxanne, for her unwavering support through the many challenges we faced over the years in PORAC. I want to thank my children — Jennifer, 19, Jacqueline, 15, and Stephen, 13 — for their continued patience with me, as I missed most of their firsts. From volleyball to Little League softball to football games, thankfully they all had a great mother in Roxanne, who continually filled in during my absence. I look forward to being at all of their future events.
It has been my pleasure to work with the entire PORAC staff, led by Kim Busman; the Insurance and Benefits Trust; the Legal Defense Fund Trust; and the Retiree Medical Trust. All of the trusts exist to bring you the best benefits possible. Thanks in particular to Ed Fishman for his many years of guidance and friendship.
Thank you to Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown for having the foresight to allow me the release time to serve as your elected PORAC President, and thanks to the Santa Barbara Deputy Sheriff’s Association for their years of continued support of me as well as PORAC.
I was blessed to be surrounded by the brightest minds and a vast amount of knowledge whenever we were called upon to put out messages to the community or the Legislature. It is all of you who make PORAC the leading law enforcement organization in California and the United States. Thank you for everything.
It has truly been an honor to work for all of you, and I wish you the very best.