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.

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

After 59 of these messages over the last five years, you’d think there wouldn’t be much more for me to say, but I think that there is. And while it could simply be summed up with “thank you,” I feel obligated to use my last bit of space here to express my appreciation for this opportunity. The last several years seem to have gone by so fast. Friends and colleagues have come and gone, and within the next month, I will be joining them, having done my part to take PORAC forward. Without regret, this is something that I look forward to.

Eleven years ago, the PORAC Board of Directors had a deep bench of leaders, and it was clear that our organization was as sharp and effective as ever; we beat back legislation that was bad and advanced law that was good for our membership. In joining the Board in 2010, I was very proud to sit with and learn from the fine group of men, all of whom brought our profession’s very finest to the table.

To my complete surprise, I was asked to run for PORAC vice president and joined the Executive Committee to help to take us even further ahead. These were large shoes to fill, as PORAC was as strong as anyone had ever seen. With a steady cast of Board members capable of doing this, moving the association either inches or miles depends on what each one brings to the table. New people mean fresh ideas. Fresh ideas mean new accomplishments. New accomplishments result in a stronger organization. It was an exciting time to jump in and do my part to foster the development of our membership and training programs, as well as to keep PORAC engaged at a variety of levels.

When I wasn’t completely re-imagining and ramping up the marketing of PORAC through the website redesigns, app development and re-branding of our materials, I was constantly on the road making presentations to local associations, new and old, talking about the value of being affiliated with our association. Having never been in sales, I found that boiling our mission and what we do down to Networking, Advocacy, Image, Training and Benefits really helped me explain to folks what PORAC does for them and why it’s important for our membership to stay connected.

I wouldn’t have been as successful at this without having an incredible staff of people who worked each day to make my job easier and to ensure that PORAC kept its focus on the issues that really matter and delivered benefits to you, the members. In particular, Finance and Administrative Manager Kim Busman made sure that I had the resources I needed to get the job done, and Angie Gonzales was the direct conduit to making membership, the crux of what I dealt with, always run smoothly. Training Manager Claude Alber helped me keep perspective about what really matters. Communications Manager Chris Steele helped my creative visions become reality and made them look good. And I am very proud to have had a hand in hiring the very best employees in Tori Tillman (RAM), Shon Sharma (Accounting), Jacquelyn Blow (Administration) and Amy Eubanks (Reception). I will certainly miss seeing them each morning, as they are always prepared and ready to deliver their best to you. And though I didn’t work with them as routinely, I will also miss IBT Manager Maria Jimenez and the great staff of the Insurance & Benefits Trust, with whom we share the office. I am very proud of the work our team does, and I am confident that our membership will always be taken care of if they have an issue that needs to be addressed. If you ever find yourself in Sacramento, please go out of your way to thank them for wanting to work for us.

When I became the leader of the Sacramento Police Officers Association in 2007, there were many things that I wanted to do, not the least of which was to better involve our association in PORAC and to use the benefit of our location in the state Capitol to be a force multiplier for our statewide association. I felt extremely fortunate to have been able to work with past presidents Ron Cottingham and Mike Durant; I learned from both that a lot has gone into building PORAC up to what it is today. Over the course of the last year, it has also been a pleasure to get to better know Brian Marvel, with whom I have enjoyed the opportunity to work, albeit for just a short amount of time. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all three for the insight I gained as a principal leader of our association.  

There will be many challenges ahead for the next Board of Directors. I believe that the infusion of new directors to the PORAC Board will not only strengthen, but also greatly help out the new leadership of PORAC. But it shouldn’t stop there. I cannot continue to stress enough just how important it will be for you to get involved! Don’t just stand by and wait for something to affect you directly before you take the opportunity to see what is going on at PORAC. The Board of Directors consistently needs your input and involvement. Challenge your representatives and make sure that they understand your position on the issues. They must hear from you. This is absolutely critical and necessary to the long-term effectiveness of PORAC, especially as we enter the next legislative session!

It’s been a great honor to have had your respect and support and to have been one of the few you chose to speak for the membership. I know that we have not always agreed on every issue, but hopefully the debates we’ve had here were thoughtful and respectful. It was certainly helpful to me to have heard your points of view, and I know that better decisions were made — or at the very least were better informed — because you took the time to write, call, email or drop in. I appreciated it, and I hope you continue to do what needs to be done to move PORAC forward. This will always be your association.

Many of you have heard me say that no one ever sits in the academy and daydreams about leading their association. It is a calling and is certainly something that you have to want to do or have a drive to do. Whichever it was for me, I do know that getting to know the great members we have within this organization always drove me to try even harder to do the best job I could for you. You deserve that, and I hope I did not fail you. Even on the worst days, being the vice president of PORAC was an honor because I had the opportunity to represent you — the very finest of the profession in the country.

Thank you for bestowing upon me the time and your trust in this great privilege of representing you and your association. 

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

By the time you read this, the midterm elections are upon us. The past few months have been especially chaotic in politics, with unprecedented change, uncertainty and anger. Americans witnessed a contentious and intense Senate confirmation hearing of a Supreme Court justice that exposed a schism between political parties and genders, unlike anything this generation has ever seen before. It’s indicative of a disturbing and uncomfortable shift away from how we expect things to proceed. 

In the past several years, a bitter and sharp public discourse have dominated public-policy issues. It’s disheartening because the level of professionalism and professional courtesy is seemingly nonexistent in our lawmakers. We seem to have plummeted in the name of justice into a sea of rhetoric.

I am even more frustrated and increasingly worried by elected officials’ targeted legislation toward our profession, which undermines our ability to safely and effectively protect our communities. Governor Brown signed three bills last month that are particularly troubling and are ones that are quite familiar to you by now.

AB 748, which was authored by Assembly Member Phil Ting, requires that video and audio recordings of a “critical incident” involving an officer’s use of force or a legal or policy violation be made available to the public. This bill, which goes into effect July 1, allows the recording to be withheld for 45 calendar days if the release would interfere with an active investigation, subject to extensions. Will this law compromise law enforcement investigations by prematurely releasing only one aspect of the evidence? We’re definitely going to find out. One thing is for certain:  agencies will need to do even more preemptive work to craft the message ahead of only one piece of evidence. Some are already doing this and, thus far, it seems to be nominally effective.

SB 1421, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner, gives the public access to records of investigations into police shootings, cases of police sexual assault and lying in police reports, beginning January 1. This includes personnel records of police, and all will be made available no later than 18 months after the incident. PORAC President Brian Marvel has said that officers who fear their names could be made public might hesitate in the field before they act, compromising safety.  He might just be right. And what will happen when an officer who has been identified encounters someone who has chosen to dispense their own personal brand of justice? The time has come to make a solid recommitment to our off-duty and personal safety, and to that of our families’.

SB 1437, which Skinner co-authored with Senator Joel Anderson, changes felony murder law so that some accomplices will not be liable for felony murder. Starting January 1, California can no longer treat accomplices in murders the same as if they were the actual killer. SB 1437 also allows felons sentenced under felony murder law to seek resentencing if they meet certain qualifications. This is probably the most troubling change to our criminal justice system. Eliminating any accountability for accomplices and those who help facilitate the most heinous crimes is a dangerous and ridiculous step backward for victims. Certainly the Legislature, the Governor or Attorney General will not be around to explain this victimization to Californians.

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news. AB 931, which PORAC strenuously opposed and would have redefined how peace officers use force, was shelved for the session. We know it will be back next year. In fact, PORAC is using the time in between legislative sessions to work on a new strategy for next year. Without a doubt, killing this impending bill will again be job #1 for our advocates.

Like you, I am greatly concerned by the sustained attack on law enforcement by social justice groups in the name of habitual criminals. These groups have been aided by politicians who would claim to be our friends. Last time I checked, friends look out for one another, not be complicit in attacking them. PORAC won’t let this go unchallenged and, like I just mentioned, is re-evaluating our relationships and support for those elected representatives who can’t support us on this.

So, where do we go from here and what can we do?

First and foremost, hopefully you voted during the midterm elections to ensure that your voice is heard. Voting is fundamental to our country’s system of governance, and we should never take it for granted. This may sound trite, but it’s our obligation to vote. Our nation’s Founding Fathers fought fiercely for self-determination. Simply voting is the very least one can do to defend that right.

As association leaders, we need also to hold elected officials responsible for their actions and the promises they made. Collectively, PORAC leadership, you, me and all our members need to review these individuals’ positions on the aforementioned legislation. Where did they stand? What have they said about AB 931? The stakes are too high to not keep this in mind for the next time you go to the polls.

So I guess what I am saying is that now is not the time to be disengaged. Publicly and/or directly reach out to your representative lawmaker to make clear your views. It’s time to start identifying, contacting and developing prospective candidates for the next election cycle and laying out your positions. Attend your PORAC chapter meetings and make sure that your chapter director, president and local association leaders know where you stand and what you expect from the PORAC Board of Directors. Stay in communication with them often to guarantee that we continually and effectively represent you.

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

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

After 18 years, more than $60 million and the efforts of thousands of people — both private citizens and cops — the National Law Enforcement Museum is finally set to open its doors. I’m excited to join with other PORAC leaders in a trek to Washington, D.C., to attend the October 13 grand opening event and celebrate this important benchmark in the history of our profession and our association. The PORAC Board of Directors has staunchly supported the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and its project of creating the first-ever museum dedicated to American law enforcement. The long journey to make this vision a reality spanned the tenures of two PORAC presidents, Ron Cottingham and Mike Durant, and we proudly contributed $500,000 to the effort, earning PORAC a place on the museum’s donor wall as a partner at the “Guardians of Justice” sponsorship level.

Our solid commitment to this project reflects PORAC’s leadership role in the national law enforcement dialogue, as well as our support for our membership. It represents a tribute to the sacrifices of the nearly 20,000 California peace officers who have lost their lives in furthering the noble ideals of our profession, as well as an appreciation for the continuing contributions of our members who protect and serve their communities every day. This museum will stand as a monument to heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, preserving and sharing the real and often untold stories of how law enforcement has shaped our nation. Its goal is to bring people together to learn about the past, discuss present issues and, ultimately, better understand each other. That’s a cause that’s more important today than ever before, and it certainly merits our enthusiastic support.

Appropriately located directly across the street from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall, the 57,000-square-foot museum has a world-class collection of more than 20,000 artifacts that depict the role that American law enforcement has played in society, from historic events to pop culture. But it’s not just a static series of displays — it will provide an immersive and interactive experience of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a law enforcement officer, through workshops, simulations, role-playing, firsthand real-life accounts, multimedia and educational programs. Visitors can use forensic science to crack a case, act the part of an emergency dispatcher, try an authentic training simulator, explore the day-to-day activities of law enforcement and more. Offering a variety of perspectives from virtually every aspect of law enforcement, the museum also tells the tale of how our profession has been transformed by technology, spanning from the Old West to today and from local to federal.

Last year, I had an opportunity to see the progress of this project and was overwhelmed by the scope of what it would become. I can hardly wait to see the finished result of so much hard work, passion and creativity. I hope all of you and your families will soon have the opportunity to travel to Washington and experience this wonderful tribute to our profession for yourselves. In the meantime, check out lawenforcementmuseum.org for a preview of its many features and exhibits.

Past President Mike Durant and I had the opportunity to participate in some of the video storytelling projects that will live in the museum for decades, and I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of something so historic. Furthermore, I’m beyond proud that PORAC was able to serve as a significant contributor to this landmark achievement. I want to publicly recognize and thank our many member associations who participated in the additional fundraisers held on the West Coast to help bring this project to its completion. We are humbled by the distinct honor that the National Law Enforcement Museum brings to all of law enforcement — those who shaped the profession in the past, those who have been taken from us too soon and those who serve today. Ultimately, we hope the museum leaves a lasting impression on all who visit, helping them recognize the positive role that peace officers play in our society and inspiring the next generation of law enforcement to join our ranks.

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Law Enforcement Needs to Engage Locally

Over a series of candid dinners with two dozen California legislators, several large law enforcement organizations and our advocates at Aaron Read & Associates, PORAC heard one constant refrain: Law enforcement needs to take the initiative and lead when it comes to engagement.

The dinners, the brainchild of Aaron Read and Assembly Member Evan Low, were held around Sacramento this summer to discuss the state of law enforcement in California, listen to attendees’ thoughts and gain their perspectives. I found the dinners — also attended by PORAC President Brian Marvel, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and California Association of Highway Patrolmen — informative and thought-provoking.

More law enforcement leaders need to be engaged in public discourse, both locally and on the state level, attendees agreed, adding that these representatives are really the only ones who can relate to what is going on in their communities. Not only that, we know the vast majority of the public supports law enforcement but waits to rally around us.

Clearly, the law enforcement landscape is changing, and the profession must change with it. We used to be able to count on the public and lawmakers for their vocal support. But the public is seemingly more swayed by the media these days, and lawmakers no longer seem to hold us up in such high regard anymore. We definitely can’t afford to take them at their word, because what they say and how they demonstrate their support is a growing divide.

It is easy to simply identify the problem, but what is the solution? You! As local law enforcement association leaders, you are in the best position to effect change.

How to implement that change, however, could be found in a variety of solutions. Drawing from my decade of leadership experience (five years at PORAC and five years at Sacramento POA), I’d like to offer my thoughts:

Identify the Up-and-Coming Leaders in Your “Sandbox”

The political “sandbox” is made up of all these folks (city council, board of supervisors, school board, Assembly, Senate districts, etc.) who aspire to represent your members’ families and issues when it comes to lawmaking. Certainly, you want to begin the relationship by getting in at the ground level. You just never know when one might make it to the big league! And by putting in the effort early and consistently nurturing it, you will begin to build the trust needed to get what you want in the future.

Attend meetings and pay attention. You should be going to your city council, board of supervisors, school district board meetings anyway, if they control your livelihood. If not, start by familiarizing yourself with their sandbox, identify what is important to them and see what you may be able to do to help. Knowing what is important to them is also paramount to getting what you want in the future. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and use interaction with your membership to educate them:

  • Take them on tours of your facility. (Your chief will probably also want a piece of this action, but don’t allow them to be escorted around without you.)
  • Take them on ride-alongs, or connect them with members who exemplify the best of your association through their work at the agency.
  • Sit in the communications center with them. It’s critical that they see the process and full picture of the work you do. Explain to them what your dispatchers do to get a sense of how a 9-1-1 call becomes a call for service, the actual response time, and how the job gets resolved. Many of your representatives really believe that the television show Law & Order is an accurate reflection of how quickly police work gets done. And we know it’s not!

Have Honest and Direct Discussions

  • Meet for coffee once a month at a location that’s neither your office nor theirs.
  • Introduce them to your association’s leadership and PORAC chapter. Explain what you, as well as PORAC, can do for them on the state level.
  • Demonstrate what you can do for them and articulate directly what they could do for you. Quid pro quo is inappropriate and can be unlawful if you’re talking contract negotiations, so never trade one thing for another.
  • Back them up when they help you out. Support them publicly with statements or, more prominently, on social media. Call them out when needed, but do so publicly, professionally and factually.
  • Don’t shy away from the tough conversations or shut them down when the issues are difficult. This is when the strongest relationships are made! But don’t let them run roughshod over you, disrespect your association or membership, or embellish the facts. Hold them accountable so that the public and your members see that you’re paying attention.

Remember, It’s Not Personal

It’s business (or politics). Don’t make it that way by spiking the ball or taking unnecessary personal shots. This is a tough game, and you can’t have thin skin if you want to play it.

These are just a few key recommendations to get you started. They may or may not be suitable for your association, as we all have different local circumstances that we have to live with today, of course. Being successful depends on your situation and, more importantly, how you respond to what is going on and changing around you.

Just as with the use-of-force continuum, you have to adapt to the environment you’re in, playing to your strengths, capabilities and available resources. Never is it more important than now that we step up and guide public discourse to improve relations and maintain the positive and professional image of law enforcement.

Let’s take stock in what we’ve learned from these law enforcement caucus dinners and lead!

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

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case, we want to thank you for your membership. Although we say it often, it’s never enough. You, your association and what you stand for are the reasons why PORAC is the largest statewide organization in the United States. Without your support and your affiliation with PORAC, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we do on your behalf in Sacramento. The Board of Directors recognizes the weight of what this means and appreciates the great level of trust that you have in us.

The Supreme Court’s Janus decision has raised a bit of confusion about who is entitled to receive PORAC benefits, specifically as it relates to participating in and receiving coverage within the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. According to our Bylaws and the Summary Plan Document respectively, participation in our LDF plan is limited to peace officers or public safety professionals who maintain membership in an association affiliated with PORAC. Legal defense coverage under PORAC LDF is not available, however, to individuals who choose to discontinue membership within their local association.

The Janus decision calls to the forefront questions about why remaining a member of PORAC is so important. What do you get from being a member of PORAC? This is always a substantial topic of discussion among the Board of Directors and at chapter meetings, and it will be even more so now. Because of this, we thought it timely to refresh your understanding of the benefits of membership, as you cannot obtain access to them unless you are a member and your association is in good standing with PORAC (i.e., your dues are paid up).

The most valuable benefit of PORAC membership is our ability to mobilize and interact with you. The strength of PORAC comes from our membership and their local associations, which bind us all together! PORAC’s leadership, Board of Directors and representatives cannot effectively respond to nor protect what is important to you unless you communicate that to us. The best place to do so is at your chapter meetings, which is why we regularly and strongly encourage your participation. All our members are welcome to attend, because that exchange of information is vital to our success in taking you where you expect us to go.

PORAC’s statewide advocacy program is also, undeniably, the most effective lobbying for peace officers in the state. Representing the voice of nearly two-thirds of California’s law enforcement and public safety members carries the great responsibility and ability to influence legislation and politics in a manner beyond that to which anyone else in our state can lay claim. Although our competitors offer comparable legal defense benefits and insurance products, none offers PORAC’s quality of representation. Moving legislation, rather than just merely showing up and supporting it, is what sets us apart and demonstrates the value of membership in our organization.

PORAC’s training and education programs not only introduce new association representatives to what they need to know and understand about running their organization, but also guide them on how to take their POA or DSA further ahead and to the next level. Solid courses in representing their own in Internal Affairs, as well as on the fundamentals of how to collectively bargain, are just two of the many training areas that we offer for our members. Taught by subject-matter experts who have a law enforcement association background and are active practitioners, our training is constantly evolving to address the current trends in negotiations and state law. In addition to our monthly training courses, PORAC’s Annual Conference and Training Symposium always provide the most current insight into the challenges on the horizon.

Finally, with full-time active peace officers serving as PORAC’s main representatives and a staff of individuals dedicated to your needs, our organization clearly has the resources to meet and exceed your expectations. We don’t operate out of a P.O. box, and we are certainly proud of the fact that we demonstrate that through our words and actions — such as sustaining meaningful scholarship awards for our members’ dependents throughout the state each year.

Networking, advocacy, training and benefits are all hallmarks of PORAC, along with working to ensure that the public image of law enforcement is a positive one. More detailed information about what we are doing for you can be found throughout this issue of your magazine and at PORAC.org, as well as within our social media.

If there was ever a time when we need to stick together, that time is now. Today, rallying behind the demonstrated influence and reputation that we have established over decades of the very best representation, PORAC is your very best choice to speak on your behalf in defense of our profession, and even more importantly, to make your association stronger. Again, thank you for your membership, have fun, and stay safe!

Vice President’s Message

Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President

Election Day in California is always very exciting for me, and the June 5 primary proved to be no exception. After the votes are cast, all you can do is wait with bated breath to see if your chosen candidates get to move on to the big November election. As much as I wanted to go to bed on Tuesday evening and just check the results in the morning, I couldn’t; I refreshed election tallies well into the night, feeding a need that only another political junkie could relate to.

As you know, PORAC was invested in all the statewide races, as well as dozens of local ones throughout the state. There were so many important contests to watch, and it was great to see that PORAC predicted the majority of the winners in the races where we endorsed. However, there were a few developments and surprises I found interesting in the primary that I wanted to share with you.

Statewide, I was surprised that the PORAC-supported gubernatorial candidate, Antonio Villaraigosa, failed to place among the top two vote-getters. The former mayor of Los Angeles finished with only 13% of the votes, falling behind Republican John Cox, who secured a second-place finish (26%). To add insult to injury, the Democratic rival, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, not only finished first (36%) but also came out on top in L.A. County, beating Villaraigosa in his hometown. While we’re upset by this loss, we now have to regroup and reconcile whether either of the top two candidates aligns, if at all, with our interests.

An unprecedented 11 candidates vied for the position of lieutenant governor. Many pulled out all the stops to stand out and attract voters, making this one of the most expensive races in the primary. Money certainly talked for first-place winner Eleni Kounalakis, a late entry into the race who narrowly took first with 24% of the votes. PORAC’s candidate, State Senator Ed Hernandez, came in second with 21%. Kounalakis received millions in endorsements, including $300,000 from pharmaceutical companies. It would seem that Big Pharma is backing her because of Hernandez’s challenge to the industry with SB 17, his drug-pricing transparency law that passed last year. While money seems to be no object for Kounalakis, I think it will take more than that to secure the top spot in November.

Perhaps one of the most curious race results was the ouster of State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), a PORAC-endorsed candidate and the first state lawmaker to be recalled in 23 years! He was recalled by almost 60% of the voters in his district, and former Assembly Member Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) was elected to replace him. This loss means that Democrats in the Senate will not have the two-thirds supermajority for the remainder of the year.

Constituents recalled Newman because of his support of SB 1 (Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017), otherwise known as the gas tax. Surprisingly, the gas tax has become a powerful issue for the California Republican Party, which led the campaign for Newman’s recall. Gubernatorial candidate Cox, among other Republicans, voiced his opposition to SB 1 on election night and vowed to repeal it if he gains office. Newman’s recall may see more conservative voters heading to the polls in November.

Locally, despite pouring in millions of dollars to back left-leaning candidates, New York billionaire George Soros failed to influence voters in three district attorney races. The victors — Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert (64%), San Diego DA Summer Stephan (64%) and Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley (59%) — handily mopped the floor with Soros-backed candidates in their respective races. Soros and his network of wealthy donors and activist groups have been attempting to reshape the criminal justice system nationwide; however, they seemed to underestimate how strong the support for law enforcement is in California.

In a surprising turn of events, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith was finally forced into a November runoff. Smith, who is the county’s longest-serving sheriff and running for her sixth term, is facing John Hirokawa, her former undersheriff, after failing to achieve 50% of the vote. Many are calling this runoff the most heated race in the county. Smith’s tenure has been filled with mounting controversies, including an incident in 2016, where she is alleged to have tampered with an internal affairs investigation, of which she was the target. This election will certainly be one to watch.

There were also a number of current and former association leaders and PORAC members challenging sitting incumbent sheriffs in five counties: Monterey, Sacramento, Shasta, San Joaquin and Stanislaus. Notably, in the San Joaquin race, the Valley Chapter’s very own Pat Withrow beat Steve Moore with 58% of votes to become the new sheriff-elect, despite Moore being the president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. We were extremely proud to see PORAC members take on these challenges.

Though we were not victorious in all the campaigns we supported, there isn’t a cause for anxiety. The PORAC Board of Directors is now assessing our next plan of action for November, deciding what’s in the best interest of our membership and considering the changes to the political landscape ahead. We still believe in those that we’ve endorsed, and will be working hard to get them elected. While this is much easier said than done, PORAC recognizes that not everyone gets what they want at times. At the end of the day, though, it’s all part of a bigger political process we engage in on your behalf in Sacramento, and we’re always trying to win for you. That said, we definitely want to know what you think, so sound off at your July and August chapter meetings and let us know. (Chapter meeting dates and locations can be found at PORAC.org/calendar.) Our Board will be meeting in August and likely will make decisions about our endorsements then.

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

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.