Capitol Beat – Officer Wellness, Elections and the Future

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Officer Wellness Budget Proposal

Peace officers experience more trauma throughout their careers than most people do in a lifetime. What others only see in headlines, our officers will likely come face to face with during their career. Without the resources to cope and manage the stress and trauma associated with being in law enforcement, our officers’ health and well-being are compromised. This year, PORAC is standing in strong support of the Officer Wellness Budget Proposal submitted by the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). This proposal appropriates $40 million out of the general fund to support peace officer wellness and mental health programs across California.

A report from the United States Department of Justice analyzing programs from around the country has highlighted successful approaches to improving officer wellness and mental health that are proven to decrease depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) among officers. Many of these conditions have resulted in a suicide rate that may be three times the rate of the general public. The health and safety of our officers is of the utmost importance to us, and we will support any effort to improve the quality of life for the brave men and women who protect our families, homes and streets.

The $40 million proposed from the general fund will go to supplement existing funds to expand eligible programs that must meet the goal of improving officer wellness. Funds to each county will be used to support the following best practice programs that have been effective in improving officer residency and overall health:

  • Stress management training
  • Training in personal nutrition, exercise and self-care
  • Counseling with mental health professionals with expertise in first responder trauma
  • Access to self-service apps
  • Establishment of early warning systems
  • Expanding access to exercise and physical fitness
  • Development of mentorship programs
  • Access to mindfulness and yoga classes
  • Funding for Mental Health Services Units
  • Expanding access to crisis hotlines
  • Incentivized mental and physical health checks

Elections

In every election cycle, PORAC works very closely with our local associations on endorsements. We are a grassroots association, and the power of our group comes from listening closely to our members. The POAs, DSAs and chapters provide direction to the PORAC Executive Board of Directors on endorsements in their area.

Below is a survey of the results from the primary election on March 3.

PORAC chose to actively endorse in 39 of the 80 Assembly races. With the exception of Sylvia Rubio in Assembly District 57, our endorsed candidates came in either first or second, which allows them to move on to the November 3 general election. The competitive nature of the primary races requires us to research the candidates with greater intensity and understand more completely the politics of California’s neighborhoods.

Half of the 40-member Senate is up for election every two years. This year, the odd-numbered seats were on the ballot. After listening to our local members, PORAC made the decision to endorse in seven of the 20 Senate races. Working together, we successfully predicted the winner in six races.

There was one special election in Senate District 28, where former Senator Jeff Stone was appointed by President Trump to the U.S. Department of Labor. Assemblymember Melissa Melendez, whom PORAC endorsed, was one of five candidates in the race. While she received a majority of the vote, she did not receive more than 50%, which means a runoff will take place on May 12. As of this writing, the race is still too close to call for second place.

Fifty-three California congressional races were presented to the voters. PORAC membership asked for an endorsement in 20 races. We successfully predicted the outcome in 19 races.

Legislation

PORAC is following hundreds of bills during this legislative session that have a direct and significant impact on the way you do your job. The bills are consequential and, unfortunately, many are drawn from headlines rather than research. The target of these bills is the way the laws of California are enforced, which means they could impact the manner in which PORAC keeps the streets of our neighborhoods safe.

To follow PORAC’s current list of priority bills, please see the legislative bill chart in this issue, or go to PORAC.org/advocacy/legislation-overview for a link to PORAC’s interactive bill chart.

The Future 

The next couple of years are not going to be easy for any of us associated with law enforcement. Tough stories appear almost daily, and all of us read them. They impact us on the job and they impact the way we will prepare for our job. PORAC will continue to be the voice for law enforcement in California and provide the real-world insights that come from being the first line of defense.

Capitol Beat – RIPA in the Real World

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

In October 2015, AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), authored by Assembly Member Shirley Weber, was signed into law. This dangerous and poorly crafted measure was strongly opposed by PORAC since it was first introduced, but the political dynamic has changed so much since Ferguson that the amount of support for the bill was staggering. The author claimed that her bill “would prevent profiling by, among other things, clarifying and modernizing California’s current prohibition against profiling to better account for the ways in which profiling occurs, establishing a uniform system for collecting and analyzing data on law enforcement–community interactions, and establishing an advisory board that investigates profiling patterns and practices and provides recommendations on how to curb its harmful impact.” The language is more rose-colored than the real-world implications.

Aaron Read & Associates testified on behalf of PORAC, making two salient points. First, that the bill would codify, for the first time in history of law enforcement, the mandatory profiling of citizens by law enforcement. Second, that AB 953 would clarify that the aggregate information being collected had no way to individually identify an officer gathering the stop data.

The Department of Justice did not waste any time establishing the board. The chosen board includes attorneys, community and spiritual leaders, university professors, civil rights activists and current law enforcement officials. Among the 18 board members, President Mike Durant has been selected as the only rank-and-file representative and one of only four law enforcement representatives. This recognition speaks volumes as to where PORAC stands as a law enforcement leader in California. Yet our voice is hard to hear on a board where the majority appears less than concerned about the safety and security of our officers. Already, the subjective RIPA Advisory Board has gone substantially beyond the requirements of AB 953.

Law enforcement obviously has grave concerns with the direction of the RIPA Board and the adverse impact of the DOJ’s proposed regulations relating to stop data. PORAC leadership, Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman, Mike Rains from Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, Aaron Read & Associates, and Marketplace Communications worked together to examine the proposed regulations and respond with a letter and talking points for the January board meeting. To summarize, law enforcement has the following concerns with the RIPA regulations.

The DOJ did not give sufficient consideration to the potential economic and public safety impacts of these regulations. The RIPA requirements have significantly expanded the amount of data required to be collected at each stop. It may appear on first blush that 10 to 15 minutes of an officer’s time to report the required data forms will not have major impact, but if you consider the total number of stops conducted each year, the statewide aggregate time complying with these proposed regulations cannot be discounted. We fully understand that the data collection minimally required by AB 953 is the law; however, the potential consequences need to be considered before proceeding with the regulations.

Additionally, the promise of officer confidentiality is being compromised with what the DOJ is calling a unique identifying number. Prior to AB 953 becoming law, PORAC and other stakeholders were repeatedly assured that the individual identifying information regarding officers would never be released or made available to the public. This is critical for the protection and safety of any individual officer and their family, as the data collected may be misconstrued or taken out of all reasonable contexts. Although the legislation makes clear that individual officer identification must remain undisclosed through the aggregate data published by the DOJ, that same information is not similarly protected through court orders or public records requests filed with the individual agency.

President Durant eloquently raised this issue at the January board. Durant made a motion to have the Attorney General opine as to whether or not the unique identifying numbers and their related personnel would be subject to public disclosure. While Durant’s motion originally passed, a substitute motion was later made and passed to reverse President Durant’s original motion. This sudden shift, in the matter of an hour, unequivocally demonstrates the partiality of the board. We have an uphill battle ahead, with clear enmity directed toward the men and women of law enforcement.

We know that law enforcement officers do their best to protect and serve. While we believe that many of the issues raised are real and deserve addressing, we continue to make significant strides to create solutions that will work in the real world.

The disappointing results of the January RIPA Board meeting force PORAC and the other law enforcement board members to seek the Attorney General’s opinion outside of the RIPA process. Because the regulations are still in the drafting and approval process, PORAC will continue to work to guarantee that officer’s privacy and safety are considered in the final regulations relating to stop data.