The newly introduced bill will raise the bar for recruitment and education standards in the state while increasing diversity and opportunities for higher education
Sacramento, CA — Today, Senator Anthony Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) introduced SB 387– the Law Enforcement Academic and Recruitment Next (LEARN) Act – sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) and the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). The LEARN Act will create increased opportunities to recruit a more diverse pool of prospective officers, require more academic coursework as part of the required training each officer must receive, and provide financial resources for both prospective and current officers to pursue a college education that will help to prepare them for the rigors and adversities inherent to modern-day policing.
“Community policing is more complex than ever, and we need officers that reflect our diverse communities and adapt to their values. The basic functions and duties of an officer have changed immensely over the years, but the recruitment strategies, pre-requisite training and types of education we expect our officers to have needs updating,” said Senator Anthony Portantino. “The LEARN Act will allow us to recruit, educate and train California’s next generation of peace officers and better prepare them to carry out their duties in a way that is consistent with the expectations communities place on officers today.”
This bill represents the first of many steps that will need to be taken as leaders in California law enforcement work together with our elected officials to chart a new path forward for the public safety profession – ensuring that California is on course to have the best and most highly educated officers in the country by the end of the decade.
“We must do more to show the value of a career in law enforcement as an honorable profession worthy of pursuing for all of California’s youth, regardless of their background, race, gender or financial status,” said Brian Marvel, President of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC). “If we are to truly improve public safety outcomes, we must seek to facilitate a cultural shift, both within the law enforcement profession but also externally in the way officers are viewed by members of the public.”
Today’s line officers and leaders must meet a wide variety of challenges including, evolving technologies, changing laws, new cultural mores, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and a growing mental health crisis. Study’s and research from public safety experts throughout the country consistently show that increased education and training can help officers to approach each interaction in a way that is proven to increase positive public safety outcomes in our communities.
“While training and education requirements for California’s officers are already amongst the highest in the nation, we want to continue to lead and raise the bar not only for our in-service personnel but our entry-level recruits, as well,” said Eric Nunez, President of the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). “It has become clear that the 685-hour police academy mandated training required by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST) is not sufficient to cover all the new legislative requirements that have been established in recent years. We look forward to working with our elected leaders, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders across the state to help develop and refine proposals that will place our officers in the best possible position to serve our communities the way our communities want to be served.”
The LEARN Act will set California’s next generation of peace officers up for success while helping to repair the trust that officers need to carry out their duties safely, effectively, and in a way that reflects our shared California values. The LEARN Act will:
- Establish statewide outreach teams comprised of active law enforcement, community members and educators.
- Actively share our experiences and provide younger students with the opportunity to learn from and ask questions about the role of law enforcement in our daily lives.
- Provide opportunities for older students to learn about how they can pursue both a career in law enforcement and a college degree.
- Establish a statewide law enforcement education fund to expand access to college degree programs for both prospective and current officers.
- Develop an expanded curriculum specifically designed to prepare officers to meet the expectations of a modern police force, including classes on mental health, social services, psychology, communication and more – a requirement for officers looking to move up in the ranks and to receive their intermediate and advanced POST certificates.
- Create the foundation for a modernized degree specific to policing for law enforcement that includes a multi-discipline approach to capture all the various skill-set requirements necessary of the modern police officer.
The LEARN Act represents the first in a series of legislative proposals that will collectively seek to define a pathway towards modernizing California’s police force. These policy proposals reflect CPCA’s and PORAC’s more than 120 years of combined institutional knowledge in advocating for victims’ rights, higher training and recruitment standards, body-worn cameras, more community-based policing and the elimination of quotas — to name a few. They are also the product of a survey of proven best practices from throughout the country and are rooted in research from public safety experts.
About the Peace Officers Research Association of California:
The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) was incorporated in 1953 as a professional federation of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. PORAC represents over 77,000 public safety members and over 920 associations, making it the largest law enforcement organization in California and the largest statewide association in the nation.
About the California Police Chiefs Association:
Established in 1966, the California Police Chiefs Association represents municipal police chiefs and their agencies in California. Association members provide public safety for more than 26 million Californians. Cal Chiefs advocates for sound policy on public safety issues at the state capitol and has an active government relations program. In addition to its committees that focus on emerging issues and provide resources and sample policies to its members, Cal Chiefs provides professional development and training to police chiefs and seconds in command throughout the state.
By Rick Baratta
AB 301: The Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights
In 1973 a bill (AB 1800) was proposed that would extend civil rights to officers, which PORAC supported. In 1974 PORAC amended this legislation and joined with the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL- not a PORAC member) to cosponsor the “Policemans’ Bill of Rights.”
The bill was naturally opposed by management organizations, chiefly the County Supervisors’ Association, and the League of California Cities. The legislation failed, and was rewritten by PORAC and introduced as AB 301.
President Bill Bean appointed Wally Colfer (SEBA) to head up an Inter-Association Liaison Committee, composed of PORAC, CPOA, COPS, LAPPL, Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Association, and the attorney general. The president of CPOA at the time was Leslie Sourissou, a former PORAC member and quiet supporter. He offered a resolution to CPOA supporting in principal the Public Safety Officers’ Procedural Bill of Rights Act, (POBR) but failed to convince their board because of the polygraph exclusion. However, PORAC and their allies succeeded in getting the bill passed out of the Assembly and into the Senate to become a two-year bill, still alive. Now in 1974, the race for governor had Jerry Brown and Huston Flournoy running neck-and-neck. The PORAC president sent a questionnaire to each candidate specifically asking their position on AB 301, including their opinion of the provision in the bill excluding peace officers from having to take a lie detector test.
Brown wrote back that he supported the legislation and was personally opposed to lie detector tests for public employees. Flournoy declined to respond. Brown was elected governor, and the bill eventually reached his desk in 1976, opposed adamantly by CPOA and CSAC because of the polygraph exclusion.
Joe Aceto was PORAC president in 1976 and heavily involved in lobbying the governor to sign the AB 301. Governor Brown hesitated in making the decision because of a great deal of pressure from police management to veto it. Just before the deadline was reached, Aceto received a call from Bill Bean, reminding him that Brown had said he supported the bill, and this had been reported in PORAC News. Aceto turned the office upside down to find the written response and finally succeeded. Aceto immediately sent a copy of Brown’s original response and a copy of the PORAC News article to the governor, just to remind him of his position. He signed the bill and AB 301 became law.
If any class of public employees understands the importance of constitutional rights, it has to be the peace officer. Every search or arrest brings into play constitutional issues surrounding the action.
Peace officers are sued, disciplined, arrested and have had cases thrown out of court because of the officer’s alleged violations of these rights, regardless of intent. Although many enlightened managers supported laws that would offer the same protection to their officers, it took the rank-and-file to make it happen.
Today these rights are taken for granted by many officers. Some merely assume that AB 301 will protect them from illegal indiscriminate actions by their employers. But, as is the case for freedom, rights are hard-won and easily lost without a strong group of people willing to fight to maintain them.
PORAC fought to obtain these rights for all California peace officers, and down through the years re-affirmed these rights through legislation and a strong Legal Defense Plan. It is to be hoped that future peace officers will continue the fight to keep them alive and demonstrate the same obstinate aggressiveness as those cops did a quarter of a century ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Baratta is a past-general manager of PORAC, past-editor of PORAC News, and was also one of the earliest association representatives.