Sheriff’s Security Officer Jamie Fonth was among the initial first responders on scene at the deadly Saugus High School shooting in November. The Parks Bureau SSO did not hesitate when he heard the call and arrived in time to escort the first two groups of students off campus to a safe location. He then helped set up a crime scene and secured members of the media outside that scene before conducting traffic control. In the face of chaos and tragedy, Fonth and his fellow first responders provided a sense of order and safety for countless students, staff and parents.
The photo of Officer Fonth on this page was captured by an Associated Press photographer and broadcast by media outlets far and wide. Fonth reported that he received multiple inquiries about the green jacket he wore that day. “On the morning of the shooting, a friend at Parks Bureau arrived with a bunch of clothes items, including the green jacket,” he said. “He offered that to me and I accepted.” After being one of the only first responders to arrive with tape, Fonth began securing the area when a supervisor asked if he had a tactical vest. The security officer replied that he did not have a vest, but did have a green jacket. The supervisor recommended wearing the jacket, and Fonth agreed that it would help others identify him as a Sheriff’s Department employee. And that was that.
Before I transition to another story involving Officer Fonth and security officer uniforms, I want to thank him for agreeing to provide the input above and, more importantly, for his dedication on that fateful day. His poise during that incident was a positive reflection on the professionalism of LASD security personnel Department-wide.
About a week after the Saugus shooting, Fonth attended an active-shooter class with sergeants, deputies and fellow security officers. When it came time for participants to don their green tactical vests, everyone suited up except the SSOs. The drill instructor asked why the SSOs did not have vests like the rest of the class, and Fonth replied that SSOs “were told that we were not to wear anything green.” At that point, the instructor re-emphasized that everyone in the room was a first responder and should be afforded similar training and equipment. As logical as that statement may seem to you and your union reps, there are a number of decision-makers who disagree.
UNION ELECTION AND PARTICIPATION
As I kick off my fourth term on the PPOA Board of Directors representing security officers and security assistants, I would like the membership to know that I consider this responsibility an honor. We all want to see improvements in compensation, benefits, rights and working conditions. That’s a mission I take very seriously. The details on how best to achieve progress may vary from one person to the next, but we absolutely have to work together to continue moving in the right direction. An important first step is participation. Thank you to all security assistants and security officers who participated as PPOA members in 2019, and thank you to all PPOA members who participated by voting in the recent Board election. Some who choose not to participate will be vocal with criticism, but I’m confident that won’t distract PPOA members from tackling the many challenges ahead in 2020. If you’re ready to get more involved as a union delegate or as a volunteer to help PPOA’s Star & Shield Foundation support the families of fallen officers, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.