As you can see, this issue of Star & Shield is dedicated to two PPOA members, Sergeants Jamie Arakawa and Armando Meneses, lost to us and their families due to workplace exposures to COVID-19, which resulted in their passing while in the “line of duty.” While not knowing Jamie personally, and Armando only through a few personal interactions, I have been provided with tremendous insight into the lives of these two heroes while providing assistance to the families during these devastating circumstances. They are and will be missed by many, and we ask that you keep them and their families in your prayers.
The pandemic and the protocols for member safety have been of the utmost priority for PPOA for over a year now. Unfortunately, no measure of effort can provide complete protection. The battle to remain safe from this vicious disease is fought on many fronts.
First and foremost, I cannot express enough the need to protect yourselves through individual efforts. Wearing masks, avoiding unnecessary gatherings and appropriate distancing are all key. The latest tool available to you all now is the COVID-19 vaccination. While not a “magic pill” guaranteeing you will not catch the virus, it is expected to lessen its effects and duration. I recently took advantage of this opportunity at Century Station, joining others in being vaccinated at one of the Department’s vaccination sites.
In addition to providing the best COVID-19 information available, PPOA continues to hold our employment partners, LASD, the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (DABOI) and Medical Examiner’s Office accountable for not only CDC and County Public Health orders, but also legislative changes related to COVID-19 workplace exposures. With the effective date of January 1, AB 685 amended the California Labor Code to require our employers to participate in more extensive contact tracing of COVID exposures and to provide their findings to the respective bargaining units, in this case, PPOA. While the management team of the DABOI continues to shine in their responsiveness, the Sheriff’s Department and Medical Examiner’s Office have provided less-than-stellar performances, and have now been advised of potential legal action should adherence to the law not improve.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
While the D.A.’s Bureau of Investigation’s relationship with PPOA continues to prosper through mutual role identification and respect, our new district attorney, George Gascón, continues to generate significant concerns and controversy within the victims’ advocacy groups and media. In his “first 100 days in office” statement, D.A. Gascón outlined many changes in the office that he believes are data-driven solutions to long-term public safety. (His statement can be viewed at vimeo.com/525108726.) However, critics present a different perspective, expressing anger at increases in violent crimes and homicides since his swearing in, so much so that a recall effort has already been initiated by a group of concerned community members. (Visit recallgeorgegascon.com for more information.)
One specific criticism of D.A. Gascón of which PPOA members are affected was a letter recently sent to the leadership of all law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County demanding legally protected/confidential information of law enforcement officers to be provided to the District Attorney’s Office. This letter, while not only inappropriate, was very discouraging as it related to collaboration with the new district attorney. This demand of the Sheriff’s Department, and D.A.’s Bureau of Investigation directly affecting PPOA members, being initiated without so much as a courtesy call to PPOA, let alone a discussion on its impacts to membership, was unacceptable.
This attempt to again gather “Brady list” materials was attempted in the recent past by then-constitutional policing advisor to Sheriff McDonnell, Diana Teran. One must question the timing of these letters. Isn’t it interesting that Teran recently joined the Office of the District Attorney? With their combined legal experience from the ALADS litigation, which led to a Supreme Court decision on these “Brady” issues, why are D.A. Gascón and Teran again engaging in these obvious end-around actions trying to obtain legally protected/confidential information on law enforcement officers? (The letter can be viewed here: tinyurl.com/yzduvayc.)
As of the writing of this article, the District Attorney’s Office has yet to comment or contact PPOA. Adding insult to injury, D.A. Gascón has successfully engaged the Board of Supervisors to provide funding for a “special prosecutor to investigate, provide recommendations, and prosecute police misconduct cases.” (See D.A. Gascón’s letter to the Board of Supervisors here: tinyurl.com/ey6stfk7.) These actions, combined with sensationalism within the media and defunding efforts, continue to devastate morale in law enforcement, making many question their chosen mission.
To you all, please remember, law enforcement is not a career, but a calling. Your dedication and honorable commitment to those we serve is above the political rhetoric of these times. Be true to yourselves, pursue public safety for all and eventually the pendulum will swing. Please remain focused on your public safety mission, letting PPOA deal with the political and social distractions, always knowing we are here to fight for our noble profession and your rights.
And speaking of appreciation and thanks, all PPOA members should take a moment to congratulate ALADS Past President Ron Hernandez on his recent retirement after 36 years of service. Thank you so much for your collaboration professionally and your welcoming friendship as PPOA and ALADS united to again become a powerful partnership in public safety within Los Angeles County and the state. In the last two years, through Ron’s leadership and alliance with the ALADS Board of Directors, PPOA has again joined the Coalition of County Unions and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and engaged in multiple joint functions benefiting those in both unions. Thank you very much for your willingness to help a new president address some very difficult endeavors and for helping our partnership with ALADS grow stronger than it has been in many years. We wish you health and happiness in a very lengthy retirement. You deserve it.