The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 24, 2009
Awareness campaign or lobbying campaign for peace officers?

The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) launched a campaign today about the dangers of being a cop.

It comes as the police labor group's key members in cities and counties around the state - it doesn't represent CHP officers - enter into contract talks.

The headline on PORAC's press release says the campaign aims to educate Californians about the perils of police work. It also urges that politics be kept out of any discussions about their pay and retirement packages.

The awareness campaign includes two YouTube video commercials.

A key suggestion of the campaign may be unpopular with other state workers, who struggling with furloughs and pay cuts.

PORAC President Ron Cottingham suggests in a news release that police officer compensation is currently "not enough to make it simple to recruit reliable candidates willing to do the job."

There are 10,000 police officer vacancies statewide, Cottingham claims, citing data from the California Commission for Peace Officer Standards and Training.

In the PORAC videos, a male and female officer take turns saying they work dangerous streets and complain that their pensions are "under fire." A gun appears on screen as they discuss their concerns.

The problem is, that's not true for current officers. Changes to pensions under consideration by the administration would only affect future recruits, not officers already working the streets.

Why deliver that message now? This fall, police pensions are certain to come under intense scrutiny if the state's financial condition worsens.

PORAC's public awareness campaign is also a good example of the vertical integration occurring in Sacramento right now, as lobbyists and public relations professionals join forces under one roof to advance their clients' interests.

Rachel Pitts is the contact person on the PORAC campaign. She just joined lobbying shop Aaron Read this summer to help the influence firm launch its new public relations arm, Marketplace Communications.

PORAC is a client of Aaron Read, paying the firm $60,767 from April to June and $180,767 so far in the 2009-2010 cycle, state lobbying filings show.

That's why nobody should forget that when a group like PORAC launches a "public awareness campaign," it can also be a lobbying effort, too.

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect that PORAC represents police officer associations in cities and counties across the state and remove a suggestion that PORAC members include California Highway Patrol officers. The CHP has its own labor group, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. Though the CAHP and PORAC use the same lobbying firm, CAHP labor representative Carrie Lane said the CAHP has not paid for and is not involved in any way in the PORAC campaign.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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