The month of March has brought some change to the FDSA as well as tragedy with a line of duty death in the State of California. I have attached an article written on San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson.
We will be introducing some new apparel in the month of April for FDSA members to purchase. We hope you like the products and the prices will be very affordable.
Reorganization of Carroll, Burdick, McDonough
Since late 2001, the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association has employed the firm of Carroll, Burdick, and McDonough, commonly referred to as CB&M, as our corporate counsel, labor negotiator, and legal defense representative. The partner in the firm who has been our corporate attorney is Gary Messing, supported by his associate, Jason Jasmine.
Over the last few years, Gary has informally discussed with me the labor side of CB&M breaking away from the CB&M firm- to set up what would be CB&M dealing with labor law only.
Carroll, Burdick and McDonough are an international law firm with offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Bollinger (Germany). The firm has evolved over the years. It began primarily as a labor/employment litigation firm, to now largely an international business firm, dealing with many things not relevant to labor specific. You can go to their website at www.cbmlaw.com
to see a list of the types of law they specialize in.
Gary Messing met with me on Thursday, March 12, 2015 to advise me/FDSA that he and two other of the labor partners, Gregg Adam and Jason Jasmine will be taking the labor side of CB&M and forming the firm, Messing, Adam, & Jasmine, LLP. The split from CB&M is seamless and amicable - whereas the clients will see no change. In fact, the Sacramento and San Francisco offices will be staying the same along with the more than 10 labor attorneys and support staff that comes with it. This is simply a name change to point us specifically to labor/employment litigation.
Gary made it pretty clear - continuing labor through CB&M is going to drive up costs too much for a labor organization such as FDSA. Carving the labor side out and dealing specifically with labor/employment law only- rather than the international business side, will drive fees down and/or stabilize them for all of the labor organizations they deal with.
I wanted to let the entire membership know of this change since I am putting Gary Messing on our agenda April 8th to lay this entire transition out to the Board of Directors and any members who want to hear what is going on.
Initially, when Gary explained the situation, this change was going to occur in about 60 days. However, all of their client information and paperwork needed to be completed by April 6. Therefore, the transition needed to take place sooner, specifically for LDF (Legal Defense).
Again, I want to emphasize -- there will be no change in the way we go about doing business. The one most notable change the FDSA will see will be lower attorney fees and costs associated with the creation of the new firm. Costs will now be controlled much easier by Gary, Greg and Jason.
Also -- to date, no clients on the labor side who are represented by CB&M have had any issues with this transition. Some of the bigger clients CB&M represents under the labor/employment law include, San Jose POA, CCPOA, and CDF Firefighters. All of these associations, along with all of the smaller associations, have embraced this move.
Any members who have any questions regarding this move can contact me directly or any of the FDSA Board of Directors. Again, Gary will be here on Wednesday, April 8th to discuss the transition at the beginning of the board meeting.
San Jose Police Officer Death
On Tuesday, March, 24th, a SJPD officer was killed in the line of duty. The following is an article from the San Jose Mercury News about one group- shaken, once again by the tragedy of losing a fellow officer.
SAN JOSE -- The night Officer Michael Johnson was gunned down, the San Jose Police Department knew one group of officers in particular should find out before it hit the news: his police academy class of 2001.
These were people who were already changed forever when their classmate, Jeffrey Fontana was killed during a traffic stop just weeks after graduation. Now this. "They are probably the closest-knit officers in the department," said Officer James Gonzales of the Police Officers Association. Johnson's Tuesday evening death "took what is almost an immeasurable bond and multiplied it to infinity."
Throughout the past 14 years this group has formed a tight connection through triumph and turmoil at the SJPD -- from the days when San Jose was known as the safest big city in America to a modern era fraught with pay cuts and pension debates, layoffs and low morale.
Of the 35 members of the class of 2001, class members count 19 remaining on the force. Of those who left, most found jobs at other police agencies and some have retired on medical disability after being hurt so badly on the job they couldn't return. In many ways, this class has come to define a generation of San Jose police officers.
No matter where they landed, many of these men and women gathered for Fontana's every vigil and anniversary, treated Fontana's mother and younger brother as their own, and struggled with loss and fear for years.
So when Johnson was killed on Tuesday night, the bond brought them together again.
David Solis, 38, left the SJPD last summer to work at the Menlo Park Police Department. He was on duty at the jail when his cellphone started pinging with messages from his 2001 classmates.
"I told my boss, and he said, 'go,'" Solis said Friday. "I drove from Menlo Park to San Jose, in uniform in my patrol car. I got there and stayed there until the scene was secure, almost at 4 a.m. It was like being at a funeral without being at a funeral. It was horrible."
And it was too eerily familiar. "It seemed like deja vu," he said. "This can't be happening."
As word quickly spread through the ranks of the SJPD, some 40 officers -- many of whom had just finished their day shifts -- volunteered to cover midnight beats as resources shifted to the crime scene.
Johnson, 38, who grew up in San Jose like many of his classmates, was a specialist for the San Jose Police Department, a sharpshooter who won numerous trophies for his skills at police Olympic games. He was one of the first deployed for "hot calls" like the one Tuesday at dusk, when a 911 call came in saying a man was suicidal and had a gun. The man, Scott Dunham, 57, was threatening to kill his wife if she didn't leave their condominium on Senter Road. It's the kind of dicey and dangerous call police officers respond to all the time.
As Johnson carefully approached with his AR15 rifle, Dunham, who was partially hidden behind a solid-front balcony, fired. Johnson fell to the ground. He never fired a shot. Another officer, Douglas Potwora, immediately returned fire. The walled balcony made it difficult to determine if Dunham was hit or fled, so through the night and into the dawn, Johnson's fellow officers secured the area and sent robots and flash grenades into the condo until Dunham was found dead right where Potwora shot him.
Former academy classmate Mike Ruybal , who left the SJPD in 2012 for another agency on the Peninsula, was at home with his wife and children when one of his classmates called with the tragic news. Soon, another 2001 alum arrived. They listened to the scanner and watched the news, spotting a couple of their former classmates working the grim crime scene, knowing that their buddy -- the quiet guy with the quick smile and love for firearms and jiujitsu -- was gone.
The TV news captured the solemn procession of officers escorting Johnson's body through the city streets to the coroner's office.
"It was tough," Ruybal said. "It's rekindling for all of us what we went through with Jeffrey Fontana."
Johnson became the 12th officer in San Jose police history to be killed in the line of duty. Fontana was the 11th.
Fontana, 23, had finished his six months of academy training and four months on the streets with a field training officer when, working the midnight shift alone two weeks later, he turned his lights on to pull over DeShawn Campbell. Campbell made a couple of right turns before pulling into a cul-de-sac in the quiet neighborhood of Almaden, then gunned down the rookie.
Officer Tony Vizzusi, who trains new recruits at the SJPD police academy, was one of Fontana's best friends. He helped carry his coffin into the funeral at St. Pius Catholic Church in Redwood City. Every year, he goes deer hunting with Fontana's younger brother and shares memories around the campfire.
"It's an unfortunate bond. A lot of people in that class grew up real quick," said Vizzusi, whose father and three uncles were part of the San Jose force. "It makes you evaluate what you're doing with your life. You have to make some serious commitments as to whether you still want to do this job. The class had to wrestle with that moment."
One of the classmates, who had been on the scene after Fontana's death, wasn't sure he'd stay.
"He saw him lying there. That really affected him. There were times he wasn't sure and people were unsure if he could continue," Ruybal said. "He pulled through and had a strong career."
But a second tragedy? "I was with him yesterday. I can see this is affecting him a lot. He's having a hard time."
In the weeks after Fontana's death, Vizzusi remembers "making a plain old car stop and shaking like a leaf. Over time I found a way to work through that and, thousands of stops later, I'm not shaking. But I have to make sure I'm safe."
It's still tough for Steve Donahue, too, the first of the class to be promoted to sergeant.
"Even to this day, if I make a car stop and the guy makes a couple of right turns, my heart starts to pound and I'm more alert and sense a little more danger," Donohue said. "That's exactly what happened to Jeff, a bunch of right turns and he got him in acul-de-sac. I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me."
Early on, Fontana's death made classmate Mark Hernandez "much more timid in how I did things. Do I want to stop this person? Should I have someone with me? It's dark and no one's around."
In the fall of 2013, Hernandez suffered injuries so serious when he was hit on his motorcycle responding to a crime -- including broken ribs and scapula -- that classmates said they wouldn't blame him if he never came back. But he did.
This class of 2001, 31 men and four women, started their careers at a storied time for the San Jose Police Department. After 9/11, patriotism and respect for officers in uniform soared. The police department and its academy became one of the most respected and sought after in the state, hiring only the top applicants. Rarely did anyone leave for another job in those years.
After the recession hit in 2008 and the pensions of law enforcement officers became a focus of budget woes, battles began between the police union and city officials. Ever since, officers have been resigning by the dozens.
"Officers who intended to work with the SJPD for the duration of their careers, they would have maintained working here with pay cuts and tough negotiations," said Raul Peralez, who joined the force in 2007 and left in January when he was elected to the San Jose City Council. He wants to help ease tensions and rebuild the department. "But the straw that broke the camel's back was the environment -- the painful feeling of a lack of respect in just being an employee in San Jose. It wasn't just your employer, the city council and mayor, but also now the citizens that were turning against you."
This week, politics were set aside as officers turned toward each other to comfort and grieve. Tuesday night, Jeffrey Fontana's mother, Sandy, rushed to the home of Johnson's mother.
"I needed to offer them support and maybe a little guidance," Sandy Fontana said, "and let them know that they're not alone."
In the days after Johnson's death, as American flags fly throughout the city at half-staff, makeshift memorials of balloons and flowers and well wishes have sprung up. It helps, said Sgt. Donohue.
"I'm thinking, there are some people out there that still care about us, that appreciate the sacrifices we make and that we lost a family member," Donohue said. "When you see the flowers, or someone at Starbucks says, 'I'm sorry for your loss and thank you for what you do' and buys us a cup of coffee, it strikes that core within us, that I am doing the right thing. I am doing something good."
Donohue and Vizzusi are organizing a gathering for the class the night before Johnson's funeral, which will take place Thursday at SAP Center. Some are flying in from out of state to join the dinner and remember the classmates they lost.
At Fontana's funeral, they all sat together. They're not sure if they will this time. They are halfway through their careers now. They know it is not just their loss. The entire force is grieving. So is the community, hundreds of whom attended a vigil Friday night in the City Hall plaza.
But this class of 2001 carries a special distinction, an onerous burden that weighs ever more heavily now.
"It's hard to explain," Donohue said. "For the last 14 years, people have known our group as Jeffrey Fontana's class. That's kind of how they defined us. I don't know what it's going to be now."
The uniform committee met on February 8, 2015 in an effort to meet and discuss different options for the evolution of our equipment and clothing. FDSA Board Member Scott Plann, who runs the uniform committee for the FDSA attended the meeting and reported back some of the information that I wanted to share with the membership.
Many of you asked about ball caps for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff has ruled no ball caps. However, there is some interest to research all available hats for law enforcement use and approach it as safety minded to cover neck/ears for skin cancer/sun protection.
The current beanies were approved back in 2009. The Uniform Committee wants to look at a black fleece with a subdued badge/FSO emblem embroidered on it rather than the current knit watch cap with a bright yellow target on the front.
There have been a lot of rumors floating around that the Sheriff is going to mandate a Class A coat when wearing the class A uniform. Sheriff Mims has stated if a Class A coat is made a requirement, it will be for E-staff only and optional for Sergeants and Deputies.
Vest (outside carrier) –
Two examples are the current Detective vest carrier and current K9 vest carrier. We have requested one be set up for a demo use. We are still waiting on an answer back on the request for that. The Uniform committee wants to know how that vest would translate into the custody side of the Sheriff’s Department in regards to the stab vest panels.
An idea was that if we cannot agree on a vest carrier, we would like to have it approved to replace the current mesh raid vest. It would be issued with new armor and worn for call-outs or taking vehicles in for service, etc. This would not be our first choice.
Next, is the issue of what type of shirt to wear under the outside carrier, instead of the current uniform shirts, wicking shirts, polo shirts from 5.11 or Propper shirts. We will look into these options. Also, along with the vest is the holster and duty weapon, along with the draw to clear the vest. A few options include a drop down belt loop and thigh holster with one or two legs straps.
If you want a new jacket or to replace one, a new OD Sheriff green, 5.11 fleece jacket with patches, star patch and name tape runs around $100-$120. This is cheaper than the current approved jacket. It is also warmer and can be used as a liner for rain gear.
In the coming months, we will be discussing uniform options. If you have any other suggestions, please direct them to Scott Plann. He can address them and also share them at the next committee meeting.
Hope your spring is off to a great start! We have a lot coming up in the next few months. I want to remind you all that Peace Officer Memorial in Fresno County will be on Thursday, May 7th 2015 at 12pm, Courthouse Park.
Following that event will be the luncheon. Later that evening at the FDSA will be our 4th annual open house recognizing our fallen deputies, their families, and all of you as co-workers. We hope to see many of you there who are able to attend this event.