Hope this month is off to a great start! We have been very busy at the FDSA working on several projects and planning for events taking place in the next few months. Looking ahead, those who were selected in our annual drawing to attend Peace Officer Memorial events this year in the nation’s capital are Ed Mayo and Tim Van Houwelingen. Several others were also randomly picked to attend statewide memorial events in Sacramento.
The deadline for the Legislature to submit new bills for 2016 was on Friday, February 18th. Many inquiries have been made about Senate Bill 1286, introduced by Senator Mark Leno from San Francisco.
The bill amends sections 1043 and 1045 of the Evidence Code (Pitchess), Section 3304.5 of the Government Code (POBR), and Sections 832.5 and 832.7 of the Penal Code (Personnel Records). PORAC has been in contact with Aaron Read’s office, Ed Fishman (Legal Defense Administrator), and Alison Berry Wilkinson. They are currently working on an analysis and bullet points to educate and inform you. They can also be used for you to share with others.
If the bill is passed, this is an outline of what it would allow.
“Allow the public to access records related to sustained charges of serious misconduct, including sexual assault, racial or identity profiling, illegal search or seizure, job-related dishonesty, or legal violation of the rights of a member of the public, among others;
“Allow the public to access records relating to any use of force that causes or is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury;
“Allow people who file complaints alleging misconduct to access basic information related to the complaint, including whether the complaint was sustained, the factual findings, and any discipline imposed or corrective actions taken;
“Allow localities to determine if they would like to hold public hearings and administrative appeals based on allegations of peace officer misconduct;
“Allow law enforcement records to be withheld if a court determines that a privacy interest outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure, or if there is a showing of a significant danger to an officer or another person.”
This bill would be devastating to police officer’s privacy rights and confidentiality. It would also be a tough bill to fight during these difficult times. PORAC and our lobbyists are on top of this legislation that would cripple POBAR.
I will keep the FDSA membership informed on the developments of this matter.
Tulare County Sheriff Plane Crash
The Fresno Bee, By Lewis Griswold
More than 1,000 people attended the funeral Saturday of James Chavez, a pilot for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department whose law enforcement plane crashed Feb. 10 near Springville, killing him and sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ballantyne.
The light sport aircraft designed for law enforcement use caught fire after hitting the ground, but the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Glad Tidings Church in Hanford, where the capacity is listed at 999 people, was filled to overflowing as mourners watched a procession of uniformed law enforcement and military.
At Armona Cemetery following the church service, military honors, including a gun volley, taps, bagpipes and a helicopter flyby, took place.
At the church, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux eulogized Mr. Chavez, 45, who is survived by his wife, Melissa “Missy” Chavez; a daughter, Jayleen, 10; and a son, Josiah, 6.
“James was a civilian pilot, but I’ve got to tell you, for the men and women of the department, he was a deputy sheriff,” Boudreaux said.
The fatal plane crash prompted hundreds of letters from the community and phone calls of concern and condolences from top elected officials statewide and law enforcement leaders, he said.
Boudreaux said Mr. Chavez would sometimes fly over his home.
“He would … tilt his wings and I would wave back,” he said. “I just thought it was the best thing ever.”
At a law enforcement conference in Washington, D.C., the attendees held a moment of silence in honor of Mr. Chavez and Deputy Ballantyne, and the same happened at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, he said.
Their names will be added to the Peace Officers Memorial in Visalia, he said.
Mr. Chavez was a safety-conscious pilot who helped officers on the ground.
“James did nothing but express his love for the job,” Boudreaux said. “He loved chasing bad guys.”
Mr. Chavez was born in Stockton and graduated from St. Mary’s High School. He graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in geography.
He had played the violin since age 8 and performed with the Kings Symphony Orchestra for several seasons.
He served as an officer in both the Navy and Army.
In 1993, he was a maintenance officer on the USS Abraham Lincoln. But he wanted to be a pilot.
In 2005, he transferred to the Army National Guard and became a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, amassing more than 900 hours.
He was humble in every way. He didn’t drop names or awards.
Pastor Rick McCullough
In 2010-11, he served as company commander for the 640th Aviation Support Battalion and flew Blackhawk missions.
Mr. Chavez, who attained the rank of major, earned a Bronze Star and combat badge.
His colleagues admired him, said Col. David Uyematsu.
“I loved his amazing personality,” Uyematsu said. “He would crack a joke now and then – it was a breath of fresh air.”
One of Mr. Chavez’s assignments was to lead a company of 250 soldiers to Iraq to provide aircraft maintenance support to 300 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
“He took a thankless job and did it well,” he said.
His quest to become a pilot took 10 years, Uyematsu said: “Man, that guy was persistent.”
Pastor Rick McCullough said Mr. Chavez was a blessing to others.
“He was humble in every way,” McCullough said. “He didn’t drop names or awards.”
James Chavez’s logged flight hours in Blackhawk helicopter
Mr. Chavez was active in ministries at Glad Tidings and liked to help young people.
“I ran into some trouble when I was in high school,” Brittany Smith of Fresno said following the church service. “He actually spoke to me quite often and helped kind of get me back on track and helped kind of get my life straight … James was a very big part of making sure that I was straightened out and had my life straight. Now I’ve got a family and I’m going to school.”
He was sometimes a door greeter at church, said church member Emily Oliveira.
“He’d say, ‘Oh my day is complete now, I’ve met all of you’ – me, my mother-in-law, my niece,” she said. “He was always a good friend.”
Honoring Deputy Sheriff Scott Ballantyne
California Attorney General Kamala Harris attended the funeral Monday of Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ballantyne, who was killed Feb. 10 when the department’s airplane crashed near Springville, killing him and pilot James Chavez.
“On behalf of the state of California law enforcement family, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this extremely difficult and tragic time,” Harris said to the large crowd gathered at First Assembly of God Church.
“Please know that the California Department of Justice and the state’s entire law enforcement community are here for you as you mourn the loss of your colleague and family member.”
The cause of crash is under investigation.
Deputy Ballantyne, 52, grew up in Visalia and was hired as a sheriff’s trainee in 1989.
In his career, he served as detentions officer and patrol officer, worked in the crime lab and as a bailiff before being hired as the spotter for Sheriff One, the light sport aircraft used to find suspects from the air.
“He died doing what he loved to do,” Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said after the plane crash, he went to the Visalia home of Deputy Ballantyne’s mother, Jean Ballantyne, to break the news.
“I knocked on the door,” he said. “She answered the door politely and said, ‘I don’t want to hear what you have to say.
“She explained she already knew in her heart. ... Not because anyone had already told her – she said because of mother’s intuition.”
She later told Boudreaux her son as a child was “obedient and content.”
Boudreaux said he believed it because years ago he worked in the jail and on patrol with Deputy Ballantyne.
“There was nothing upsetting him or making him mad or where he would get in an outrage,” Boudreaux said.
Several years ago, Deputy Ballantyne was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, so Boudreaux went to visit him in the hospital.
“All he could think about was getting back on his feet and going back to work,” Boudreaux said.
Deputy Ballantyne’s name will be added to the Peace Officer Memorial in Visalia, and memorials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Boudreaux said.
As the tactical officer on Sheriff One, Deputy Ballantyne and Chavez found a lost 3-year-old and a person with Alzheimer’s, and interrupted burglaries in progress.
“He would proudly tell you that Sheriff One assisted in an average of three felony apprehension per week,” said Sgt. Michele Price.
While in the air near the Kern County line, Deputy Ballantyne spotted dozens of greenhouses in a remote area and took photos because it seemed suspicious. The find led to 12,300 marijuana plants and 33 arrests “all just because Scott had a hunch,” Price said.
Bailiff Tracy Mellow said Deputy Ballantyne was quick to arrive when called for assistance.
“If you knew Scott was coming to be your backup, you’d breathe a sigh of relief,” Mellow said. “That man had your back. I believe everyone who ever worked with Scott can attest to that.”
Deputy Ballantyne wanted the Sheriff One job and when he was offered the position, “his face was lit up like I’ve never seen it before,” Mellow said. “He had a smile from ear to ear. … I knew he was the perfect candidate for that position. I knew he would be great.”
Deputy Ballantyne’s father, the late Lt. Col. Stanley Ballantyne, served in South Korea, then Iran as an Army adviser to the Shah of Iran. The family lived there for two and a half years when Deputy Ballantyne was younger than 5.
He graduated from Redwood High School and attended College of the Sequoias and Fresno State.
Chaplain Kevin Mizner said Deputy Ballantyne learned to ride a unicycle in his youth, delivered pizza in his teens, worked on cars as a young man and liked most animals. Recently, he took in a Chihuahua he named Weird Willie.
Dispatcher Jim Reeves said Deputy Ballantyne would show video he had taken from the air, including one where he tracked a vehicle fleeing an illegal cockfighting operation.
“He was really enthusiastic about his job, always telling us about the capabilities of the aircraft,” Reeves said.
Retired dispatcher Enda Perkins said Deputy Ballantyne once visited as she was struggling with a coffee maker that had quit working. He arrived the next day with a professional-grade Farmers Brothers coffee maker.
“He said, ‘The only thing worse than a tired dispatcher is a tired dispatcher with no coffee,’ ” Perkins said.
At Visalia Cemetery, the ceremony included a flyby of law enforcement helicopters from Kern County, gun volley, bagpipes, color guard and presentation of the casket flag to Deputy Ballantyne’s mother.
Please protect one another out there in whatever assignment you are doing. Remember we are only good as one.